By Ray Hickson
Australian racing is certainly agreeing with Irish jockey Declan McDonogh.
So much so that only a month into his first working visit down under he’s already considering extending his stay and planning on a return next summer.
The 37-year-old may have flown a little under the radar since his Australian debut in early December but after a treble at Newcastle last weekend he’ll be front and centre at Randwick on Saturday with six rides including three for Godolphin.
“I was hoping that it would go well and get some support,’’ McDonogh said.
“I didn't come into it thinking I was going to take over the world. Things have gone great and I couldn't have asked for a better start.
“I'd like to build on it and hopefully get as many winners as I can before I go home.
“I'm just starting to get the hang of things. I'll take whatever comes.
“I'd definitely like to come back next year so I'd look into a longer Visa. You don't know what's down the line but I'd be open to it."
At the moment McDonogh is due to fly out on February 1 but as his Visa doesn't expire until the 20th he has left the door ajar to stay another two weeks.
While he had to start several rungs lower than he’s used to since landing in Sydney, McDonogh is no stranger to success at the top level in Ireland and the UK.
He has his first Australian stakes ride in Thursday’s Belle Of The Turf Stakes but has six Group 1 wins under his belt and has been one of the leading flat riders in Ireland for the last decade.
Because of that status, with the flat season commencing in late February, he’s only on a short Visa.
“We're quiet at home at the moment and it's a chance to see something different,’’ he said.
“Everyone's been very good to me out here and couldn't help me enough. I'm loving the heat, the good weather, it's great.’’
It’s been well documented that McDonogh met champion jockey Hugh Bowman when Hughie spent time with Irish trainer Kevin Prendergast a number of years back.
McDonogh comes from a racing family, his mother Helen was a jockey and father Des a trainer, and interestingly he crossed paths with Bowman’s wife Christine when they both worked for Dermot Weld more than 15 years ago.
It was Hugh Bowman that encouraged him to try his luck in Australia, following four years working for John Oxx, he’s based himself out of Randwick and is even using Bowman’s manager Bryan Haskins to secure rides and learn the local form.
“The big thing is getting out of the gates and getting into position quicker than we probably would back home,’’ he said.
“It looks like there are some realistic chances (at Randwick) so with a bit of luck they can do the business.’’
A couple of weeks prior to his first local rides, McDonogh had his own racing fan moment when he posed for a picture with Gai Waterhouse at Randwick trackwork.
It’s proudly displayed on his Facebook page.
“A friend of mine, Barbara Keller, is an owner back home and she made the connection with Gai for me. She's an Australian racing icon,’’ he said.
Waterhouse provided him with his first Randwick ride on Boxing Day, finishing unplaced and he’s hoping to improve on that on Saturday.
Among those rides are Savatiano ($4.20) and Epidemic ($3.00) for Godolphin and he’ll ride Boss Lane for Ron Quinton in the feature Listed $150,000 Christmas Classic (1200m).