James McDonald wins World's Best Jockey
The Longines World’s Best Jockey competition is exactly what it sounds like in that it awards one jockey from around the world with the designation of world champion hoop based on races run between December 1st of the previous year and November 31st of that year.
To be awarded the title of the World’ Best Jockey you must achieve the most points from the 100 Group One or Grade One races as selected for the year by the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Committee.
Scoring occurs when winning or placing in one of these selected races. Twelve points are awarded for winning on of these races with 6 points awarded to second and four points awarded for a third place finish.
James McDonald - The Competition 12 Months ago
It could have been oh so different for Jmac who went close to winning the title in 2021 when finishing third behind British riders Ryan Moore and William Buick.
McDonald finished the season on 96 points with Buick landing a total of 104 points and Moore winning with a total of 112 points. The majority of those accumulated by McDonald were aboard Nature Strip who registered another TJ Smith Victory as well as an Everest win and a Champions Sprint win at Group 1 Level.
There is a case of what could have been with McDonald set to partner with Group One winner Zaaki who claimed a pair of titles for the Kiwi hoop during the Spring before dramatically being scratched from the Cox Plate on the day of the race due to an elevated temperature.
That win could have put him within a third place finish of winning last year's title and despite claiming the 2021 Melbourne Cup aboard Chris Waller trained Verry Elleegant it wasn’t to be.
In 2021 McDonald did win as many Group One titles as Ryan Moore and even gained more runner up finishes than Moore however he didn’t register a single third place finish out of the 100 qualifying races where Moore claimed 7 bronze medals in those races.
The top three finishers in 2021 cleared out from the rest of the pack with the fourth place finisher, French jockey Christophe Lemaire only clocking 68 points and it was to be a similar case this year, with Moore and McDonald having there own private battle amongst the worlds elite jockeys.
Getting An Early Lead In The World Jockeys Title
GIven that McDonald had finished the 2020/21 season on the high of winning the Melbourne Cup as well as a number of other Group One titles at the end of Spring and then finishing third in the World Jockeys Championship, he didn’t mess about at the start of the 21/22 campaign to make sure he went topped the pile the following year.
McDonald started scoring in the championship when he would switch from his old faithful Nature Strip to Home Affairs for the Group One Black Caviar Lightning Stakes down the straight six at Flemington.
It was a controversial decision for many as McDonald had recently won the mega rich $15m Everest aboard Nature Strip but on this occasion decided jump ship and ride the three year old. An inspired move as Home Affairs would get over the line first and hand McDonald early points in the competition.
It wouldn’t be long before he would register another win when steering Verry Elleegant to victory in the Group One Chipping Norton at Royal Randwick during the Sydney Autumn Horse Racing Carnival.
McDonald would then rack up three second place finishes worth 6 points a pop in the Canterbury Stakes with Lighthouse, The Ranvet, once again with Verry Elleegant and finally the George Ryder aboard Godolphin owned Collette.
After a solid start it would be his next Group One which would form the backbone of his World Jockeys Championship success.
The Ryan Moore Championship Fightback
Before the end of the Autumn Campaign McDonald would go on to win three more Group One titles. The Rosehill Guineas aboard Anamoe, The TJ Smith Stakes for a third time aboard Nature Strip as well as an All Aged Stakes aboard Cascadian.
It would be his Rosehill Guineas that would be the most meaningful however as his relationship with Godolphin would go from strength leading to him having continued rides aboard not only Anamoe but a number of Godolphin runners throughout the year.
At this point many would have thought the contest was over for 2022 with jockey Ryan Moore yet to register a single point despite finishing in the top three of the World Jockeys Championships in each of the past four years.
After McDonald rode Cascadian to victory in the All Aged Stakes, Moore would register his first points with a third place finish in the 2000 Guineas in the UK. He would back with up with another third place in the Coronation Cup and again in the Queen Anne Stakes.
He didn’t seem to be having the same impact as previous years as it wouldn’t be until mid-June when Moore would register his first Group One when winning the Group One Gold Cup at Royal Ascot aboard promising three year old Kyprios.
