By Mark Brassel
He's in white-hot form, he's the clear leader of the 2019/20 Sydney Jockeys' Premiership but now a much sought-after prize awaits James McDonald.
McDonald rode four Stakes winners at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday to back up a dazzling five winners on the Kensington Track just 10 days earlier.
And with 68½ metropolitan winners this season - 8½ wins clear of his nearest rival Nash Rawiller - one of the state's most prestigious awards appears at his mercy.
The Nathan Berry Medal is named in honour of the former popular jockey who passed away in April 2014, and is awarded to the most successful jockey over the 12 races of The Star Championships that commences this Saturday.
The point score is determined on a 3-2-1 basis across the 10 Group races along with the Finals of the Country and Provincial Championships, with the winner announced at the completion of Day 2 of The Star Championships (Saturday 11 April).
On Saturday's Day 1, McDonald will partner the favourite with TAB in the Bentley Australian Derby (Castelvecchio, $2.80) and the TAB TJ Smith Stakes (Nature Strip, $3.50).
McDonald's other mounts for Saturday's The Championships races are Ligulate ($5.50) in the Newhaven Park Country Championships Final, Bartley ($12) in the Inglis Sires’ and Mister Sea Wolf ($13) in The Star Doncaster Mile.
The Nathan Berry Medal races on Day 2 (Saturday 11 April) are the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Schweppes Sydney Cup, Australian Oaks, Coolmore Legacy Stakes, Arrowfield 3yo Sprint, Percy Sykes Stakes and the Polytrack Provincial Championships Final.
McDonald tied with Nathan's twin Tommy Berry in the inaugural Nathan Berry Medal before Hugh Bowman dominated by claiming four of the next five Medals. Only Blake Shinn (2018) prevented Bowman from making it a clean sweep of five straight.
TAB NATHAN BERRY MEDAL MARKET
$1.40 - James McDonald
$7 - Nash Rawiller
$9 - Tim Clark
$11 - Brenton Avdulla, Kerrin McEvoy
$15 - Glen Boss
$21 - Opie Bosson
2019 - Hugh Bowman
2018 - Blake Shinn
2017 - Hugh Bowman
2016 - Hugh Bowman
2015 - Hugh Bowman
2014 - Tommy Berry/James McDonald