Oisín Murphy is taking nothing for granted, but looks virtually assured of retaining his jockeys’ championship crown after he stretched his lead to three thanks to a double at Haydock, with only one day remaining.
The Kerry native, champion for the last two years, held a two-winner lead heading to Merseyside, and a brace through Magisterial and Whitehaven, with Buick having just the one, handed the initiative back to the title holder with just Ascot to come.
Magisterial gave Murphy a well-timed success after Buick had won earlier on the card with Chairmanoftheboard. Trained by John and Thady Gosden, the Frankel youngster Magisterial (4/9 fav) had been nibbled at in the Derby markets before running in the second division of the EBF Novice Stakes. Whitehaven gave Murphy an armchair ride when making all in closing two-mile handicap.
The even-money favourite, trained by Hughie Morrison, pulled away in the final furlong to score and Murphy said: “It’s not over until the final whistle tomorrow, but a huge thank you must go to all the trainers who have put me up and all the owners who have supported me.
"I’ve done the best I can with the rides I can. Hughie has been unbelievable this year as have Andrew (Balding) and Ed Walker, while Sheikh Fahad has let me pick and choose where I can go – so it’s down to them.
“I was always going to ride them tomorrow how I see fit. I know each of Alcohol Free, Dragon Symbol, Tribal Craft and Sir Busker very well and the conditions will suit them – so they go there in good spirits. Dragon Symbol has had a long year, but he’s a star and one of the best sprinters around. If he didn’t run disappointingly at the Curragh – and he wasn’t at his best that day – he’d be a clear favourite tomorrow.”