Sunday 21 January 2018

Clever Cookie is led home by P.J.

Taghmon jockey's stroke of luck

Shea Tomkins

Clever Cookie and P.J. McDonald (right) heading for home
Clever Cookie and P.J. McDonald (right) heading for home

Jockey P.J. McDonald from Monastery Avenue in Taghmon had one of the most significant wins in his flat career on Friday when he partnered eight-years-old Clever Cookie (5/2) to win the £90,000 first prize in the Betway Yorkshire Cup, highlight of the York May festival meeting, and it all happened by chance.

Danny Tudhope was down to ride the locally-trained Peter Niven veteran, but was injured on Thursday, and P.J. was asked to step in at the eleventh hour; even then the trainer was doubtful about running the horse because the ground was not ideal, but he and P.J. were delighted with the end result.

The Taghmon man, son of Mary and Pat McDonald, has been plying his trade in the north of England for more than ten years now and has carved out quite a successful career, riding 69 winners last season, mostly on the northern circuit for people like Anne Duffield and Mickey Hammond.

He had ridden Clever Cookie on one of his previous wins and was delighted to renew acquaintances with him. The horse was briefly caught in a pocket, but once in the clear he galloped on resolutely to prevail by half a length under a very cool ride by the Wexford man.

Before he rushed off to ride at Hamilton's evening meeting, McDonald said: 'It's brilliant. I won on him last year and it was great to get the ride, albeit I was sorry for poor old Danny.

'It's a massive feeling for me as horses like this for me to ride are few and far between. To be able to show that if you give me the animal I can get the job done is a great confidence boost.'

P.J's success was tinged with sadness as he told 'At The Races' as he returned to the winners' enclosure that there had been a bereavement in the family and a funeral back in Ireland that morning.

This referred to his grand-aunt, Margaret 'Maggie' Whitty, from Monastery Avenue who passed away last week at an advanced age. P.J. said his family had gone to attend the funeral but they had urged him to stay and seize his chance in the big race at York.

He also raced over the jumps in his early career and got a major break back in 2007 when he rode Hot Weld to win the Scottish Grand National for fellow Wexfordman and then successful Yorkshire-based trainer, Ferdy Murphy from Forrestalstown, Clonroche.

County Meath trainer, Tom Gibney, teamed up with Adamstown's riding starlet, Jonathan Moore, to win the beginners' chase at Tipperary on Thursday, with 66/1 shot Stoughan Cross.

Ballindaggin's Seán Doyle trained Crosshue Boy (15/8) to win the three-mile maiden hurdle in good style at Punchestown on Saturday.

Clonroche's Aidan O'Brien enjoyed yet another special day on Sunday and won both feature races at Navan. He landed the first running of the Listed Coolmore Stud Power Stakes with the impressive Washington DC, and followed up with success in the Group 3 Coolmore Vintage Crop Stakes with Bondi Beach who made heavy weather of beating Toe The Line at odds of 1/9 favourite.

Seamus Heffernan rode both winners but the trainer's son, Donnacha, was in the saddle as Immortal Bridge took the 13-furlong maiden to complete a treble for the Ballydoyle maestro.

O'Brien added to his Newmarket 1,000 Guineas success with Minding, when The Gurkha recorded a five-and-a-half length success in the French 2,000 Guineas at Deauville, also on Sunday. Ridden by Ryan Moore, The Gurkha immediately jumped to the head of the betting for the Epsom Derby. It was a fourth win in the race for O'Brien.

Crossabeg's Liz Doyle continued her recent run of good training form when she teamed up with New Ross rider, Seán Flanagan, to take the maiden hurdle at Killarney on the same day with Thinkitplanitdoit (6/1).

Duncormick trainer Brian Jordan won the opening mares' maiden hurdle at Cork on Friday week with 14/1 chance Cotton Jenny which was ridden by Benny Walsh, who was among the winners at Punchestown the previous week.

Racing takes place at the following Irish racetracks over the following week: Killarney, Tuesday, May 17 (first race 5.50 p.m.); Dundalk, Wednesday, May 18 (first race 6.05 p.m.);

Clonmel, Thursday, May 19 (first race 5.30 p.m.); Cork, Friday, May 20 (first race 5.35 p.m.); Downpatrick, Friday, May 20 (first race 5.55 p.m.); Curragh, Saturday, May 21 (first race 3.20 p.m.), and Curragh, Sunday, May 22 (first race 1.20 p.m.).

Wexford People

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