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Dettori teams up with Murtagh as Bellewstown remembers Barney Curley

Frankie Dettori will ride for his former weighing room colleague Johnny Murtagh in a special race run in memory of Barney Curley at Bellewstown on Thursday.

The Italian is among 14 jockeys declared to take part in the Gannons City Recovery And Recycling Services Ltd Supporting DAFA Handicap, with all monies raised donated to Curley’s charity, Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA), which he set up in 1996 to support the underprivileged people of Zambia.

Dettori will partner the Murtagh-trained Trueba in the seven-and-a-half-furlong contest.

Frankie Dettori (left) and Johnny Murtagh are old weighing room pals
Frankie Dettori (left) and Johnny Murtagh are old weighing room pals (PA)

Jamie Spencer and Shane Kelly, also close friends of the late Curley, join Dettori on the trip across the Irish Sea to ride in the race, with Tom Queally also attending to support the raceday.

Murtagh said: “I’m delighted to be supporting the race and to have Frankie riding for me in Barney’s honour is a real thrill.

“Frankie is one of my best mates, he’s had a few rides, but he hasn’t ridden a winner for me yet!

“I went out to Zambia with Barney many years ago and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve seen at first hand the work the charity does, and it makes such a difference to the lives of so many people.”

He went on: “Barney was a great man, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed his company, the wonderful stories he told will live long in my memory.”

Champion jockey Colin Keane and leading rider Wayne Lordan are also among the riders taking part.

The saddlecloths have all been sponsored to raise money for DAFA and were allocated to the declared horses in a draw that took place at Bellewstown on Tuesday morning.

Create Belief team eye Newmarket and ParisLongchamp options

Create Belief has two possible options as connections look to end a dream season on a high.

The Johnny Murtagh-trained filly was bought by the RacehorseClub syndicate and became a fairytale first Royal Ascot winner for members in the Sandringham.

She has since landed a Group Three at Leopardstown and was set to step up to Group One company in the Matron Stakes before Murtagh felt the ground had turned too fast.

Her options now are either the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket or the Prix de la Foret at ParisLongchamp.

“Create Belief missed the Matron as Johnny felt the ground was too quick,” said RacehorseClub ambassador Freddy Tylicki.

“She’s very progressive and has done nothing wrong so far this year, going from strength to strength.

“When she won her maiden well, she then stepped up to 10 furlongs and Listed company, but that was just a little too soon.

“Johnny decided to bring her back in trip and run her in a handicap at the Curragh, which she won and then she won at Ascot.”

He went on: “Last time she won the Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown and she won that cosily. She looked a high calibre filly who is improving all the time – she’s very exciting.

“As for her next race, there’s the Sun Chariot or the Foret on Arc weekend – the ground is very important to her. They are the two main options.

“Johnny will pick the right race, he just doesn’t want to jar her up as she’s got a bit of a knee action.

“I don’t think coming back to seven would be a worry. It would be the first time she’d run over it, but she’s got early speed and switches off well. Seven on softish ground wouldn’t be an issue for her.”

Murtagh rules out Melbourne Cup run for Sonnyboyliston

Johnny Murtagh has confirmed his Ebor and Irish St Leger hero Sonnyboyliston will not travel to Australia for this year’s Melbourne Cup.

Just three weeks on from his lucrative success at York, the four-year-old provided the legendary jockey with his first Classic success as a trainer when getting the better of Twilight Payment in a thrilling finish at the Curragh on Sunday.

Murtagh admits the Melbourne Cup is a big draw, but feels his stable star has done enough for this season.

He told www.racing.com: “I spoke to the owners the other day and the horse has come out of the race really, really well.

“But to be fair to him, he’s run in the Ebor and ran in a grueller here at the Curragh – a very strongly run race over a mile and six. It was a titanic battle with him and Twilight Payment and he came out on top.

“He’s been on the go for a long time and hasn’t let us down all year. I feel it’s time for him to have a little break now.

“He’s only four and is one of the top stayers in Europe at the moment. Stradivarius isn’t getting any younger.

“The Melbourne Cup was in the back of our minds, but it wasn’t the plan – and to go over there and take on the best in Australia, the Melbourne Cup has to be the number one target.”

Johnny Murtagh celebrates after Sonnyboyliston's victory in the Ebor at York
Johnny Murtagh celebrates after Sonnyboyliston’s victory in the Ebor at York (Nigel French/PA)

Murtagh revealed Australian-based owners have been in touch with a view to purchasing Sonnyboyliston from the Kildare Racing Club.

