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James McDonald’s cool head puts Ninth Legion on path towards Doncaster Mile

James McDonald’s cool head puts Ninth Legion on path towards Doncaster Mile

Jockey James McDonald saved the best for last — a textbook rail-hugging effort on the Segenhoe Group-raced Ninth Legion to win the Listed $100,000 Carrington Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday

Ninth Legion was the final leg of a four-win haul for the champion jockey after his earlier successes on Haptic, Centre Pivot and Mihiri.

Sydney's defending premier jockey had only won two Sydney races this month until returning to his brilliant best riding half the Randwick program.

"I needed it,'' McDonald said. "They were starting to get away from me in the premiership.

"I took a couple of weeks off over Christmas and when I left Hughie (Bowman) was five behind me and then all of a sudden he was 10 wins in front.''

McDonald's quartet of wins took him to 45.5 wins for the season, 6.5 wins behind Bowman.

Ninth Legion ($6) settled midfield on the fence and McDonald did not go around a horse as he drove through underneath early leader That's A Good Idea ($2.30) to score running away by nearly two lengths with Haussman ($21) a half-neck away third.

It may have looked like McDonald was riding for luck staying on the inside but the jockey sensed the run would come.

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"I felt it was always going to open up,'' he said.

"The horse outside the leader (Spurtonic) was dropping off and the trailing horse (High Esteem) was always going to pop off the fence.

"This meant I was going to get the run through and he accelerated brilliantly.

"The firm track helped him because last year he was hindered by wet tracks almost every time he ran.

"I guess they were only 'mediocre' horses today but I hope he can go to that next level now because he attacked the line really well and feels better than ever.''

Ninth Legion completed a brace of wins for the in-form stable of Team Hawkes after their earlier success with Mihiri.

Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes said from New Zealand on Saturday night that Ninth Legion will prove competitive provided the tracks stay firm for him during autumn.

"He's a quality horse but he is not as effective on wet tracks,'' Hawkes said.

"In the Doncaster Mile last year, he ran fifth and was competitive even though he struggled in the wet going.

"Our aim is to get him to the Doncaster again and hope he strikes a good track.''

The Hawkes stable has dominated the Australian Turf Club's inaugural Sydney Summer Sprint series, winning three of the five races.

Team Hawkes won the first two legs of the series, the Starlight Stakes and Razor Sharp Handicap, with the brilliant Our Boy Malachi.

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Pictures: Simon Bullard

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