It's a Classic for P.J.
Taghmon man triumphs at French Oaks
Pat McDonald from Monastery Avenue, Taghmon, really cemented his place at the top of the flat racing game in Britain on Sunday when he scored his first Classic success in the €1 million French Oaks (the Prix De Diane) at Chantilly aboard his old friend, Laurens, trained by Karl Burke.
Always prominent, McDonald and his tough partner came under pressure with two furlongs to go but repelled all boarders with a wall of horses coming at him.
It was a brilliant effort by horse and jockey, returned at a generous 13/2.
This has been the horse of a lifetime for the hard-working Taghmon man who is the retained rider for its owner, John Dance.
He has won two Group 1s on her, at Newmarket last year and in Longchamp in France a couple of weeks ago, and was an unlucky second in the British 1,000 Guineas this year as well, beaten by a 66/1 shot.
The 36-years-old McDonald has had over 730 winners since he went to England to work with jumps trainer, Ferdy Murphy, in 2005 after struggling for a few years to make the break at home in Ireland on the flat.
Now-retired Murphy comes from Cloughbawn and would have been very familiar with McDonald's home village, and he took him under his wing.
'Ferdy was instrumental in my career,' McDonald acknowledged. 'He protected me in my early days in the jumping game and he still watches me and sends me messages.'
His biggest success for Ferdy was on Hot Weld in the 2007 Scottish Grand National, but he was always a bit small for the jumps game and the chance came to revert to the flat with Alan Swinbank.
'In fairness to Ferdy he said to me I'd be absolutely stupid not to give it a go but always assured me that my job would be there if it didn't work out. It was a win-win situation for me.'
He did well but five years ago he fell into a period where he was making a good living but his career was not kicking on.
Based in Leyburn away up in North Yorkshire, he puts in massive miles every year to keep in touch with the more prominent southern tracks.
However, things have taken off for the Taghmon man in the past couple of years with the help of agent, Gareth Owen.
He had a career best 128 winners in Britain last season, with about €2 million in earnings.
He recalled in an interview last year: 'I told him I wanted to be riding on the bigger days at the bigger meetings and felt I was good enough, and he's got behind me and given me a push…
'I've always said if the horses are good enough, I'll win on them; it's alright saying that to yourself but you've to go and do it.
'The quality is coming now and thank God I'm able to get the job done when I get the chance,' he added.
Pat (P.J.) will be mixing it with the big boys again all this week at Royal Ascot and he will be hoping for more major race success.
It was a quiet week otherwise for Wexford connections in Britain and Ireland, though Jim Bolger's recent good run continued with three winners.
He had a 76/1 double at Roscommon on Monday night, with Dream of Dreams (6/1) by a neck and Dawn Hoofer (11/1), and won a fillies' maiden at Leopardstown on Thursday with Scríobh Nua (4/6f).
Aidan O'Brien had a treble at Cork on Sunday with Mohawk (4/7), Victory Salute (6/4) and Flattering (5/2) in the €70,000 Munster Oaks when most of the Ballydoyle attention was on France where Happily was favourite for the French Oaks but was a close-up fourth after a ride Ryan Moore will not want to watch too often.
At Downpatrick on Sunday, Seán Flanagan and Colin Bowe combined to win a €15,000 mares' handicap hurdle in good style with the well-backed Victoria Bay (4/1), and Flanagan won for boss, Noel Meade, there on Saturday on Cote Tete (9/1).
Daryl Jacob and Tom O'Brien are having a quiet time over the jumps in Britain but both won on the same Aintree card on Friday evening - Jacob on Cracker Factory (4/5f) for Alan King and O'Brien on Cause Toujours (1/1) for Ian Williams.