James McDonald redeemed himself with a double at Happy Valley last night, before explaining the reasons behind last week's positive drug test, an incident he feared would put his future chances of riding in Hong Kong at risk.
What was meant to be a late season cameo for the 20-year-old turned into a nightmare when he was given a three-week suspension for presenting with a banned diuretic in his system on the first day of his stint at Sha Tin two Sundays ago.
McDonald, who will serve the ban after the season finale on Sunday, said he took a medication to prevent his feet from swelling on an overnight flight from New Zealand.
'It was a mistake, I took some medication and unfortunately it had the banned substances in it,' he said, adding that he has sought reassurance from officials that his indiscretion would not affect his chances of another stint. 'I can't turn back time, and the main thing is that it won't affect my chances of coming here in the future, because I'd love to come back.'
The New Zealand-born rider said it was a relief to boot home the opening two winners of the final city meeting of the season, Natural Flame and Call Me Achiever - the pair coincidently full siblings.
'Hopefully I can get another one or two winners on Sunday, because I really love it here,' McDonald said.
'That suspension put a dampener on what would have been a good few weeks. I'll treat it as a learning experience and getting a double was a great way to turn it around.'
Natural Flame's trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung was impressed with McDonald's ride from gate one, but said the win was a simple equation of 'a Class Four horse dropping into Class Five'. Call Me Achiever, on whom McDonald was a late replacement for injured rider Douglas Whyte, showed some quality and responded well after being eye-balled throughout by D Day Super.
'This horse has relaxed a lot,' Me Tsui Yu-sak said of his three-year-old.
'He would have really fought the rider if he was put in that situation before.'
Also riding a double was Tye Angland, who now has 36 winners for the season.
'At the start of my season my goal was 30 winners, but I've re-assessed that lately as I've been having a good run,' Angland said.
The Australian jockey scored with strong, come-from-behind rides aboard Heco Rider and Turf Magic, who overcame what Angland thought would be an unsuitably fast surface.
'I'd worked him during the week and he worked well, but I was worried the track would be too firm for him,' he said.
Heco Rider's trainer Derek Cruz also had a double, with Ever Beauty (Zac Purton) making it back-to-back victories after another tussle with Smart Kids.
'Heco Rider is still in a learning phase, so it was nice to win a race with him as a three-year-old,' Cruz said. 'In the future, he will be suited more to 1,400m to 1,600m races. Ever Beauty loves to lead and he loves a fight, too.'
Goldmen Y Y (26-1) and Fortune Winner (29-1) continued the late season trend of upset winners, both long-shot beneficiaries of favourable tempos opposite in nature.
Gary Ng Tik-keung was surprised when backmarker Goldmen Y Y (Eddie Lai Wai-ming) stormed home off a hot speed, but Ricky Yiu Poon-fai said he was far more confident of Fortune Winner's chances.
The Andreas Schutz-trained Osvaldo won the final Happy Valley race of the season when Derek Leung Ka-chun prevailed in a bunched finish.