James McDonald's bold ride on Mossfun a Golden Slipper classic

King James: James McDonald returns to the mounting yarn on Mossfun. Photo: Anthony Johnson
King James: James McDonald returns to the mounting yarn on Mossfun. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Bold rides, with jockeys often throwing caution to the wind, feature in the Golden Slipper, but James McDonald on Mossfun at Rosehill on Saturday rated with the best.

“Don’t panic,” was the word from Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes, captain of the Hawkes team, but a scratching from the track due to back problems, should something unforseen happen.

However, he liaised with son Michael and expressed the opinion that McDonald should get to the centre of the track – if possible.

McDonald rode cold after a bad start – the filly was expected to be up on the pace – and stuck to the fence, giving him a vital advantage.

Mossfun beat the favourite Earthquake, ridden a perfect race but out wide, by only half a length, a feature of an outstanding program.

Yet a racecourse regular maintained the Golden Slipper under the Australian Turf Club will never been the same.

Maybe so, but it was a day to remember.

For instance, the major event was the second last of the program, and late (5pm), to appease the turnover god, but a whinging point for regulars.

Certainly the Golden Slipper was far more popular with tote punters than the BMW earlier in the day and the policy of the top race being run late is expected to continue at Randwick's The Championships.

Only 20,000 people turned up yesterday (it didn’t seem that big), compared with the top figures the previous management, the Sydney Turf Club, produced but the action maintained a rating of being one of the top, if not the best, program on the racing calendar.

Despite a rip-roaring BMW, McDonald, only 22, and Mossfun stole the show. There was no desperation, but a cool ride under extreme heat worthy of a champion 10 years his senior.

Did he crack it for a tear returning to the enclosure? Now that’s breaking new ground, and a far cry from the likes of Golden Slipper winners like Shane Dye, Ron Quinton and George Moore.

Kerrin McEvoy rode the perfect race on favourite Earthquake for the heavy conditions, handy to the pace and getting to the centre in the straight.

The McDonald manoeuvre obviously meant the difference between victory and defeat.

Peter Snowden, the trainer of Earthquake, estimated the ground saved on the bend by McDonald to be about eight lengths.

Horses win the Golden Slipper after slow starts, and perhaps the heavy conditions and Mossfun’s affinity in the wet were also important factors. But McDonald played to her strong points and added his own.

The Mossfun-Earthquake quinella was another Golden Slipper triumph for the old Woodland Stud team, formed by the late big Jack and Bob Ingham, who specialised in Golden Slippers.

John Hawkes trained for the Inghams and when he left to operate with his sons, Michael and Wayne, he was replaced by Snowden, who continued with Darley.

Trevor Lobb was a major bloodstock adviser to the Inghams, but is now the chief executive of Mossfun’s owners, Emirates Park.

While McDonald used initiative on Mossfun, he was tied down on It’s A Dundeel, the minor placegetter in the BMW.

Stewards asked the jockey why he got so far back in the field.

“[John] Messara gave me strict instructions, ride him like the [AJC] Derby,” he explained.

“I had to go right back, probably further than I wanted to get in.”

Alas, It’s A Dundeel, despite a strong finish, never looked like troubling the first two, New Zealand mare Silent Achiever and Foriente, but it was something like his best form.

Silent Achiever joined the great mares Ethereal and Makybe Diva to take the major Rosehill weight-for-age event.

The powerful Nash Rawiller described his tussle on Silent Achiever with Fiorente (Damian Oliver) as a “dogfight”.

He ended the contest with an uppercut, a different victory salute. Wise guys figure it may have had something to do with him being sacked from Fiorente in the spring when the imported stayer won the Melbourne Cup.

Possibly Fiorente is better in Melbourne or had difficulty in the ground but Damian Oliver gave him every chance yesterday.

While horse and man shone, so did Ashley Quinn, the daughter of former jockey Rodney Quinn. Ashley produced a marvellous video for TVN on Nathan Berry, who died tragically last week, which was screened on course.

This story James McDonald's bold ride on Mossfun a Golden Slipper classic first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.