It didn’t seem enough from Moore though, who in the first half of the season hadn’t registered a single point while McDonald had racked up 82 points. Moore had begun to make slight inroads amassing 26 points but with the Australian Spring Carnival on the way Moore would have to go some in order to close the gap.
Spring Carnival and the Anamoe effect
With an already considerable lead over the chasing pack which included Moore, James McDonald found his Golden Goose or more likely his Royal Blue Golden Goose in the form of four year old colt, Anamoe.
Anamoe put the world on notice when, as a three year old was an unlucky runner up in the 2021 Cox Plate, finishing behind Melbourne Cup winning trainer Joey O’Brien’s Irish raider State Of Rest.
McDonald had already claimed the Rosehill Guineas in convincing fashion to add 12 points to his championship tally aboard Anamoe and he would pick up where he left off when claiming another 12 aboard the colt in the Group One Winx (formerly Warwick) Stakes at Royal Randwick.
From there the pair wouldn’t look back claiming another 36 points from 3 races when winning the Group One George Main Stakes, The Might and Power Stakes as well as gaining revenge in the WS Cox Plate with victory on Moonee Valleys biggest race day.
To go with his already significant haul in the first half of the year McDonald would go on to add another 60 points to his championship tally during the Spring by registering a total of 4 Group Ones as well as two runner up spots aboard Law Of Indices in the Toorak Handicap and Nature Strip in the Darley Champions Sprint.
While McDonald had got his broom out and was sweeping up down under his Northern Hemisphere challenger had definitely upped his game with jockey Ryan Moore mounting a late challenge to attempt to retain his 2021 crown.
Moore would have a trip around Europe in the Spring in an attempt to cover the ground when first winning the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown before heading to France to claim the Prix Du Cadran at Longchamp.
He would then travel to the US to claim a Group One at the Breeders Cup festival at Keeneland before rounding out the year by winning the last qualifying race for the Longines World Jockeys Championship, The Japan Cup, in thrilling fashion in Tokyo.
The Jockeys World Championship Final Results
It was definitely a valiant effort by UK jockey Ryan Moore who managed to accumulate a whopping 96 points in the last 6 months of the year to overcome third place finisher and fellow Brit Jim Crowley in the World Jockeys Championship. However it wasn’t enough to overcome the performance of James McDonald and the huge 5 Group One titles achieved by Godolphin star Anamoe.
Overall through the season McDonald would achieve a championship winning total of 142 points across just nine different mounts in 15 different races with Anamoe accounting for nearly half of the total points accumulated across the year.
It’s probably a bit late in the day but just to confirm we haven’t forgotten about all other McDonalds Godolphin based achievements this year it’s just the wins in the Caulfield Guineas and other Group ones when donning the Royal Blue don’t contribute to his score for the championship.
When you factor in these wins as well it demonstrates that McDonald has operated at a level above this season.
I mean the resurgence in form of the likes of Cascadian and getting 18 points from Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant who went on to have a poor campaign in France also show huge character to the riding ability of McDonald and that he is well deserving of the award he’ll receive this week.
Where next for James McDonald
It’s a good question. At the moment he’s top of the pile however work starts again just two days after receiving the award for the 2021/22 season when he takes favourite Romantic Warrior into the Hong Kong Cup on Sunday.
What a better way to springboard into your 22/23 title defense than winning the third scoring race listed on the Longines 100 qualifying races for this years championship.
With that in mind McDonald has an awesome chance to back up his victory this season with Godolphin head office in the Middle East already talking about Anamoe to the Dubai World Cup and Ascot in order to showcase his talents on the world stage.
There is talk that Nature Strip may once again travel to the UK to defend his title in the King Stand Stakes. It’s already been confirmed that the Chestnut Gelding will be out to attempt a TJ Smith Stakes fourpeat which bolsters McDonalds chances once again.
On a more local level, Mcdonald is expected to keep his relationship with Zaaki going strong. He has also forged a strong connection with Godolphin that the likes of Vilana, Paulele and In Secret will all be challenging for Group One titles in 2023.
However for now, and probably the immediate future you’d imagine that McDonald is set to bask in the glory of becoming recognised as the World’s Best Jockey.