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James McDonald turned in a perfect ride to square the ledger with the Hawkes stable in winning the Group Three Newmarket Handicap at Newcastle on Wednesday.

Two starts back McDonald rode Mercir when fourth at Randwick after being pocketed in the straight instead of going to the outside and he was suitably chastised by co-trainer John Hawkes.

Mecir, Newcastle Newmarket - Photo by Steve Hart

Mecir, Newcastle Newmarket - Photo by Steve Hart

On Wednesday, McDonald did exactly as the Hawkes team asked, settling the horse well back early, coming wide on the turn and then made one challenge to reel in Strawberry Boy.

The Kris Lees-trained American import Slow Pace ran a huge race at his first Australian start to finish third.

Michael Hawkes said McDonald had ridden the horse exactly as instructed.

“We told him to come to the outside and save for him one crack and that is what he did,” he said.

“James did ride the horse pretty ordinary two starts back and should have come to the outside and was a good thing beaten but he has made up for it today.

“When you have a combination that works as team that is when you get results.”

McDonald has an outstanding record with the Hawkes stable, winning 19 races from his last 67 rides.

Hawkes is not sure where they will go with Mercir.

“He is a horse that hates wet tracks. We just keep him fresh and to be honest he probably should be unbeaten this time around,” he said.

“He is just a really, really good horse and keeps getting better but he has had his issues and if he was sound he would be a super horse.”

Mercir is in the Doncaster Mile but Hawkes was not committing the horse to a start.

Jim Cassidy was suspended for causing interference in the straight on Strawberry Boy but will not miss any of the major Sydney carnival meetings.

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