James McDonald’s two- year ban for betting on a horse he was riding could cost him up to 3 million dollars in lost earning. He is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s top paid sports personalities. The son of a former international jockey, Brett McDonald, began his career as an apprentice jockey in Cambridge in 2007. By the time he was 20 he won four New Zealand apprentice jockey championships and two full jockey premierships. It is estimated that he earns between 1 – 2 billion dollars a year, depending on race results.
Top jockey James McDonald was banned for 18 months by the Racing New South Wales stewards and has had his contract with Godolphin discontinued. The Australian- based jockey pleaded guilty of having placed a bet of A $1,000 on Astern when the John O’Shea trained horse made his debut at Randwick on 5 December. He was subsequently charged under Article 83 that states a jockey may be penalised ”If he bet, or has any interest in a bet on any race, or contingency relating to Thoroughbred racing involving a race in which he was riding.” Punter Anthony Gardiner placed the $1,000 bet on McDonald’s behalf, which returned a total of $4,000.
Racing Australia established a set of harsher penalties relating to what they view as serious breaches of the rules about three years ago and a breach of Article 83 carries with it a mandatory two- year disqualification. The rules were strengthened in 2013 in response to the 10- month ban Damien Oliver received the previous year. Damien Oliver, admitted that he placed $10,000 bet via a third party on a rival horse. McDonald stood himself down voluntarily when the charge was announced in mid- November. A statement issued by Godolphin read ”His decision to step down from riding, pending the outcome of the investigation, is the right one.” They also mentioned that they ”will continue to support him throughout this process.” They also mentioned that prior to the outcome of the investigation they won’t make any further comments.
The investigation arose from a routine meeting between RNSW stewards and the police. It is important to note that Racing Australia has a memorandum of understanding with several law enforcement agencies. New information came to light of an association McDonald had with a punter. Van Gastel immediately made it clear that he was not suggesting that McDonald personally placed the bet, but that he clearly had interest in the bet on Astern.
His legal team had pushed for a much lesser ban, since he fully cooperated with the investigation and the fact he rode the Astern in the race in question. In his statement McDonald said ”I made an error of judgement betting on Astern when I rode it and broke rule of racing. ” He also went on to say that he is ” extremely disappointed with the penalty ” and that he ”will be appealing. ”
McDonald was placing third on the Sydney premiership with 19 wins following Brenton Avdulla but his horses have won the most stakes for any rider that season, $2.9 million.