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James McDonald might have first pick of Godolphin’s plum rides but the in-demand jockey insists he is a freelance rider.

The gun hoop’s position came under scrutiny on Wednesday after trainer John Hawkes told a Melbourne radio station that McDonald no longer wanted to ride their horses due to his commitments with Godolphin.

It sparked rumours that Sheikh Mohammed’s operation had signed McDonald as its stable jockey.

However, the hoop’s manager David Raphael said that was not the case.

“The bottom line is he’s free to ride for whoever he wants. He is not contracted (to Godolphin) by any means,” Raphael said.

“James is riding freelance. He still wants to keep riding for Hawkes.

“He’s got first call, if he wants, for Godolphin.”

McDonald has enjoyed a successful partnership with Hawkes Racing who he teamed with to win last year’s Golden Slipper aboard Mossfun.

He did have first call on the majority of their Sydney runners but it appears that will no longer be the case.

He has also ridden frequently for Godolphin since John O’Shea was appointed head trainer last year and Kerrin McEvoy stepped down as the stable’s No.1 rider in September.

McDonald has three rides for Godolphin at Rosehill on Saturday headed by Chamarel in the Canonbury Stakes and Igraine in the Widden Stakes.

Hawkes Racing has a runner in both two-year-old features, Mawahibb and Lake Geneva respectively, with the pair to be partnered by Melbourne-based Dwayne Dunn.

McDonald said he was open to riding offers from all stables and hoped his freelance position would lead to further international interest after he was last week confirmed as the jockey for Japanese raider Real Impact during The Championships.

“I think here in Sydney it’s that competitive you need all the support you can get,” McDonald said on Sky Sports radio.

“When you’re just riding for one stable it’s very hard. I’m looking forward to going out on a bit more of a freelance role and getting the opportunities that arise from overseas horses like the Japanese horses.”

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