Kempton on the agenda for Melbourne Cup hope Regard
Johnny Murtagh is contemplating a Kempton Group Three on Saturday week for Mutual Regard as he fine-tunes ambitious Melbourne Cup plans for his brilliant Ebor hero.
In just his second season with a trainer's licence, the former champion jockey plundered his most lucrative victory in his new role when Mutual Regard ran out a decisive winner of the £265,000 York feature. Typically, though, he isn't resting on his laurels.
Having secured the richest handicap in Europe, the Curragh handler now has designs on the richest handicap in the world for Mutual Regard.
Conscious that his five-year-old may need to win again to acquire a rating high enough to be assured a place in the $6.2m two-miler on November 4, he has pencilled in next week's all-weather affair, while also mooting a tilt at the Caulfield Cup on October 18.
"We may run him one more time at Kempton, and all being well he can head to the first quarantine in time for the Caulfield Cup, but the main plan would be the big day in Melbourne," Murtagh said of Mutual Regard.
"Hopefully, I don't have to give him another run, but if I do it will probably be at Kempton as that's where we'll get the fast ground. Fast ground and two miles around Melbourne, I think it will suit him really well. It's a long way down to Melbourne, but there's only one Melbourne Cup. It's a huge prize and if you have a horse that has a realistic chance, I think you have to take it.
"The Ebor is only a handicap, but it's the biggest handicap in Europe. He had 9st 9lb and we put the apprentice on him, but horses with that much weight don't usually win the Ebor, so it was a huge performance."
While Murtagh utilised five-pound claimer Louis Steward on the Knavesmire on the advice of Mutual Regard's owner Andrew Tinkler, he hinted that they might book a local rider for the famous Flemington showpiece.
Irish riders, meanwhile, filled the first four places when the annual jump jockeys challenge got under way at Murray Bridge in South Australia yesterday. The touring duo of Kevin Sexton and Brian Cawley just missed out, as locally-based Tralee native Niki O'Shea got Navan Lass home in front in an 11-furlong Flat race. The winner is trained by Ricky Moore, who is from Navan but is based in Adelaide.
John Gosden's classy Eagle Top is one of the notable absentees following the latest forfeit stage for next month's Doncaster St Leger. John Oxx's Streetcar To Stars is among 21 left in the final Classic, along with five from Ballydoyle, including 20/1 shot Kingfisher.
Godolphin's 2012 St Leger winner Encke has been confirmed an intended starter in the Irish equivalent 24 hours later on September 14. The horse that denied Camelot Triple Crown glory in 2012 recently returned from a ban after testing positive for anabolic steroids to finish second at Goodwood.