But with increased measures in place for horses travelling Down Under, connections are keeping hold of the gelding for the time being.

“It’s very difficult to get down there full stop,” Murtagh added.

“It’s hard to get people there with the Covid restrictions. It’s hard to get down there as a trainer and enjoy the whole build-up and everything that goes with the Carnival.

“We’ve had a few offers. There were a few offers before the Ebor and there were a few offers after the Ebor.

“But everyone was saying ‘get him in the bone scan’ and ‘we don’t want to buy him unless he can come down here and run in the race’.

“He passed the vetting for Hong Kong last year, which is pretty severe, and it was just at the last minute that the guys decided to keep him and run him as a four-year-old, which was good for us.

“He’s a pretty sound horse, but he’s had a hard season and I just didn’t fancy putting him through all that at this point of the year.”

Sonnyboyliston lands another knockout blow

Ebor hero Sonnyboyliston claimed Classic glory in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger.

Just over three weeks on from his lucrative handicap success at York, Johnny Murtagh’s charge stepped up to Group One level for the first time under Ben Coen.

With Amhran Na Bhfiann and Colin Keane setting a searching gallop from flag-fall, very few threatened to land a telling blow.

The leader weakened early in the home straight, which left Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment in front before Sonnyboyliston (4-1) arrived on the scene travelling strongly.

Twilight Payment did not give in without a fight, but Coen’s mount kept finding for pressure and was three-quarters of a length to the good passing the post.

Coen said: “I couldn’t have asked it to go any better. We jumped and he got a lovely tow into the race. They turned it into a real staying race and this lad keeps improving and keeps finding a way to win.

“Every day we step him up, he keeps on finding and it’s a day I’ll never forget.

“This is my first proper year as number one jockey to Johnny and we’ve had a few good spins in England, but I really wanted to get this Group One winner.

“For it to be a Classic and for Johnny is unbelievable.”

Ben Coen lifts the Irish St Leger trophy
Ben Coen lifts the Irish St Leger trophy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Murtagh, who won the Irish St Leger as a jockey when dead-heating aboard Jukebox Jury a decade ago, said: “On Friday I was bullish about the weekend and then after yesterday’s runners, I came here thinking we had a little chance.

“He was one of our best runners of the week, he never disappoints and I thought he did very well to win today – it looked like a proper race.

“I was a nervous wreck beforehand, but he had a good position all the way. He comes off the bridle, but I thought from two furlongs down Ben looked confident on him. He got into a bit of a battle, but he never lacks in a battle and I thought Ben was brilliant.

“I want to have runners on Irish Champions Weekend – it’s great to sit down and make entries in these great races.

“This horse has won an Ebor and has now won an Irish St Leger – I can’t say enough about him.”

He added: “Racing is a great game and a great leveller. You can never get too high or too low.

“I’m just the front man to a lot of people who do a lot of hard work. JP Murtagh Racing – I’m so proud of everybody.

“It means a lot to win a Classic at your local track.”

Asked whether the Melbourne Cup could be on the agenda, Murtagh said: “I don’t know. I think it will take a fair offer to take him away from the owners now.

“But it is £2.5million. Maybe not this year as he’s only four, but maybe he could end up down there for us sometime.”

RacehorseClub dreaming big with Create Belief and The Lir Jet

Create Belief spearheads what could be a dream weekend for the RacehorseClub ownership group when she lines up on Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

Not only does the Royal Ascot winner hold serious claims of gaining her first Group One win in the Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, but The Lir Jet, now trained in America, runs in a $600,000 race at Kentucky Downs.

Create Belief has been brought along superbly by Johnny Murtagh, who broke his Group One duck in the Matron 12 months ago with a similar type in Champers Elysees.

“We always liked her. She finished third on her only run at two when she was a bit backward, but she was always going to be better this year and won her maiden in April,” said Murtagh.

“Since then she has just improved out of all recognition, but she always had the size and scope to do that. I think she’s between 15-20 kilos heavier now than she was in April, which is a good sign as it shows they are improving and strengthening up all the time.”

For the RacehorseClub, which offers microshares to its members, it has been something of a dream start, with Balko Des Flos going agonisingly close in the Grand National and Create Belief already winning at Royal Ascot – and now she is now competing at the top level.

