PJ go­ing flat out for glory!

RIDER ON THE RISE

Daily Star Sunday - - SPORT -

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

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