Chasing a tearaway leader isn’t the ideal spot to be in a horse race, but Something Silver made light of that predicament in the F+M BM 84 (1600) at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
The five year old daughter of Medaglia D’Oro who has been known to over race in the past, appreciated the strong tempo set by Catching Beams who led 3 or 4 lengths in the middle stages.
In the skilful hands of Jamie Kah, Something Silver was in a sweet rhythm all the way and scooted to a winning break on the corner. Paint The Town Two closed late, but the grey mare was able to notch her fifth career win from just twenty starts.
The mare’s breeders and original owners Hesket Bloodstock decided to turn her over in June 2018 after seven race starts, which had netted only one win in a Cranbourne 3YO Maiden.
Trainer Clinton McDonald, on the lookout for a suitable tried horse at the Inglis Great Southern Sale was able to secure her for $42,000 - a bargain in light of four subsequent wins one of which was a dead heat.
Something Silver is now raced by Clinton’s mother Margaret in partnership with M.Bilney and the Krakatini Syndicate. “She’s no world beater, but has a few more wins in store”, said Clinton. “I’m going to freshen her up and have a look at three races restricted to grey horses over the Spring Carnival”.
Clinton McDonald is the son of the late Ross McDonald, a legendary horse breaker and trainer from the mid sixties to the time of his death in 2014. Ross succumbed to chronic heart and kidney complications at just 68 years of age.
Such was the extent of the esteem in which he was held in Victorian racing, that his son decided to move out of his shadow as far back as 2003. “It made sense to take out my own licence and train from Dad’s stables under his tutelage”, said Clinton. “At one stage I had thirty horses at his establishment. Training partnerships didn’t exist back then, but he was there for me whenever I needed help and guidance”.
Young Clinton exhibited riding skills at a very early age on board his favourite pony Pancho. By mid teens his talents on the Polocrosse field were such that he represented Victoria no less than five times at the top junior level.
All the while he was looking for new adventures in the saddle and it seemed a natural progression to follow his father into the horse breaking business. “Dad was a master of the art, widely respected throughout the industry”, said Clinton. “I believe his greatest attribute was his ability not to panic when things went wrong. Many horsemen get a little tense when a horse gets into trouble, but you couldn’t get him to lose his cool”.
As a breaker and a trainer Ross McDonald perfected the perfect blend of kindness and authority. He was constantly on the lookout for the young horse whose intentions were not honourable and would discipline them calmly but firmly.
Ross formulated a couple of expressions which his son uses to this day, when discussing horse management with young people. “He used to say that a good horseman needs an iron fist in a silk glove”, recalled Clinton. “The other quote was that a horse learns a bad habit faster than he learns a good one”.
Ross McDonald’s transition from breaker to trainer happened when his father in law Bon Hoysted died suddenly in the late 1970’s. He was working as stable foreman for Hoysted and was actually the strapper of Manikato the day the emerging champion sprinter won the 1978 Golden Slipper. Ross immediately embarked on a training career which would lead him to twenty two Group 1 wins, including some of Australia’s greatest races.
He was to win the Golden Slipper himself with the classy filly Courtza in 1989 - the first of four consecutive Slippers for jockey Shane Dye. He won Caulfield Cups with Imposera and Tristarc, the latter having won the AJC Derby six months earlier.
Just when Ross had despaired of ever finding another champion, Weekend Hustler came into his life. How the gelded son of Hussonet (USA) was beaten out of a place in a Sale maiden at his first start remains one of the great racing mysteries.
The mystery deepened when he won his next five on the trot including the Ascot Vale Stakes and the Caulfield Guineas. Next preparation he reeled off wins in the Oakleigh Plate, Newmarket Hcp, Randwick Guineas and George Ryder Stakes - four Gr 1’s consecutively.
The brilliant sprinter/miler made it seven career Gr 1’s when he won the Underwood Stakes in the Spring of 2008, right on top of his Australian Horse Of The Year title.
Weekend Hustler failed to regain his best form following a nasty fetlock joint injury and was retired with a stunning record of 12 wins from 21 starts for $3,096,000. How fitting it was Ross McDonald had the opportunity to train a horse of such quality only a few years before his serious health issues arose.
Clinton McDonald mixed breaking and training right up to Ross’ passing. His reputation as a master with problem horses had become almost as legendary as that of his father.
He was extremely privileged when his services were sought by Fred Kersley shortly before the Cox Plate of 2001. The great West Aussie Northerly had won the Feehan Stakes, Underwood Stakes and Yalumba Stakes consecutively, but had developed a worrying habit of rearing at trackwork sessions.
Fred had to work around Clinton’s sessions with Northerly over the next ten days. Nobody knows how he did it and few know what Clinton did to dissuade the great horse from his new found habit. The record book shows that he won the 2001 Cox Plate and the one after. He also collected two Australian Cups, a Caulfield Cup, a total of nine Group 1’s and $9.3 million dollars in prize money.
Lee Freedman was another high profile trainer to send an SOS to Clinton when his bullish colt Don Eduardo started to do things wrong after arriving in Sydney for the Rosehill Guineas and Derby. “Lee flew me to Sydney and asked me to work with the horse for almost two weeks before the Derby”, recalled McDonald.
It’s now history that Don Eduardo was beaten clearly by Carnegie Express in the Guineas, but turned the tables in the Derby by just enough to swear by. “Without going into detail, he was a quirky stallion and wouldn’t have won the Derby without some extra work”, said Clinton. “Full marks to Lee Freedman who recognised the problem and took urgent action”.
These days Clinton McDonald is far too busy to be running after other people’s horses. He has thirty horses in work at Caulfield and like fellow trainers is dreading the day, four and a half years distant, when the famous track will cease to be a training centre.
Benitoite has been keeping the stable flag flying of late with four wins including a Saturday success at Caulfield. Clinton’s hoping the daughter of Americain will be competitive at stakes level during the spring.
He’s looking forward to the return of a couple of promising four year old mares in the near future. Causeway Girl is a three time winner and Diamond effort has won two from four. “They both have plenty of upside and I’ve just got to find the right races for them this preparation”, said Clinton.
McDonald has already tasted Group 1 success with the very talented Regal Roller and says he’s overdue for another elite level candidate.
He got the gelding to train soon after gaining his licence in 2003. He took Regal Roller to a lifetime record of twelve wins and eight placings from thirty eight starts for $1.5 million - a tidy sum sixteen years ago.
Those wins included a Futurity Stakes (Gr1), a Toorak Hcp (Gr1), a Dubai RC Cup (Gr 1), a Gr 2 Memsie Stakes, a Gr 3 Victoria Hcp and a Gr 3 Bletchingly Stakes.
Few Australian horse trainers boast a stronger racing pedigree than forty four year old Clinton McDonald. His maternal great grandfather was Fred Hoysted who figured at or near the top of the Melbourne trainer’s premiership on seventeen occasions.
His maternal grandfather Bon Hoysted as we’ve already established, was highly regarded in his day. There’s little more to say about his father Ross McDonald. They just didn’t come any better.
Clinton surrounds himself with good people and can always fall back on the wise counsel of mother Margaret who’s got a pretty good eye for a horse herself.