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McDonald pleads guilty to betting charge

Star jockey James McDonald has pleaded guilty to having an interest in a bet on Astern in a race in which he rode him to win.

McDonald fronted Racing NSW Stewards on Thursday when his lawyer Matthew Stirling argued he should be given a two to three month ban and fined.

The 24-year-old Godolphin jockey won $4000 from a $1000 bet placed on his behalf by punter Anthony Gardiner after Astern won on debut at Randwick on December 5 last year.

The charge carries a mandatory two-year disqualification but Stirling argued because McDonald rode the horse, the integrity of the race had not been compromised.

“The betting public including the owner and the trainer would think ‘well he is trying’,” Stirling told the inquiry.

Gardiner, who has not responded to stewards’ requests to be interviewed over the matter, profited in excess of $125,000 from bets on Astern from the race.

Stirling said McDonald had grown up in New Zealand where riders are allowed to bet on their mounts.

He said it was inevitable young jockeys would be befriended by players in the industry including punters.

“There is no doubt that Gardiner manipulated the relationship,” Stirling said.

McDonald’s good character and remorse over the bets should be considered, Stirling said.

Stewards had previously warned McDonald about his association with Gardiner before the Tramway Stakes on September 3.

Gardiner backed rival horse Dibayani who was competing against McDonald’s mount Hauraki in the Group Two race at Randwick.

Stewards saw McDonald and Gardiner acknowledging each other in the mounting yard and as the horses went on to the track.

Chief steward Marc Van Gestel spoke to McDonald behind the barriers, warning him he would be watched closely during the race.

Hauraki won by three-quarters of a length while Dibayani finished third.

The inquiry has been adjourned while stewards consider penalty.

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