Murtagh shines in Oaks triumph
Published 04/06/2011 | 05:00
If you thought Johnny Murtagh might slip quietly away from the big stage after turning his back on Ballydoyle at the end of last season then you need to think again.
Yesterday, proving he is still one of the best big-race jockeys around, he rode his rivals to sleep to make all to win the Epsom Oaks on 20/1 shot Dancing Rain.
Among those who won't count the Oaks as their finest hour was Frankie Dettori, who was touched off for third on the 9/4 favourite Blue Bunting after easing up in the last strides, thus picking up a 10-day ban. It means this year's Sardinia beach holiday will begin on the Friday of Royal Ascot and last until after the Irish Derby.
There are few more astute in racing than Dancing Rain's trainer William Haggas, who now has a 100pc record in both the Derby and Oaks. Shaamit, the 1996 winner, remains his only Derby runner and Dancing Rain was his first in the fillies' equivalent.
In the belief there would be no pace, Murtagh asked Haggas on Thursday if he could make the running. "I've tried interfering with top jockeys before," said Haggas, "and they take no notice of you! I'd like to take credit for the plan but my job was merely to tell him about the filly. I thought one of O'Brien's would go on, but when I saw our filly two lengths clear at the top of the hill with her ears pricked I was very happy. She ran a great race and was given a great ride."
Murtagh was the first to kick in the straight and though the Kieren Fallon-ridden Wonder of Wonders, the only other horse to get into the race, threatened to come and take her, Dancing Rain stuck her head down when she met the rising ground and held on gamely to win by three-quarters of a length.
Ryan Moore, who rides Carlton House today, got his Derby meeting off to a good start when winning the Coronation Cup on St Nicholas Abbey -- the second leg of a double as he had earlier struck on the Ed Vaughan-trained Dance And Dance in the mile handicap.
Ballydoyle's four-year-old colt, whose Classic season was curtailed by injury after one start, did not look totally straightforward coming round Tattenham Corner but Moore excels with a challenge. Coming wide of Midday, which appeared to have stolen a two- length lead, he got his mount back on an even keel up the straight and powered home to win by a length.
"He's a great horse. He was easy and I messed him up last year and didn't want to mess him up again," said O'Brien. "I wanted him to be natural and not to overwork him. He has always been a natural talent and it's great for the team."
The Roger Charlton-trained Clowance is in foal to Oasis Dream and signed off her racing career with a highly creditable third. Saeed bin Suroor has Group One assignments in mind for Antara after she secured back-to-back victories in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom.
The five-year-old was not beaten far by the likes of Midday and Stacelita at the highest level in 2010, so it was no surprise to see her sent off the 11/8 favourite for this return to action.
Godolphin's mare cruised through the race in the hands of Dettori, with main market rival Timepiece cutting out much of the running. But Antara had her measure a long way out and stayed on strongly in the last furlong to score by three-quarters of a length from First City.
Finally, Hooray put her disappointing 1,000 Guineas performance behind her by justifying odds-on favouritism in the Surrey Stakes. Dropped in class to Listed company and in trip to seven furlongs, the 8/11 favourite quickened up well to beat Lord Of The Stars by a length and a quarter. (© Daily Telegraph, London)