PJ going flat out for glory!
RIDER ON THE RISE
TEN years ago PJ McDonald was on the cusp of a stellar career as a jump jockey.
Fresh from winning the Scottish Grand National on Hot Weld in 2007, the then 25-year-old was hungry for more big-race success. But a move to make the most of his light weight and ride a few on the Flat led to a permanent switch in codes.
What followed were years of graft and toil as the rider tried to make his name on the level.
It was nine years before he enjoyed his first proper biggie on the Flat on Clever Cookie in the 2016 Yorkshire Cup, which proved a turning point.
It was the catalyst for an upturn in fortune. New associations with Karl Burke and Mark Johnston in 2017 have led to riding better quality horses – and more winners. He has his first century in his sights and a first Group One victory on the radar on Laurens in Friday’s Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.
Sitting in a quiet corner outside the Haydock weighing room, the likeable Irishman said: “I arrived in the UK in 2005. I’d tried to make a go of it for a few years in Ireland but things never took off.
“It got to the point where I was going to pack it in and learn a trade as I was only 21 but a friend of mine said go to England. He knew Ferdy Murphy and suggested I give jumping a try. I thought I’d give it a couple of years and if it didn’t work out I would be young enough to still learn a trade.”
But Murphy proved to have a huge bearing on the young rider’s career: “Ferdy was a big influence. It sounds like a cliche but he saw something in me that other trainers didn’t,” said McDonald.
“He gave me confidence and put me on that path.” McDonald has played the long game in his quest for success but when he sat on Laurens at Burke’s North Yorkshire yard the juices began to flow. For months the strapping filly excited trainer and jockey on the
FIST PAST THE POST: PJ and Laurens after their Doncaster success