Several trainers were forced to find last minute replacements for their runners at Warwick Farm today after premiership winning jockey James McDonald stood himself down from riding following a stewards’ betting investigation.
Racing New South Wales Stewards charged McDonald yesterday after evidence revealed that he had an interest in a bet on the horse Astern to win in Race 1 (Surf Meets Turf Plate) at Royal Randwick on Saturday, 5 December 2015, being a horse that he rode in that race.
Stewards had the power to suspend McDonald while the investigation was in progress but the Godolphin retained jockey decided to stand himself down immediately.
McDonald in the number one rider for Godolphin’s Australian operation and their trainer John O’Shea was among the trainers to search for replacement riders for McDonald.
O’Shea needed to find three replacement riders and Kerrin McEvoy will now ride Nonpareil in Race 3, Tim Clark is the new rider on Miami Dade in Race 5 and Tye Angland takes over the reins on Bratislava in Race 7.
Trainer Chris Waller had to find two new riders and Hugh Bowman goes on Yeah Bravo in Race 1 and Rory Hutchings goes on Scooner in Race 4 and Brenton Avdulla replaces McDonald on the Gary Portelli trained Wide Acclaim in Race 6.
The Godolphin operation released a statement saying they will support McDonald throughout the investigation but if found guilty the high profile jockey could be facing a two year ban.
“Godolphin acknowledges the stewards’ report that Racing NSW is investigating James McDonald for an infringement of the rules of racing,” the release said.
“His decision to step down from riding, pending the outcome of the investigation, is the right one. We will continue to support him throughout this process.
“Prior to the outcome of this inquiry, and in order not to prejudice the findings, we will make no further comment.”
Racing NSW’s chairman of stewards Marc Van Gestel said that they are still in the process of collecting further evidence and said it could be several weeks until the inquiry is reconvened.
“There are a number of forensic materials that we need to go through including betting information and other records,” Van Gestel told Racing.com’s Racing Ahead on RSN 927.
“We intend to interview other people involving the matter and once those interviews and forensic investigations have been completed we will resume.
“But it might be a matter of weeks until we can revisit the matter.”
McDonald was the champion Sydney rider in the 2015 – 2016 racing season with 89.5 wins and this season he has ridden nineteen metropolitan winners in Sydney and six in Melbourne including three at Group 1 level.