Do you remember when you were little and you believed in dreams?
It was Santa who put the toys in your stocking, and the Easter Bunny who set the eggs for the hunt, and the tooth fairy who left a dollar under your pillow when one fell out.
The world was wide back then, and you looked forward at the future and all you could see were straight lines and stars.
Then one day you got a bit older, and started to ask yourself questions about these fairies and fat men and bunnies, and before you knew it you were realising that it was all just fantasy, and fluff and white lies, and then you asked your Mum and she admitted it, and you smiled and shrugged and felt old and smart, and from that moment on you knew that life was glittered with tiny little lies.
I believed James McDonald when he got done a few years back for having a thousand bucks on his winning ride Astern.
I believed him when he said that he’d made an error of judgement.
I believed him when he said it wasn’t that bad because he had bet on his own horse not another in the race.
I believed him when he said that all he had on the horse was the single thousand.
Well sort of, anyway.
I like J-Mac, and I love his skill as rider and admire the way he can float in the saddle of a horse like MJ soaring through air on his way to the hoop.
When I was living in New Zealand I had seen McDonald as 15-year-old kid riding at the bush track at Waipukurau just up the road from our farm, and I’d rushed home to ring all my mates back in Australia that I’d just seen God, in the flesh, right in front of my eyes.
I backed him and backed him and backed him, that season and the next, and won nearly enough to buy another farm (of course I later knocked that on the head, and knocked the one I had off too – easy come, easy go; if you live and buy by the punt you can’t really complain when you lose by it and still wake up breathing, can you?).
I wanted to believe J-Mac, so I did.
I cast aside all my doubts about why he’d get a shady racecourse dodger to put on his bet, or why the dodger had won $125 000 yet J-Mac only four, or why the dodger was willing to get warned off rather than hand over his betting records, or how when another horse looked like running past him it suddenly veered sideways left and ran to the outside fence, or why the Group 1 winner J-Mac stood up in the irons and celebrated like he’d won the Cup as they passed the post in a lowly $48 000 affair.
I believed because I wanted to believe.
But I was kidding myself.
Leopards are leopards.
They don’t suddenly step out of the nest one day as snow white turtle doves, fly into the forest, grow legs, spots, a tail and teeth, maul a gazelle and eat it, wipe the blood from their paws and faces, then run off to the tree again and turn back into a dove and fly up to the nest.
Leopards don’t change their spots, and crooked jockeys who associate with shady characters and bet large sums on horses don’t either.
There is no Santa Claus, or Easter Bunny, or Tooth Fairy.
Our parents lied.
I don’t believe J-Mac anymore.
This is the Stewards report into J-Mac’s ride on the favourite Keen Power in the 3rd race at Randwick a fortnight ago.
This is J-Mac’s ride, the last part of it anyway.
Before this point he’d begun with them from barrier 10, jagged the fave back to near last in preference to looking for a spot, run up into a traffic jam on the turn, and sat there like a stunned mullet instead of following the others out wide.
On a track on which the inside was clearly off, one of the world’s finest jockeys goes inside instead of out.
Look at his eyes.
Look at his eyes.
Can you see anyone else’s?
No, and you won’t in the pictures to follow either, and that’s because J-Mac is the only one looking.
The other ones have already done their jobs.
What James Mcdonald is looking for is Brenton Avdulla, and he’s spotted him.
Avdulla has just miraculously extricated his mount from a pocket on the turn by simply steering it up inside the amateur rider with no ability Nash Rawiller, a man with a very clean slate, and he didn’t even have to jostle.
Hugh Bowman on the horse in green with the yellow hoops has kindly looked after his no-hoping galloper’s welfare by easing back to allow Avdulla the space to come through underneath the timid Rawiller.
It was very nice of him you would have to agree.
Suspend your disbelief, I will show you all this in the next story.
Avdulla surges toward the lead.
Why is J-Mac looking to his left, when he is steering the favourite in to his right?
Are you that silly you don’t know?
He’s measuring the distance, working out when Avdulla is far enough in front that he come out and chase him and make it look like he’s serious, without actually having a hope in Hades of ever catching catch.
J-Mac is one of the best jockeys in the world remember.
Kieren Fallon was once too.
J-Mac goes back to the inside, where no jockey all day wanted to be.
There is a gap in front of him that you could drive a truck through.
But McDonald steers the favourite in behind another runner, and up its rump.
And then he looks at Avdulla again.
J-Mac keeps steering the favourite in.
All the while he’s looking.
Looking, looking, looking.
At Brenton Avdulla.
Safely tucked in an up behing the horse in the black and white, McDonald pauses for a stride or two to reassess the distance between he and Avdulla.
Still he’s looking.
He’s always looking.
Billy Slater used to too, that’s why he never dropped a ball.
Slater could calculate the physics of where to catch it, where to run, and how fast he needed to do it to split the gap.
It’s why he was such a brilliant player.
James McDonald can do it too, in the blink of an eyelid, just like Billy.
It’s why he is such a great jockey.
But James isn’t calculating how, where and how fast he needs to go to win.
He’s working out what he needs to do to lose.
With honour of course, and so it appears the opposite of what is so.
Eventually J-Mac decides he’s left it long enough, and pulls out into the gap that has been there forever and goes.
He does it slowly though.
Then, finally, he sits down and rides.
For a couple of strides at least.
The bird has flown you see.
And the Eagle has shit.
There is no Santa Claus.
I suspect that there is a race fixing ring in Sydney though, and it’s run from the top, and through the cream.
It break my heart to say this.
But I suspect that James McDonald just might be a cheat.
to be continued …….