Banned McDonald makes amends at Ascot
BANNED for 18 months for breaching betting rules, James McDonald has savoured atonement of the highest kind with Royal Ascot triumph.
The Australia-based Kiwi partnered Expert Eye to Group 3 Jersey Stakes (1400m) victory in a fairytale tale redemption.
"I can't put it into words, I'm really speechless. I never thought 18 months ago I'd be here at Royal Ascot," McDonald said.
Outed for 18 months in 2016 after breaching betting regulations by backing a horse he was riding at Randwick, McDonald was dumped by Global racing giant Godolphin.
But he showed the long absence from the track had not blunted his brilliance with a superb display.
Sir Michael Stoute, now the most successful trainer in Royal Ascot history, had no hesitation in supporting McDonald's rehabilitation.
"It's a huge thrill to come here and ride a Royal Ascot winner," McDonald, 26, said.
"This is what it's all about.
"It's an absolute pleasure, and I have a lot of people to thank for that.
"Expert Eye is a very good horse and showed that today. He won really well.
"He felt like a rocket ship out there. He settled further back than I'd have liked, but he travelled kindly and after the three-furlong pole (600m) he picked up really good.
"I could see Ryan Moore on Could It Be Love in front of me and I knew my horse was going to pick him up very quickly - he was impressive.
"Full credit must go to the horse and Sir Michael, who is a true legend."
Stoute landed a double, the most significant leg being with Poet's Word who stunned odd-on favourite Cracksman in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (2000m).
Like Cracksman, Poet's Word is a Cox Plate invitee.
Stoute said there were plenty of options for Poet's Word during the British summer before he would make a decision about venturing to Moonee Valley to take on Winx.
Stoute now has 77 royal winners, having started the meeting sharing the record of 75 with his idol and former rival Sir Henry Cecil.
"It is relief because we were stuck on 75 last year. As I said the other night, Henry did most of his training when it was a four-day meeting, so I have had an advantage," Stoute said.
"Nobody respected him greater than I did as a trainer.
"Cracksman beat Poet's Word a long way here last time (in the Champion Stakes). Maybe Cracksman is not at his very best now but we have beaten the others comprehensively.
"Poet's Word is a very consistent, brave, sound horse. That's what he is. A huge well done to all the staff because they have put a lot of work into a horse like this.
"I was delighted for Poet's Word. He's been in at the deep-end in Group Ones and has been running well in them, so it's great for him to win one.
"I think Royal Ascot is very special to any trainer. We have been very lucky in that we have brought a lot of nice horses here over the years.
"We're very glad it's happened and it's great for all the staff."
Stoute's 76th Royal Ascot victory came 41 years after his first, Etienne Gerard - also in the 1977 Jersey Stakes.
John Gosden, trainer of Cracksman, said: "He is a clever horse and to that extent, as I said earlier before the race, he was welcoming all the fillies that were walking back from the Duke Of Cambridge on the way back to the stables. I think we need to concentrate his mind, as we know the ability is there.
"I make absolutely no excuses whatsoever. The other horse (Poet's Word) had him covered from two out (400m). To my mind, he is just playing around a little bit. He did it at Epsom, but he didn't do it first time out at Longchamp.
"At no stage today was he travelling or carrying Frankie (Dettori).
"To that extent we will get him home and sharpen him a little bit."