Sport Horse Racing

Monday 18 December 2017

Murtagh set for Fame and Glory

Damien McElroy

Champion jockey Johnny Murtagh, who enjoyed his greatest day in the saddle when Sinndar, Namid and Petruschka completed a rare Group One hat-trick on Arc day a decade ago, will be hoping for more of the same on his return to Longchamp tomorrow.

Despite the downpours this week in Paris that have kept the ground testing, the Irish title-holder believes that Ballydoyle first string Fame And Glory is poised to improve on their sixth placing 12 months ago behind legendary compatriot Sea The Stars.

Record-breaking Aidan O'Brien, whose Dylan Thomas in the hands of Kieren Fallon made the all-important breakthrough in the 2007 renewal of Qatar's €4m promotion, saddles three of the maximum field of 20, with Cape Blanco and Midas Touch also lining up.

However, in a tactical race that often favours older contestants when the going is testing, there's little doubt that an in-form Fame And Glory represents the Wexford-born trainer's best chance of delivering the goods once more for the Coolmore partners.

With low numbers envied draw-wise, the omens are favourable already for Murtagh's mount as they will be starting from stall one beside the inside rail, with English Derby hero Workforce in eight and French hotpot Behkabad one berth wider.

"This has been Fame And Glory's main target all season and Seamus Heffernan was very happy with his work the other morning. He has definitely strengthened up a lot since last year and is a different horse now," Murtagh enthused.

"I'm not too worried about the going -- he's very adaptable and straight-forward, so I think he'll go on any ground really."

Getting a clear run, when they invariably bunch up in the straight after the pace-setters fade, will be all-important for Murtagh and it does appear that Fame And Glory is better equipped for the task than younger pair Cape Blanco and Midas Touch.

However, the Aga Khan's favourite Behkabad, from Jean-Claude Rouget's Pau winner factory, and the Wildenstein family's Planteur, the dominant pair in last month's Prix Niel over the course and distance that is regarded as the best Arc trial, are formidable opponents.

Mick Channon's Youmzain will also try to improve on his second placings in each of the past three years and Workforce will bid to erase the memory of his Ascot eclipse behind Harbinger.

Workforce's expert handler Michael Stoute has yet to savour Longchamp glory in Europe's foremost middle-distance race and recent history is against both Cape Blanco (11) and Youmzain (12), as no horse has managed to defy a double-figure draw since Dalakhani in 2003.

Irish Independent

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