New Zealand ace McDonald ready for Royal Ascot call

Big rides likely to be up for grabs

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By Jon Lees

Star rider James McDonald, who made his Royal Ascot breakthrough on Khalid Abdullah’s Expert Eye last year, is on standby to partner a number of the owner’s runners at this year’s meeting in the event of Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori not being available.

Leading Coronation Stakes candidate Jubiloso, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, is among the choice rides for whom the Australian-based New Zealander could be considered, with Moore likely to be claimed by Aidan O’Brien to partner Hermosa in the fillies’ Group One race.

McDonald will not be the only jockey from Down Under in demand, with Charlie Appleby confirming that Kerrin McEvoy will join James Doyle on his Godolphin runners at Ascot. The Melbourne Cup-winning rider has also agreed to extend his visit beyond the Royal meeting while William Buick continues his recovery from injury.

McDonald has reestablished himself among the elite ranks in Australia since serving an 18-month ban imposed for breaching betting regulations in 2016, underlining his skills at Ascot last year where a Jersey Stakes victory on Expert Eye and a first ride for the Queen provided his highlights.

Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: “We do have plans for him and we are trying to finalise things, obviously depending on what Ryan and Frankie Dettori are doing. We hope he will slot in on a few of our horses.

“I rang him up to find out if he was coming and said if he was, we’d be keen to use him. He rode Expert Eye very well in the Jersey, so we will hopefully get him on one or two of our horses that either Ryan or Frankie aren’t riding.

“The horses’ regular riders, if available, will ride our horses but if not then the likes of Sangarius, possibly Jubiloso, Equilateral and Set Piece come into play.”

McEvoy, who was already coming to Royal Ascot to partner Australian filly Houtzen in the King’s Stand Stakes, is coming off a stellar season at home where he rode Cross Counter to a first British success in the Melbourne Cup.

“We are going to use Kerrin’s services for six weeks,” said Appleby.

“It’s a quiet time in Australia and we have William out. Kerrin was coming anyway and he is going to extend his stay and jump on some of our second horses.

“He is a world-class jockey who has been part of the team for a long time. I’m glad he is coming over and hopefully he can have a winner or two.”

However, McEvoy’s rides will not include a reunion with Cross Counter who will be partnered by James Doyle in the Gold Cup.

“James is first rider and Kerrin will pick up some seconds and Brett Doyle will pick up a few light weights and whatever else is around while we are in this period when William is out of action,” Appleby added.

“It will be more the two-year-old races and races like the Duke of Edinburgh, where we will have a couple, and possibly the Queen Anne.”

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