Saturday 24 February 2018

Murtagh wary of Makfi threat

Rip Van Winkle ridden by Johnny Murtagh. Photo: Getty Images
Rip Van Winkle ridden by Johnny Murtagh. Photo: Getty Images

Johnny Murtagh is expecting Makfi to prove a "tough nut to crack" in the Sony-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot tomorrow.

Murtagh rides one of his favourite horses, last year's winner Rip Van Winkle, in the showpiece race - but admits 2000 Guineas winner Makfi looked something special when beating the older Goldikova and Paco Boy in the Prix Jacques le Marois.

"They seem to be very confident about Makfi. All the quotes that are coming from France say that he is going well," said Murtagh, who will be partnering the Aidan O'Brien-trained Rip Van Winkle for the 12th time.

"He did win the Guineas and I think he showed last time in France that was no fluke at all by beating Goldikova.

"He'll be a tough nut to crack, but I'm looking forward to riding Rip again.

"Everybody knows what I think of him, I've always thought he was special and I'm looking forward to tomorrow when it's another big day again.

"He won it last year so he obviously likes the track.

"He's going to have a hell of a lot going for him when he eventually goes to stud. He's by Galileo, he's won Group Ones at a mile and 10 furlongs and hopefully he'll add another one."

Makfi's trainer Mikel Delzangles was looking forward to setting straight the only blot on his record.

So far his only defeat came in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot when he was well beaten by Canford Cliffs, although a valid excuse later emerged.

It looked like the two three-year-olds would get the chance for a decider but the late withdrawal of Canford Cliffs robs the race of something of its lustre.

"The match with Canford Cliffs is over but it is still going to be a good race with horses like Rip Van Winkle," said Delzangles.

"He is in great form, there is no problem with him. I don't think the track was the problem last time. It was that he was sick.

"Everything has been fine and he is as well as he was in Deauville. It is a dream to have a horse like that."

Pat Eddery can list the QEII among the many great races he won as a jockey on his CV.

The most famous of his victories came when Guy Harwood's Warning won in 1988, giving Eddery his second successive win in the race after Milligram.

He runs Hearts Of Fire this year, a Group One winner as a juvenile and third in the St James's Palace Stakes earlier this season.

"The only bad run he's ever had was in the Guineas and when he came back he had a bit of a cough on him," said Eddery.

"Since then I've been very happy with him. He's in good form and he'll go there with a sporting chance - I'm really looking forward to running him.

"His last race at Salisbury behind Sea Lord was a funny run race, but the time was excellent.

"The favourite (Makfi) is going to be tough to beat. When he won last time in France he was very impressive. He beat a champion mare (Goldikova) and Paco Boy and they were miles clear of the rest. He cruised all the way.

"You never know, he got beat at Ascot before and I know he had a bit of a throat problem but we can cling to that.

"My horse is healthy, he's well and he's working good. Robert (Winston) came down to sit on him on Thursday morning, he gave him his last bit of work."

David Simcock will be hoping the heavens open for Bushman, the mount of Tom Queally.

"Bushman had a good win at Epsom on Derby Day back in June and went close to landing a Group Two at York next time, so he has class," said Queally on his blog.

"On the formbook he has a lot to find, but David is a very astute trainer and making a real name for himself. If he can sneak a third or fourth, then I'd be delighted."

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