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High five for ace murtagh

A DOUBLE on yesterday's Leopardstown card helped Johnny Murtagh secure his fifth Irish champion jockey title after an exciting battle with reigning champion Pat Smullen.

Murtagh enjoyed a memorable year as he returned to ride as first jockey for Aga Khan and therefore predominantly for his old boss, John Oxx.

The 41-year-old Meath native was praised by Oxx yesterday after completing a double on the card for the Currabeg trainer.

"It has been a big effort by Johnny," admitted Oxx, "and I'm delighted for him as he has shown great enthusiasm and put in great effort all year."

As well as being crowned champion in Ireland, Murtagh also proved his quality on the big stage across the water as he enjoyed memorable successes on the likes of Dancing Rain in the English Oaks and a double on Champions Day at Ascot last month.


Murtagh's association with Oxx's Born To Sea, half-brother to Sea The Stars, will be keenly watched next year, but one of the highlights of this season came at the Curragh.

In this year's final Classic of the season, Murtagh dramatically dead-heated the Irish St Leger aboard Jukebox Jury to share the spoils with Eddie Ahern, who partnered Duncan. That success gave Murtagh a clean sweep in all the Irish Classics.

Meanwhile, at Cork yesterday, the paddypower.com Cork National was the feature event and honours were won locally as the TJ Nagle-trained The Bishop Looney dug deep after the final fence to hold off Another Palm in a thrilling climax.

The Bishop Looney was denying Noel Meade a treble on the card via Another Palm and it was somewhat ironic that it was jockey Tom Doyle who was doing the steering as he was second to the Meade duo in both the opening races.

Sword Of Destiny looks to be a horse with a very smart future after he won the Grade Three novice hurdle to complete the Meade double. Davy Russell partnered the even-money favourite for his boss Michael O'Leary and they were a facile six-and-a-half length victors over Farrells Fancy.

The opener at Cork went to Sam Bass, who overturned previous form with Burrenbridge Lodge, while Jessica Harrington's Jetson fulfilled his promise from the bumper ranks to claim the maiden hurdle.

Last season's Cheltenham Festival winner First Lieutenant returned to winning ways in the Grade Three novice chase for Mouse Morris and gave Davy Russell and O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud a double with a likeable display.

Champion jockey Tony McCoy became the latest high-profile victim of the new whip rules in British racing yesterday as he picked up a five-day ban for using his whip nine times, once over the permitted number of strikes allowed.

A disappointed McCoy -- who initially supported the changes -- admitted: "The problem now is that it's going to be a long winter."

McCoy quipped: "I'd have done more if I'd have patted him down the neck," in relation to one of the strikes that the stewards deemed had taken him over the limit.