Champion jockey James McDonald will be on a working holiday when he takes a break from his busy Sydney schedule to return home to Cambridge for Christmas.
Despite being in contention for the New South Wales Jockeys Premiership, McDonald is keen to have Christmas in New Zealand with his family, but the trip has been extended to include riding at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, principally for long-time supporter Sir Peter Vela.
“Peter asked me to go over to ride Supera in the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) on Boxing Day,” McDonald said.
“The main reason for going was to have Christmas and a few days chilling out with my family, but now I’m also looking forward to riding Supera. She looks a smart mare.
“It would be very special and mean a lot to me if I could win on her for Peter.”
Vela’s last Group One win as an owner-breeder was in the 2012 Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham with Guiseppina, who was ridden by McDonald and trained by Steven Ramsay and his partner, Julia Ritchie.
“It’s been a long time since Guiseppina and it would be great to get another Group One for Peter,” McDonald said. “He has been a great supporter of mine and it’s always good to go back and ride for him.”
On Boxing Day McDonald is keeping to a limited book of mounts and, as well as Supera, he will ride Jennifer Eccles in the Gr.2 Ladies Mile (1600m), Bella Mente in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) and Gino Severino in the Rating 82 1400m.
Jennifer Eccles was runner-up in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and stablemate Bella Mente was fifth in the Riccarton feature.
On New Year’s Day he is booked to ride Winter Bride in the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) for Gold Coast trainers Toby and Trent Edmonds, Sentimental Miss in the Gr.3 SkyCity City Of Auckland Cup (2400m), Dragon Leap in the Gr.2 Jamieson Park Auckland Guineas (1600m), the unbeaten Play That Song in the Gr.2
Barneswood Farm Eclipse Stakes (1200m) and Lilikoi and Vichy in the Gr.2 Valachi Downs Royal Stakes (2000m) and the Rating 72 1600m respectively.
McDonald returned early last week from Hong Kong, where he competed in the International Jockeys’ Championship and at the International meeting.
“Unfortunately I caught a gastro bug and was laid low for a few days, but I rode on Friday and again at Randwick on Saturday,” McDonald said.
He didn’t ride a winner at Randwick, but picked up a second on the John Sargent-trained Encountabull in the Listed $A500,000 Inglis Nursery (1000m) and a third on the Chris Waller-trained Sambro in the Gr.2 Villiers Stakes (1600m).
He has established a successful association with Waller and is looking forward to continuing aboard sprinter Nature Strip, Group One-winning three-year-old Funstar and Gr.1 Golden Slipper (1200m) hopeful Global Quest.
“Nature Strip has only matured now,” McDonald said. “This time in he has the potential to be one of the best sprinters in the world.
“As for Funstar, she’s a ripper. Her record speaks for itself. Chris speaks highly of her. Apart from Winx, I’ve never heard him speak so highly of a horse. She’ll follow the fillies series and I’m really looking forward to riding her.”
McDonald rode Global Quest to a convincing debut win in the Gr.3 Breeders Plate (1000m) at Randwick on October 5.
“He’s a good two-year-old and is being set for a Golden Slipper campaign,” McDonald said. “He looks exciting.”