Oxx to stick with Murtagh
Curragh trainer has chosen to stick with jockey, starting with Champion Stakes
JOHNNY MURTAGH will continue to ride for John Oxx this season despite last week's split from the yard's main owner the Aga Khan.
OXX is looking forward to having Murtagh on board Irish Champion Stakes runner Born To Sea this Saturday at Leopardstown, as the former champion jockey bids to return to race riding this week following a hairline fracture of his cheekbone.
Murtagh has been riding work in the last week or so and is set for a return ahead of the Group One action this weekend, with the Irish Champion Stakes being a race he amazingly only won once, back in 1996 for Oxx and the Aga Khan when Timarida triumphed.
Timarida also provided Murtagh with a win in Saturday's other Group One, the Matron Stakes, when she won that in 1995. The Meath native also won the Matron on Soviet Song and Lillie Langtry in 2004 and 2010.
Oxx said yesterday: "All being well, Johnny will be riding Born To Sea on Saturday and he will ride our horses for other owners for the remainder of the year, where appropriate."
Murtagh had ridden as first jockey for the Aga Khan since 2010 and 23 of his 46 winners this year have come for Oxx, with who his relationship spans back over 20 years to when Murtagh was an apprentice.
"He was not retained by anybody other than the Aga Khan, so he is effectively a freelance now," continued Oxx. "He can choose what he wants to ride, but hopefully he'll be on a good few of ours for the rest of the season. He's been riding work and I think he'd quite likely to ride on Wednesday so he is nice and sharp for the weekend."
Murtagh currently lies fifth in the jockeys' table for the season with a 22pc strike rate, the highest of any professional flat jockey this term.
It will be interesting to see who Oxx and the Aga Khan's racing manager Pat Downes opt for with Alanza in the Matron Stakes on Saturday's card.
Shane Foley remains the short-priced favourite to take over the roll from Murtagh, but Niall McCullagh, who has been Oxx's number two jockey this season, did partner the four-year-old to victory at Cork last year and at Newbury last month when she finished third in the Hungerford Stakes.