Don't miss Oisin Murphy's latest Sporting Life column
Don't miss Oisin Murphy's latest Sporting Life column

Oisin Murphy column following Cazoo Derby Festival

Adayar a clear-cut Derby hero

I’m sure plenty of people have seen the clip already but it was a pleasure to be able to watch Saturday’s Cazoo Derby unfold down on the rail at Epsom and witness Adayar running out a ready winner.

A few people have asked me since if I felt a sense of disappointment, given I was booked to ride the horse at the start of the week, but I know this is all part of being a jockey and was genuinely thrilled for all concerned with the horse.

If anything, James Doyle might be the one entitled to feel like the one who missed out more than anyone as he’s been filling in behind William Buick at Charlie Appleby’s for a couple of seasons now and, obviously, if he had his time again he would have ridden Adayar and not One Ruler. So I sympathise with him.

Oisin Murphy's brilliant commentary of the Cazoo Derby: As it happened!

Watching it, the horse had a great trip down on the inside. Gear Up moved off the rail and the perfect seam opened up for Adam Kirby which is quite rare at Epsom. When he did get a clear run the winner took off and really streaked away so it was great to see an impressive Derby winner rather than something that falls in in a tight finish.

Now we can talk about this three-year-old with some excitement going forward to the King George. As a type he should only progress with time, he’s so big and has loads of scope. As he gets stronger he should only get better and I sat on himself, just doing some routine work at the yard, so I know he’s a really imposing, laidback horse who will continue to develop.

For Adam, I think it means the world to him to be able to win the Derby. I’ve stayed with him plenty of times in Newmarket, we’ve ridden at different places together from Dubai to all over, we’ve been on lots of trips together.

We get on very well socially as well as riding and, for a guy who really struggles with his weight, it’s incredible reward.

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Betfair Royal Ascot offer

Significant swing in Epsom conditions

Just a quick note on the Epsom going too as Friday was genuinely slow ground, it was rain-sodden after those downpours and pretty soft on top. But by Saturday afternoon it was definitely good ground, the times proved that and it rode like nice ground.

I’m pretty sure that on Saturday it was no worse than good. So people can read what they want into William Haggas taking his horse (Mohaafeth) out of the Derby but, for me, the clock doesn’t lie.

Back to Friday and Ocean Road was sixth in the Cazoo Oaks. I was on the worst of the track in the straight, I wanted to get higher up the camber and over to the stands’ rail but I wasn’t able to do it having sat on the inside the whole way.

She’s run a career best by a fair way but I’d hope there’s still a bit of improvement there too.

I thought Blue Cup was very impressive in the mile and a quarter handicap. They switched him from a ring bit and a cross noseband to an eggbutt snaffle and a plain noseband and he relaxed much better.

He absolutely bolted up. He’d been a runaway on his two starts before that so it was a nice feeling to win so well. He’s entered in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot next week and would be entitled to go into Listed company now if David Menuisier is happy with him but I’m likely to be riding Felix for Marco Botti in the race.

I was third on him in the Dubai Turf and that was a career-best effort and connections have plotted their way since with this race in mind.

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Parent’s Prayer won the Princess Elizabeth, I wasn’t given instructions to lead or to take a lead, they left that to me, and she was able to dictate the race and control the rhythm. For a filly that can often get disorganised even on more conventional tracks she was really well balanced and I think she could have a very good season.

She was giving weight to some nice three-year-olds there but I wouldn’t necessarily read too much into that as three-year-olds have a terrible record in that race, it maybe just comes a touch too early in the year for them. But Parent’s Prayer is still a horse to follow I’d say.

Bell Rock is worth a mention too. We went very steady in the Diomed Stakes and absolutely cantered in front. Century Dream was a little bit keen and I thought when Doyler went ‘go’ he was away and gone but Bell Rock probably needs a slightly stiffer test.

If he runs in the Royal Hunt Cup he’d be a good ride as he’s definitely a Group horse but the sharp-ish extended mile at Epsom probably wasn’t quite up his street.

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Ascot excitement building

Before getting onto the weekend rides, just a couple of Royal Ascot snippets that people may or may not have read about elsewhere – firstly, I’ll be riding a two-year-old for Wesley Ward in the Norfolk Stakes called Nakatomi.

He’s part-owned by Qatar Racing and a friend of Sheikh Fahad’s, I’ve had a sit on him last week and he felt like a nice horse, maybe still a little bit raw. But he’ll be different on raceday as don’t forget these American horses have never even worked in a straight line before, they spend a couple of weeks in Newmarket prior to Ascot and it’s all a bit new to them, but he’s got a big engine.

I mentioned Fivethousandtoone a couple of weeks ago for the Commonwealth Cup and I can confirm he’s in good shape with that race in mind. It’s not ideal going straight into Ascot without a prep but Golden Horde did it last year before winning this race. I have sat on him at home and we’ve done as much as we can in terms of fitness.

But I won’t be riding him as Sheikh Fahad has kindly allowed me to ride Dragon Symbol who is trained by Archie Watson and very well in defeat at Haydock when the soft ground would not have played to his strengths.

Check out the details ahead of Royal Ascot 2021

Calm before the storm

Next week is huge when it comes to the whole Flat season so there is a sense of calm before the storm this weekend, when I’m riding at York on Saturday and then Salisbury on Sunday.

I’m going to York primarily for Ranch Hand in the Listed Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup. He’s in good form and he’s done nothing wrong, it would be nice to see him bounce back to winning ways.

I’m on Blackrod for Michael Dods in the sprint handicap which is never a bad thing given the trainer’s record in such races. He’s been quite well held on his last two starts including once at York last season but that was on slower ground and hopefully York is fast ground as although he’s by Mayson he’s out of an Exceed And Excel mare and it’ll be interesting to see what he can do on a better surface here.

You’d think Mark Johnston’s Claim The Stars has a chance in the Reg Griffin Appreciation Maiden but if Bosh of Richard Hannon’s repeats the debut run from Salisbury I’d expect that one’s the one to beat.

Claim The Stars ran fine at Ayr but has ground to make up on the bare form.

I’ve picked up the ride on Pockley in the last for Roger Fell and Nick Bradley Racing and I honestly don’t know a huge amount about the horse but he’ll be fit after four runs this time around and is only 3lb higher than for his Newcastle win in November so isn’t handicapped out of things.

I do have some nice rides at Salisbury on Sunday too including debutant Frankella, who is a really, really nice filly. Now, she’s not wound up first time out and will need the run but she’s one I’ve liked since the first time I saw her at Andrew’s. She’s by Frankel out of Arabian Queen so obviously has a lot to live up to in terms of her pedigree.

I’ll be back on Spirit Mixer too who has been disappointing but he’s a lot better than his handicap mark so hopefully he can get his act together.

But after a huge weekend at Epsom and with Ascot just around the corner, it has the feel of a normal week and hopefully I can pick up a few more winners.

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