James McDonald has enjoyed a excellent first day at the Goodwood Festival with the champion Sydney jockey steering Dutch Connection to victory in the Group Two Lennox Stakes.
McDonald came with a perfectly timed run on the favourite in the final 100 metres of the 1400m race to beat fellow Godolphin charge Home Of The Brave in the $A297,000 showpiece.
It was a 17th English winner for the 22-year-old New Zealander, who returns to Sydney on Saturday, and his second for trainer Charlie Hills who first brought him over to the UK three years ago.
“He’s an awesome horse, I can’t believe I’ve won a big race for Charlie Hills,” McDonald said.
“He’s an absolute brother of mine and he’s had so much faith in me and I can’t thank him enough.
“It’s been brilliant (riding in England). I head home on Saturday but hope I can get a few more under my belt before I go.”
Hills was full of praise for McDonald and said his father Barry, who trained 3000 winners in his long career, had compared him to the legendary American hoop Steve Cauthen – a three-time British jockey champion in the 1980s.
“It’s three years ago that James came over for the first time and we seemed to hit it off pretty well,” Hills said.
“I think he’s a world-class jockey and still very young, so I think we’re going to see him here quite a bit.
“The first morning James came down to ride, my dad asked me who he was and he said: ‘I haven’t seen a jockey like that since Steve Cauthen was on these gallops’, so that’s a high accolade.”
McDonald’s international reputation has soared during his current stint, winning 17 of his 75 rides since arriving in June and finishing in the first four in another 33.
He was unlucky not to eclipse his three-timer at Newmarket earlier this month with a trio of second-place finishes at the Sussex track.
In the second race of the day his mount Thunder Snow beat well-fancied Boynton into third behind Aidan O’Brien’s impressive $2.50 favourite War Decree.
Fresh from guiding Dutch Connection home McDonald almost made it back-to-back wins with fast-finishing $8 shot Qewy, only for gritty top weight Elidor to hold on by a nose.
His ride on Qewy brought McDonald an 11-day suspension for overuse of the whip ruling him out from August 9 to 19.
McDonald has five more rides on Wednesday, including Toormore in the highly anticipated Group One Sussex Stakes.