Maybe it was as only an average Saturday at Rosehill Gardens but James McDonald last week continued to ride boldly into the annals of the all-time greats.
From nine mounts he had three winners, hardly shattering by his standards, but six seconds gave him a remarkable tally for quinella involvement.
James McDonald salutes on El Buena at Rosehill on Saturday.Credit:Getty
Old timers are flocking to his banner as the “best-ever”, superior to even George Moore, the benchmark jockey of our time.
While I don’t dabble in one champion being better than another, J-Mac currently is in a rich vein of form. He is comparable with any of the past elites, and surely, one of the outstanding sporting performers at present.
When assessing the merit of a day’s action with jockeys consider the effort on losers. Bad rides should be measured against the successes. Consistency of excellence is the key. Obviously, some winners don’t require much assistance.
Take, for instance, Smokin’ Romans in Saturday’s Pakenham Cup, the comeback winner for the exceptionally talented Jamie Kah. Smokin’ Romans had plenty on the opposition, only requiring competent handling.
In contrast, McDonald’s treble was a tough grind: two short heads, Sharman (Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL Sprint) and Arctic Thunder (Midway Handicap) as well as a short neck on El Buena (Smithfield RSL Club Sprint). All required strength and expertise, testing most saddle topliners.
The defeats were just gruelling with Rousseau (Campbelltown Catholic Club Handicap) going down by a half-length, Welsh Legend (Cabra-Vale Diggers Handicap) a head, Francesco Guarda (Dooleys Handicap) a half head and Bigboyroy (Bankstown Sports Club Handicap) a long head. Yes, Saigon’s head second under J Mac was only navigation questionable, by the stewards anyway.
Still Saigon (Cabra-Vale Diggers Handicap) was resuming after a spell and the jockey maintained she ran out of gas inside the last 50 metres.
Stewards, though, elevated Tycoonist, the J-Mac mount in the Guildford Leagues Handicap, to second placing after he suffered interference. Without the problem, beyond the hoop’s control, Tycoonist he would have given him another triumph.
In three races, J-Mac had tough tussles with Hugh Bowman, riding with exceptional power and guile, while Kerrin McEvoy provided robust opposition in another two, adding merit to his achievement.
Doubters of J-Mac’s status with the greats point to his rivals, but history will remember Bowman and McEvoy well while others riding on Saturday, including Tim Clark, compare favourably with the ability of predecessors.
The phenomenal trainer Tommy Smith, who contributed to the Moore legend, maintained in assessing a top rider that mettle was tested by putting them on four or more well fancied horses and getting peak efforts from them all. They were the circumstances for J-Mac on Saturday.
Moore, of course, had a tremendous following meaning shorter prices but one of joys of J-Mac were the odds of the winners: Starman ($5), Arctic Thunder ($5) and El Buena ($7.50). Alas, Rousseau ($2.30) was downed but given every chance as was Francesco Guarda ($2.20).
Obviously, the Winx Stand, a new public extravaganza where the old Ledger grandstand once stood tall, will be a feature at the renowned 130th Villiers meeting next Saturday but J-Mac should be the major drawcard.
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