It was a Glorious Goodwood for James McDonald and Dutch Connection
McDonald also steered Thunder Snow to second behind War Decree in Vintage Stakes
James McDonald riding Dutch Connection celebrates winning The Qatar Lennox Stakes at Goodwood. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Some jockeys ride around this course for years yet still never quite seem to get the hang of it. James McDonald is not one of them. “For the past couple of days I‘ve had the map out, studying which way to go,“ he said here on Tuesday, and the New Zealander glided around Goodwood as though he had been doing it all his life on the way to victory on Dutch Connection in the Group Two Lennox Stakes.
McDonald has nearly 400 horses waiting for him in Australia, where he is the retained rider for John O‘Shea, Godolphin‘s main trainer in the country, and he will return there at the end of the week. McDonald was originally booked to fly home several weeks ago, however, and extended what was due to be a brief working holiday only when William Buick, one of Godolphin‘s two retained riders in Britain, picked up a 15-day ban in France, which was doubled to 30 days when the rider made some injudicious comments to the stewards.
McDonald has seized the opportunity and will leave behind a lasting impression of quiet, unshakable self-assurance in the saddle. There is no trace of arrogance about him, just a sense that he knows what needs to be done to give his horse the best chance to win, and has enough confidence in his judgement to see it through.
The highlights of his time in Britain have been an impeccable waiting ride on Antiquarium in the Northumberland Plate and an equa lly well-judged victory from the front on Big Orange in the Princess of Wales‘s Stakes at Newmarket, but his latest Group Two success here on Tuesday was another example of McDonald getting the job done with a minimum of fuss.
Dutch Connection was always travelling smoothly as Gifted Master and Home Of The Brave went hard in front, and the 9-4 favourite closed on the lead a furlong out before quickening nearly two lengths clear of Home Of The Brave at the line.
“The strong tempo set it up very well for our horse, he travelled very well in fourth and when I eased him out, the race was over a fair way from home,“ McDonald said.
“I peeled him out and he went through a little bit of a flat spot, so I urged him on and he found that gear very quickly. He‘s very capable on his day, but he‘s still got to get that elusive Group One and hopefully he can do that.”
Charlie Hills, Dutch Connection‘s trainer, recalled after the race that his father Barry, one of the great trainers of the last half-century, had suggested that he “hadn‘t seen a jockey like that on the gallops since Steve Cauthen” when he first rode out for the stable. The ability to exploit openings as they arise is also a very useful trait for any jockey, and McDonald is unlikely to struggle for offers if or when he returns next year.
“The outside support has been mind-boggling, really,“ he said. “I‘ve been here for a couple of seasons but only for very short stints, which don‘t give you the opportunity to grasp those opportunities when they come. To be here for a little bit longer under the unfortunate circumstances for William was a great opportunity for myself to branch out a little bit more.“
McDonald also steered three of his less-fancied rides on Tuesday into second place, including Thunder Snow, the runner-up to War Decree in the Group Two Vintage Stakes for two-year-olds.
Three of the last four winners of this race have been Group One winners later on their careers, including the Hugo Palmer-trained Galileo Gold, this season‘s 2,000 Guineas winner. War Decree was 3lb better off with Boynton, who had beaten him into second place in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket and finished third here, but still seemed to show distinct improvement to win by one-and-three-quarter lengths.
“He can stay at this distance [seven furlongs] or step up a bit,“ Kevin Buckley, the UK representative for the Coolmore Stud, said. “Being by [US STALLION]War Front, he acted well on the ground and that‘s why we decided to come here. We might look at the Champagne [AT DONCASTER]or the National Stakes [at The Curragh], and going to America [for the Breeders‘ Cup in November] is certainly a possibility given his pedigree.”
War Decree can still be backed at 16-1 for next year‘s 2,000 Guineas in a market that is headed by his stable-companion Caravaggio, the impressive winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.