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18/6/2018  James McDonald amped for Royal Ascot

Star jockey James McDonald has a gilt-edged chance to secure his first Royal Ascot win this week. McDonald, who left for England after riding at Warwick Farm on Wednesday, has picked up the ride on the Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral (Equiano) in the Gr.1 £500,000 Commonwealth Cup (six furlongs, about 1207m) at the Royal meeting this Saturday. “He’s come in to favouritism so hopefully they’re right. Charlie sent me the link to his last-start win and he looks very good,” McDonald said. “Charlie reckons he’s one of the best sprinters he’s had - and that’s saying something because he had Muhaarar, who won five Group Ones. But he reckons he could be up with him. “That last race he won by eight lengths and the third horse has won twice since so the form looks good too. He’s still got to make the step up but he looks a really good ride.” McDonald was hoping to ride at all five days of the Royal Ascot meeting and already has secured the mount on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Expert Eye (Acclamation) in the Gr.3 Jersey Stakes (1400m) on day two. “I’ve won at Ascot before but not as part of Royal Ascot week and that’s something I’m very keen to do. It would be nice to put that right this week,” McDonald said. McDonald is on the cusp of £1 million in stakes earnings in England, having won 25 of his 139 rides there and banking £989,938 for his connections. His best wins have been the Gr.2 Lennox Stakes (1400m) at Goodwood and the Gr.2 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2400m) at Newmarket, both in 2016. A champion apprentice and senior jockey in New Zealand and premiership winner in Sydney, McDonald recently returned from an 18-month ban for a betting indiscretion but has quickly made his mark in Sydney, winning 11 races from just 44 rides. “I’m really enjoying it and I couldn’t have asked for a better start really,” he said. “Nearly every meeting I’ve ridden a winner. It would be nice if I could carry that form on to Royal Ascot.” - NZ Racing Desk

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