Steve Moran

Doyle To Remain In Australia In Autumn

O’Shea also said that outstanding colt Astern (Medaglia d’Oro) – the horse at the centre of McDonald’s penalty – may resume in the $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m) at Flemington on 18 February, provided the operation was satisfied with the preparation of the Flemington straight course.

McDonald was, in December, disqualified for 18 months on the evidence of his own admission after the 24-year-old New Zealander pleaded guilty to having a $1,000 bet on Astern when the colt made his debut at Randwick on 5 December 2015. He profited $4,000 on the horse which he rode to win the race.

That void has been filled by the capable Englishman who’s ridden seven Sydney winners since arriving in late November after McDonald stood himself down pending the initial investigation into the bet.

“James Doyle will ride here until late April before he returns to the UK for the 2000 Guineas meeting at Newmarket. Then with the approval of His Highness (Sheikh Mohammed) and provided nothing else has changed in the meantime, he’ll return after the Glorious Goodwood meeting to ride for us through the spring,” O’Shea said. The 2000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) is run on 6 May and the Goodwood meeting is in the first week of August.

“James (Doyle) has adapted very quickly here. He’s a very professional and capable rider and I’m very comfortable having him as part of the Australian team,” O’Shea said.

The responsibility of riding Golden Rose Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) winner and valuable stud prospect Astern may well to fall to Doyle and the colt is making sound progress towards the autumn according to his trainer.

“He’s in very good order and now is probably just two weeks from a trial. He’s come to hand well and we may head to Melbourne for the Lightning provided we’re comfortable with the straight track. The organisation has made approaches to the VRC to seek some assurance about the preparation of the track. The best policy I suspect is to leave it alone,” he said.

O’Shea has good reason to be a little gun shy about the Flemington straight after the misadventure of Exosphere (Lonhro), also a Golden Rose winner, in last year’s Lightning Stakes. He ran extremely well to finish fourth but was on the slower flat side while the first three home were on the grandstand side.

Could he back sooner than we think?

Note the expiry date of his disqualification (15 May 2017) on this from the Racing NSW website:

“Licensed Jockey James McDonald has lodged an appeal against penalty after being found guilty by the Stewards acting under AR83(d) following him having an interest in a bet on the horse Astern to win in Race One Surf Meets Turf Plate at Royal Randwick on Saturday, 5 December 2015. James McDonald was disqualified for a period of 18 months to commence on 15 November 2016 and to expire on 15 May 2017. A date has not yet been set.”

That typographical error may not help him but few, including me, would begrudge McDonald returning at that time – after six months. In fact, three months and a hefty fine would have been much more appropriate. The lesson would be well taught. You bet, you win a few grand…we fine you ten times your winnings. Doubt there’s many jockeys that silly.

Yes, McDonald was silly but the argument ought not centre on the fact that he had a bet and he knew the penalty.

The argument, should be as I keep insisting and will continue to do, that mandatory minimum penalties do not work and they especially don’t work in a world which has as many grey areas as horse racing.

This change should be item one on the agenda of the next Racing Australia board meeting.

McDonald will pursue his right of appeal to the racing tribunal and perhaps beyond that to the courts, if he so desires. That would be interesting to say the least. And to assume that he has been entirely abandoned by his previous employer may not prove to be the case.

The Michael Kent trained five-year-old Supido (Sebring) is also being aimed at the Lightning Stakes. He hasn’t appeared since May last year when a three quarters of a length third to Black Heart Bart (Blackfriars) and Under The Louvre (Excellent Art) in the Goodwood (Gr 1, 1200m).

That performance followed six successive wins including four down the Flemington straight course where he’s unbeaten.

“He had a few niggles so we were happy to give him the time off through the spring. He’s matured a lot now and I’ve always felt he’d be at his best as an older horse. He’s just started some fast work and I’m happy with him. We’ll definitely look at the Lightning if he continues to progress as I’d hope he would,” Kent said.

The autumn sprints promise to be the first highlight of 2017 with the established stars headed by Chautauqua (Encosta De Lago) taking on the remarkable crop of three-year-olds including Astern, Star Turn (Star Witness) and the Mick Price-trained duo Flying Artie (Artie Schiller) and Extreme Choice (Not A Single Doubt).

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