Oisin Murphy earned some relief after a difficult 24 hours as St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco opened his account for the season in the Teentech Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot on Friday.
It was announced on Thursday that the reigning champion jockey had returned a positive result for metabolites of cocaine following a test carried out by France Galop at a meeting at Chantilly on July 19, where he finished second aboard The Lir Jet in the Group Two Prix Robert Papin.
Putting aside his off-track issues, the Classic-winning rider was seen at his strongest aboard the Andrew Balding-trained 1-2 favourite to deny Albafora by a head in the Listed prize over a mile and three-quarters.
Murphy said: “He ran fantastically at Royal Ascot when he was second to Santiago and he was second in the Leger on his last start. He is a really tough horse and I’m delighted he got his head in front.
“I would never question his attitude as he is really tough and tries very hard, but he has been on the go since the spring and he has danced every dance.
“He ran in the Derby trial (at Lingfield) and he has been really busy. He was possibly not up to his rating today, but he won and that’s what matters.”
Having been informed of his positive test result in August, Murphy, who subsequently organised a hair sample test, which the Professional Jockeys Association said produced a negative result, is now awaiting news on the analysis of his ‘B’ sample from France Galop.
Murphy, who strongly denies any wrongdoing, said: “I’ve the best people around me and my agent is working tirelessly to try to find me winners and the jockeys’ championship means I’ve got plenty to focus on.
“Absolutely (got hope over the ‘B’ sample). Let’s take every day at a time and try to keep riding winners.”
As for Balding, he believes Murphy’s riding skills will not be affected whatever the outcome of the situation.
The trainer said: “It is a matter for France Galop, but all I can say is that I’ve known Oisin for a long time and he is a very hard-working, professional, talented jockey. I’m sure whatever comes of it, he will come out of it a high-class jockey and that won’t change.”
Though Berkshire Rocco was clear of his three rivals on ratings, Balding feels he did well to win given the testing conditions.
He said: “He has been the bridesmaid in a couple of big races this year. We were taking a bit of a chance, but we thought it would be nice to get his head in front and finish the year on a bit of a high. He has toughed it out, but he has been on the go a while.
“He probably wants better ground than that, so he has done well in the circumstances. He is a tough one, but I did think the filly was going to come and get him.”
Looking ahead to next season, Balding expects the son of Sir Percy to be seen to even better effect dropped back in trip.
He added: “I think he will be very effective over a strongly-run mile and a half. I don’t think he is an out-and-out stayer myself.
“He could possibly be a Hardwicke-type, but there are so many good options for horses like that. We will give him a nice, long break now and look forward to having a lot of fun next year with him.”
St Leger ninth Tyson Fury gave the form of the world’s oldest Classic a further boost when prevailing by a head in the Charlie Waller Trust Novice Stakes.
Richard Spencer, trainer of the 4-1 shot, who is named after the WBC world heavyweight champion, said: “He is a big horse and he probably didn’t handle that ground so we will probably put him away now until next year.
“I thought he ran very well in the St Leger, but they didn’t go quick enough for him. His fractions in the Leger were very quick turning in.
“Next year he will be a stronger horse and we could see him running from a mile and a half down to a mile and a quarter.
“He is an exciting one.”
Raaeq will return to Ascot later this month for a shot at the Balmoral Handicap on Qipco British Champions Day after routing his rivals in the Racing Welfare Handicap.
Trainer Brian Meehan said of the 13-8 winner: “He has just kept improving. He is clearly very talented and is only going to get bigger and stronger.
“He is in the Balmoral, we will speak with connections and discuss it but that seems the most likely next step.”
He added: “I couldn’t be more proud of the horse today as he is really starting to show everything we thought of him.”
Rochester House (6-1) enhanced his value before going under the hammer at the Autumn Horses In Training Sale at Tattersalls with a tenacious success in the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Gordon Carter Handicap.
Trainer Mark Johnston said: “He obviously stays very well. We took him out of the Cesarewitch as he is in the sales and the owner wanted something to show everybody he is still there rather than taking a pot-shot at the Cesarewitch.”