Oisin Murphy has a novel approach to dealing with the daily grind of challenging for the Flat jockeys’ championship. He lives in the future instead.
“I get a real buzz when I ride a nice horse in a novice that I think could be the next star,” Murphy said here on Friday, shortly after riding his 38th winner of the season. “That can keep you going when you’re not riding winners or things have gone wrong.
“When you think you’ve found one, in the morning or at the races, a potential star in your own mind, that can give you a lift for a week. It’s nearly bigger than riding a huge winner because you’re dreaming about where this horse could take you. When you’re living in the future, it’s less hard work.”
Right now, it is a future which could scarcely be brighter. Murphy has flung himself into his challenge for the championship, riding more horses than any other jockey this year and, after Friday afternoon’s action, eight more winners than any of his rivals too. He has had 11 winners from 32 rides since the start of June and is in such demand that his 11 leading money-earners this year are all in different stables.
It might be enough to turn the head of some 23-year-olds, not least on the back of a 2018 season in which he rode nine Group One winners. Murphy, though, is refreshingly unaffected by his success and his status as favourite to beat Silvestre de Sousa to the title, giving much of the credit to the horses and his supporters.
“Lots of people are flying at the moment so it’s very important if I’ve got any chance in the championship that I’m converting the winners when I’m getting the opportunities,” Murphy says. “All this week, I’ve been going racing for winning chances and thankfully we’ve been able to convert some of them.
“That goes to show how hard my agent’s working and how fortunate I am to have so many good people behind me. The bottom line is you’re only as good the horses you’re getting on and without getting on these horses, I can’t ride the winners.
“So there’s no place for arrogance or complacency in the weighing room because it’s obvious to see what can happen when that mindset strikes. The results can suddenly go downhill.”
Perhaps because of his head-down devotion to the task in hand, Murphy still has a relatively low profile among the wider sporting public. But here too, the future looks bright. Royal Ascot begins in less than a fortnight and Murphy expects to have his strongest ever book of rides at Flat racing’s most glamorous meeting.
His rides in the races for two-year-olds look particularly strong as Murphy tries to add to his single winner at the Royal meeting in each of the last two seasons. Lambeth Walk and Exclusively, both trained by Archie Watson, and Joseph O’Brien’s Air Force Jet are all expected to set off at, or close to, the head of the market.
“For any jockey to get one winner in the week is a huge relief and a massive result,” he says. “It’s just very important in your mind as much as anything else. From a confidence point of view, it can carry you the whole way through Glorious Goodwood and the Ebor meeting, just on the back of a decent winner at Ascot.”
And after Ascot, it will be back to the graft that will be required to win a title.
“I don’t really go anywhere,” he says. “I live in Lambourn, so everyone knows me there, and after that, I live riding out, or at the races, or in my car or on planes on Sundays to France and Germany. So I don’t really socialise that much with people and I’ve got the same circle of friends that I’ve had since I was an apprentice, so that hasn’t changed much. But it’s only denial if you admit it to yourself. You need to keep chipping away.”
Punters short-changed by Hamilton stalls swap
When is a race so far removed from what was billed that it is a different race entirely? The question occurs after watching several contests on Thursday evening, all of which involved important departures from the script presented to punters on the racecard.
Four of these races were at Ffos Las’s evening meeting, where the sun came out and the decision was taken to omit the two flights in the home straight in the last four races on the card. This meant that in the two scheduled contests over two miles, the field galloped the length of the home straight and around the bend, jumped four flights down the back and then had a run-in from the final flight of well over half a mile. Two more races, over around two-and-a-half miles, also lost four hurdles each.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it may well be that it is not the greatest of ideas to schedule a jumps meeting for an evening in early June when half of the obstacles will need to be removed if the sun comes out.
But these were not the only races on Thursday that did not take place as planned. In the last race at Hamilton two of the runners swapped stalls. Samovar, who had been due to start from stall seven, went into box 12 instead and went on to finish second, while Gift In Time went into seven and finished unplaced.
In this particular case, Samovar outran his odds of 14-1 to finish a close second on a part of the track which had seemed less favourable earlier in the afternoon. Had he been able to race down the centre, as might well have been the case from his proper stall, Samovar could well have been the winner.
No one can be sure, of course, but anyone who backed Samovar has every right to feel that they did not get a fair run for their money. And if punters are left feeling cheated through no fault of their own, it does seem to add insult to injury as the stewards deemed it worthy of no more than a one-day suspension form the joekcys who took their mounts into the wrong stalls.