Sunday 18 March 2018

Byron cruise for Murtagh

Gordon Lord Byron ridden by Johnny Murtagh
Gordon Lord Byron ridden by Johnny Murtagh

Marcus Armytage

Gordon Lord Byron, the 7/2 second favourite on a raiding mission from Ireland, turned Haydock's Betfred Sprint Cup into a procession yesterday when he beat Slade Power and a back-to-form Hoof It by three lengths and three-quarters of a length.

The ground had turned against the well-backed favourite Lethal Force, which had broken the track record at Newmarket on fast going in the July Cup, as he sought a third Group One victory of the season.

Clive Cox's grey was under pressure from Adam Kirby at halfway but, next to him on the far side, Johnny Murtagh, the go-to big-race jockey again this season despite becoming a trainer, was taking a pull on Gordon Lord Byron, a gelding which has been good all season over any distance between six furlongs and a mile.

In front two out and effectively on his own, Murtagh will seldom ride an easier winner in a sprint of this calibre as his mount coasted home.

His trainer Tom Hogan, who is based at Nenagh in Tipperary, did what all Irishmen aspire to when he sent out Silver Jaro to win the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2008 but, with Gordon Lord Byron's history, he rated this victory "10 miles above anything else". Murtagh, who has now ridden him in his last three starts and forsook Leopardstown's big meeting to ride him, said: "Three out I was taking him back and let him drift to two and when I gave him a smack he was electric. I'd like to take the credit but I can't – the team had him in exceptional form."

Murtagh's day contrasted significantly with that of fellow Derby-winning jockey Martin Dwyer, who was in India to appeal over an eight-month ban he picked up there in February. He was only partially successful in having it reduced to 56 days by the Royal Western India Turf Club Appeals Board yesterday. Having exhausted all avenues to have the ban overturned in India, Dwyer will now appeal to the British Horseracing Authority not to reciprocate the ban in Britain.

After the appeal a statement put out by the PJA said while the jockey was relieved not to be facing an eight-month ban, he remained frustrated by yesterday's proceedings. It added: "There can be little doubt he hasn't had a fair hearing."

The PJA have all but advised jockeys not to ride in India, a popular foreign destination for Flat jockeys, this winter.


Sunday Independent

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