“When you look through the racecard on a Group One day not many syndicates have runners in them, let alone have a fancied runner in one of the biggest races on Irish Champions Weekend,” said Murtagh.

“It’s great for everybody to be involved in that kind of race and it happened last year for us with the Fitzwilliam syndicate who owned Champers Elysees at the time. She went and won it so let’s hope history can repeat itself.”

Ben Coen celebrates winning the Sandringham Stakes with Create Belief
Ben Coen celebrates winning the Sandringham Stakes with Create Belief (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Murtagh went on: “For the members of the RacehorseClub, if they can get to enjoy the feeling of winning a Group One it would be fantastic.

“We haven’t been able to have many of the members visit, or owners in general, though it is opening up now. There are 4,000 (spectators) allowed (at Leopardstown) this weekend and hopefully after that things can begin to open up. It will be great to see a few of the members this weekend and there’s a stable visit organised for later in the month.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good end to the season with this filly.

“All our best horses run this weekend and we’re pretty excited about it, but everybody else has their best horses running this weekend so it’s going to be tough.”

The Lir Jet won the Norfolk Stakes at Ascot last year, beating Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal, so plenty of Americans are aware of him already.

The Lir Jet (left) beating Golden Pal in the 2020 Norfolk Stakes
The Lir Jet (left) beating Golden Pal in the 2020 Norfolk Stakes (Julian Finney/PA)

He has left Michael Bell, been gelded and sent to Kentucky-based Brendan Walsh, who brought Extravagant Kid over to be third in the King’s Stand this year.

“The day he beat Golden Pal at Ascot it raised a few eyebrows over here. It bodes very well over here that he’s beaten a horse as good as that,” said Cork native Walsh of The Lir Jet.

“I’d obviously seen the horse before he came here, he’d had his excuses lately with the ground and whatnot and I think he’ll do really well as he looks to have the right credentials.

“The race he’s running in this weekend we won last season with Guildsman (ex Archie Watson) and on paper he’d be every bit as good as him.”

He went on: “We’re hopeful he’ll make the Breeders’ Cup later in the year, but we’ll see how things go this weekend. It would be good to have the option of stretching out to a mile, but this seems a nice distance on Sunday (six and a half furlongs) and this would be a stiffer track than most in the US.

“It helps that he’s been here before (seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) and there’s plenty to build on.”

As for the RacehorseClub, the microshare idea is more established in the States and has enjoyed great success.

“There are an awful lot of partnerships here now, especially around the better horses. Even the bigger owners are doing it, spreading themselves over more horses,” said Walsh.

“This one is very interesting, it’s a bit like the MyRacehorse syndicate (who owned Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic). It attracts people into the game which is what we all need, getting people involved for smaller amounts of money.

“The start this club have had is amazing and it gives people great insight as to what is involved – it can only be good.”

Favourite Hurricane Lane heads 18 still in Leger reckoning

Hurricane Lane has strengthened his position at the top of the Cazoo St Leger market after emerging as the sole Godolphin contender for next month’s Classic.

The Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner is one of 18 remaining, following the latest forfeit stage for the centre piece of the St Leger Festival at Doncaster.

Stablemate Adayar, conqueror of Hurricane Lane in the Epsom Derby, will not be in opposition – one of 14 taken out of the reckoning on Tuesday, for the final Classic of the season on September 11.

While trainer Charlie Appleby is expected to prepare Adayar instead for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three weeks later, Hurricane Lane may once again face Richard Hannon’s Mojo Star – who finished one place ahead of him when second in the Derby but was then only fifth in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.

Also prominent among the remaining hopefuls are Johnny Murtagh’s fast improving and prolific winner Ottoman Emperor – hero of the Group Three Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood – and Martyn Meade’s Irish Derby runner-up Lone Eagle.

Aidan O’Brien, a six-times winner of the St Leger, still has eight in contention this year – including Sir Lamorak and Sir Lucan. The latter was second to Ottoman Emperor at Goodwood and then fourth in the Great Voltigeur – in which stablemate The Mediterranean was runner-up, and may again re-oppose.

Great Voltigeur third Youth Spirit is one of two still in the mix for Andrew Balding, and the two fillies who have stood their ground to date are Roger Varian’s Save A Forest and Ralph Beckett’s Yesyes – both Listed winners.

