James McDonald has rebounded from an 18-month disqualification in the style that first brought him to the attention of the racing public in his native New Zealand.
McDonald was a two-time Sydney premiership winner, had a Golden Slipper trophy to show off and was the main rider for Godolphin before a betting offence sidelined him.
He returned to race riding in May and while still a little rusty he recorded a winning double.
Slowly the big race wins have come, including victory aboard rising superstar The Autumn Sun in the Caulfield Guineas.
Victory in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup at Flemington would cap a remarkable return.
He rides the $6 favourite Yucatan for Lloyd and Nick Williams and Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.
McDonald partnered Yucatan to an impressive victory in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield on October 13 at his only public appearance in Australia.
Riding the favourite has brought the attention on McDonald as he chases a first win in the race.
“Obviously there’s a lot of attention but it’s good especially because he’s such a good horse,” McDonald said.
Like Yucatan’s owner Nick Williams, McDonald isn’t put off by barrier 23.
The barrier is not the end of the world, it is what it is,” he said.
“Someone has to draw there.
“He’ll stay in a nice rhythm. He’s a European horse that covered ground last time and keeping in a rhythm helps with any horse.
“With him he’s done it, I know he can do it, which is a bit of a confidence booster there.”
Like the 23 jockeys he’ll be up against on Tuesday, McDonald says the race means everything, a race all strive to win.
“It’s the race that stops the nation.,” he said.
“As kids it’s a race we all want to grow up winning.
“Competing in it is a great thrill but to be riding the favourite Yucatan is awesome.”