Cambridge jockey James McDonald successfully crossed the Tasman to take out the two big races at Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland at the weekend.
The expat, now based in Sydney, won the TAB Karaka Millions two and three year old races on Velocious and Orchestral.
The successful raid by the Kaipaki-born Melbourne Cup winner in his first ride back on home soil in five years, thrilled the sold-out crowd.
After jumping away well out of the barriers, McDonald was able to secure the coveted one-one position with Velocious, where she was able to settle beautifully.
Entering the straight, McDonald guided his charge three-wide and Velocious was able to reel in the leaders and hit the front with 250m to go. She held out the late challenge of Damask Rose to win by 2-1/2 lengths, denying Te Akau Racing a record eighth straight victory in the race.
He then jumped on board Orchestral for Roger James and training partner Robert Wellwood.
The daughter of Savabeel was slow to jump from her ace barrier, however, McDonald kept his composure and the pair quickly regained their deficit to settle midfield. Turning for home, McDonald was able to find a passage between runners and Orchestral responded to his urgings down the straight, reeling in pacemaker Pendragon with 100m to go, and dashed away to a 3-1/2 length victory.
The victory cemented a Karaka Millions double for McDonald, adding to his Karaka Millions 3YO Classic victory aboard Long Leaf in 2019, and said the way the New Zealand racing industry is heading, it would not be another four years before he returns to his homeland.
“What a brilliant night they have put on,” he said. “It is so good to be a part of it and I am rapt I came back. To get a couple of winners is even better.”
McDonald has clocked up the airpoints. He scored another elite-level triumph in Hong Kong when guiding Voyage Bubble to victory in the Gr.1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin for trainer Ricky Yiu earlier this month.
The News has nominated the former Cambridge High School student for a paver on Waipā’s Sports Walk of Fame in Duke Street.
The walk celebrates Cambridge’s outstanding sporting achievers with plaques set into footpaths both side of Duke Street.
It would be “an honour to be amongst so many amazing people,” McDonald told The News.
Inductees must have achieved at an international senior level, be widely recognised for their contribution to their profession and to have been born here and lived locally or achieved champion status while living here for at least five years.
The superstar jockey was born at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, attended Kaipaki School with his brother Luke, then Cambridge Middle and Cambridge High schools. – Loveracingnz and Staff Reporters