Murtagh reports Ottoman Emperor, currently second favourite behind Hurricane Lane in the ante-post lists, to be in fine form as he begins to prepare for his big target.

“That is the plan so far – we’ve had no problems, touch wood,” said the Kildare trainer.

“I’ve not been speaking much to the OTI people (owners) since after Goodwood – (but) the English St Leger is the next stop.

“That last run was good, and the form of that race stood up at York.”

Murtagh admits requisite stamina remains the great unknown as Ottoman Emperor bids for the longest Classic, having been beaten just once in his career so far – on debut in a Dundalk maiden back in March.

He added: “I think he deserves his chance in the St Leger – whether he stays the mile and six is a question mark, but we’ll have to pay to find out!

“You won’t find out until the day, when he goes past that mile and a half.

“But he’s a relaxed horse, and he gives the impression that he will (stay).”

Monday Musings: Sonny Side Up Again for Irish Raiders

Throughout the Cheltenham (especially) and Aintree spring jumping Festivals, much of the conversation within the media but more importantly among trainers and owners was the manner in which Irish trainers’ horses seemed not just to outrun their handicap marks but almost to transcend them, writes Tony Stafford.

For ages Willie Mullins has been able to take aim at some of the fattest staying Flat-race prizes over here, having a well prepared line-up of Championship-class jumpers primed to run away with races like the Cesarewitch.

No wonder then that much of the build-up to Saturday’s Sky Bet Ebor at York was dominated by the expectation that once again the home trainers were going to be caught with their pants down. Mullins was coming and unleashing a horse that had not seen a racecourse since October.

The world’s greatest jumps trainer is renowned for bringing back former stars from long absences for easy victories and Mt Leinster, a six-year-old by Beat Hollow, told a compelling tale. Starting out life as an average bumper horse and then hurdler, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire. However once Willie’s son Patrick got onto him in qualified riders’ Flat races (amateur and conditionals) and lastly the Kildare Amateur Riders’ Derby his progress was remorseless.

After an initial Flat-race win over a mile and a half he next found the concession of 11lb to the talented and versatile Wonder Laish beyond him. It was his following victory that projected him into a different league. At Listowel he gave 11lb and an easy five-length beating to French importation Cape Gentleman who had already shown winning form at home for Nicolas Clement.

Following that performance he won again at 3 to 1 on to end his season. Meanwhile, Cape Gentleman was running away with the Irish Cesarewitch before embarking on a successful winter over jumps. Last time, in the highly-competitive Galway Hurdle, Cape Gentleman was a creditable third to Mullins’ Saldier, another of those smart jumpers that seem to mop up valuable handicaps at will.

In the event Mt Leinster proved a severe Ebor disappointment, finishing in the rear division; but, never fear, the UK handicappers still managed to extend their reputation for charitable largesse in the Irish quest for the holy grail of the half-million pound Ebor pot with its £300k to the winner.

Few doubt that, as good a champion jockey as was Johnny Murtagh, he is shaping as though he will become an even better trainer. When he brought his four-year-old Sonnyboyliston to Chester for the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes – he was a good third behind Ballydoyle’s Japan and subsequent Goodwood Cup winner, Trueshan – maybe the Ebor was already in his sights.

He might have expected a rise in his horse’s mark of 109 and that seemed the most likely outcome after a comfortable victory back home in Listed company. That is not to understand those compliant handicappers who left him unchanged. Thus on Saturday with those impeccably solid Graded form credentials, he was, remarkably, 3lb lower than when easily winning an admittedly valuable Curragh handicap for Murtagh last autumn.

On Saturday, Sonnyboyliston duly took advantage of that leniency and, having passed Hughie Morrison’s fellow four-year-old Quickthorn, he just managed to resist the gallant runner-up’s late rally by a head. Morrison reckoned the winner may have been getting lonely in the lead and also that had the rain started when predicted on Saturday rather than when the horses were in the paddock for the race it would have helped his horse but would not have inconvenienced the winner.

There are occasions when trainers do not mind their horses being reassessed up to the full value of their victories and Quickthorn was a case in point. He reappeared this term on a mark of 84 – a full 28lb lower than Sonnyboyliston at the end of last year – so needed to do something special to get into the most valuable handicap of the year which was Morrison’s rather wishful ambition.

