James McDonald has set himself the goal of becoming the first jockey in almost a decade to ride 100 Sydney winners in a season.
McDonald has ridden 80-1/2 metropolitan winners to put himself well on course for a second Sydney jockeys’ title, but posting a century has also become a major incentive for the 24-year-old before he heads overseas.
He is 24-1/2 wins clear of Hugh Bowman and while another premiership appeals as a safe bet, McDonald will have less than a dozen city meetings to bring up the ton.
It was commonplace for jockeys to ride a century of Sydney winners in a season during the 1990s and early 2000s.
But the milestone hasn’t been reached since Darren Beadman won 164 races in 2006-2007.
Beadman, who now mentors McDonald as part of their involvement at Godolphin, posted six successive centuries in winning five Sydney premierships during the last decade.
“It’s not going to be easy for James because he might only have about another 10 meetings in Sydney,” McDonald’s riding agent Mark Guest said.
“And then he’s got to avoid suspension, but it’s not impossible.”
McDonald helped his cause with a five-timer at Warwick Farm last week, equalling his best day of riding on an Australian racetrack.
After a hectic autumn carnival, McDonald missed the Sydney midweek meeting on Wednesday when he made the most of an opportunity to return to New Zealand.
He will ride at Rosehill on Saturday and will be in action during Hawkesbury’s stand-alone meeting on April 30 before switching his focus to the Brisbane winter carnival.
There will be a Hong Kong cameo squeezed in between when he rides the Godolphin-owned Safety Check in the Champions Mile at Sha Tin on May 1.
As he did last year, McDonald will head to Europe for the northern hemisphere’s peak season of racing and he will ride for Godolphin during Royal Ascot.
His European stint will also take in racing in France.
“I’ve never been to France before and I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully I can ride a couple of winners,” he told the NZ Racing Desk.
McDonald’s full book at Rosehill includes four early favourites – Reincarnate, Impending, Mogador and Well Hardly Ever.