Horse Racing: James McDonald takes out Sydney jockey premiership after 18 months out of the sport

Three years ago, Kiwi jockey James McDonald was at rock bottom.

Critics thought his career was over when he was handed an 18-month ban from riding.

But in his first season back in the saddle, he's proven them all wrong by winning the toughest jockey premiership in the world by the length of the straight.

And he's revealed it's hard work that's sealed his comeback - nearly every time he saddles up, he rides home a winner.

"I get a big buzz out of winning because it takes a lot of work behind the scenes," McDonald said.

The work's paid off for the 27-year-old. After being banned in 2016 for betting on his own horse, he's dominated the Sydney scene since his return to racing last year.

With six weeks to go in the season, he simply can't be beaten to the New South Wales Jockey Premiership.

"It's been incredible," McDonald said.

"I've had the powerhouse stables supporting me all the way through, Chris Waller's been a massive supporter of mine, same with Godolphin.

"I think I've ridden winners for everyone in Sydney this year."

When it comes to McDonald's success, the numbers don't lie.

He's left other high-profile jockeys in the dust with more than a hundred winners this season, first over the line in a fifth of the races he rides.

And he's started more races than his rivals, simply working harder than anyone else to get back where he belongs.

"It wouldn't have been a Sydney meeting gone past unless I was suspended," he said.

"Apart from that, I've made a point of riding as many horses as I can to get in a mindset of attacking the season."

He has no plans to ease his assault on Sydney, aiming for more group 1 success next season.

"I've had 13 seconds in group 1s and six wins so I'd like to reverse that stat a little bit," he said.

For now though, he's proved the doubters wrong and even the man himself believes he's back.

"I don't think anyone who's had 18 months off could come back and have the season I've had, so I'm very lucky to be in the position I'm in."