This process got a big boost when Quickthorn won by a wide margin at Haydock on his return, bolting clear in the heavy ground up the straight. Raised 13lb for that and then another 6lb more for success in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot it meant he just squeezed in on Saturday, but even so only 6lb lower in the weights than Sonnyboyliston. Great progress then from Quickthorn, but the Irish got the big money again.

When the dust settles Morrison will need a rethink as the guaranteed extra few pounds will put most UK handicaps beyond his reach. The trainer will be targeting long-distance Group races in France where the four-year-old will have more chance of getting his favoured soft ground. Morrison has exploited this division with such as his subsequent Melbourne Cup runner-up Marmelo, the durable and talented Nearly Caught and from an earlier vintage Alcazar, who won a Group 1 for Morrison aged ten.

It’s not just over here that the big Irish teams seem to get plenty of help. One of the balloted out horses for the Ebor was the 2020 Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory when she infamously took advantage of Goshen’s last-flight misfortune.

The now five-year-old was number 47 in the Ebor list so never had a chance of getting in but the pragmatic Willie spotted an opportunity at Deauville on Thursday and I will be shocked if at the final stage today (around 11 a.m. BST) she has not stood her ground.

This is a two-mile handicap and with 34 eligible before today she will be in the first half of the divided race for which the winner gets €27,500 plus 45% owners’ premiums, so just short of €40k, well worth the road/ferry fees.

When Burning Victory left France as a three-year-old before switching to Ireland she had a 40 kilogram rating, equivalent to 88 on this side of the Channel.  Appropriately Thursday’s race is called the Handicap de la Manche. <The advantages of tote monopoly - €40k and that’s just to the winner for a 0-88, goodness!>.

While being employed exclusively over jumps in Ireland since her arrival she has been back on the level in France this summer. A conditions race over 2m1f at Lyon Parilly in June fitted nicely between runs in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival and seventh place in the previously-mentioned Galway Hurdle.

She won that modest event by five and a half lengths, surely evidence enough that she is better than an 88, as you would expect of a Triumph Hurdle winner benefiting from two years of Mullins’ training. But the French handicappers have left her on her historical mark. You would have thought they might have seen Willie coming. I’m sure Clement’s Fitzcarraldo, whom I had planned to travel over to see in that same race, will have the Mullins mare to beat even though receiving 19lb from her.

I did say I planned to drive over but the old-time there and back in a day via Eurotunnel – my chosen mode of travel in the French Fifteen days – seems so tied up by Covid-flavoured red tape that it is looking increasingly unlikely that I can be there.

You do not need to take a test to enter France, or so I believe, as long as you have the correct number of vaccinations, which obviously I do.

But on returning to the UK you need one form showing you were tested between one and three days prior to that return from France with documentation of where you had been staying. Then two days after arrival it’s another test and not a free NHS job or even so I understand the £60 Boots special but a full-blown £125-a-go test from designated chemists and the like.

One trip I am definitely going to undertake is to toddle down to Brighton to see my friend Jonathan Barnett’s other active horse, the three-year-old Dusky Lord, try to overcome inexperience (one run last year) and an injury absence in a little maiden race.

I loved going to Ascot for the King George and today will be only my second appearance since Burning Victory’s Triumph Hurdle day. Maybe it will be an omen if I can’t make it to France. She was one of the luckiest Festival winners of all time and perhaps the luck might have run out. Alternatively Willie might think why bother to pick up another 40 grand? We live in hope.

Deauville continued apace yesterday and the Prix Morny was a triumph for the Richard Fahey stable with Perfect Power. He had been a desperately unlucky fifth at Goodwood on his latest appearance behind Asymmetric.

Alan King’s sprinter was again in the field and actually took the lead in the last furlong but had no answer to the finishing speed of Perfect Power (a son of Ardad) who held off another finisher, Trident, trained by Andre Fabre and running in the Tabor colours.

The Coolmore owners’ York had been mainly frustrating from the moment St Mark’s Basilica had to be scratched from the Juddmonte International owing to an injury sustained on the home gallops. Late sub Love proved no match in third behind six-length winner Mishriff who starred in a Gosden family revival stunningly shared by the ultra-game Stradivarius, holding Spanish Mission in the Lonsdale Stakes, undoubtedly the thriller of the week.

At least Snowfall was able to maintain her winning sequence in a third Oaks, copying Love last year with wide-margin wins at Epsom, the Curragh (Irish) and York (Yorkshire). Some churlish observers were reading down the distances, 16 to eight to four and discerning something sinister from them.

Aidan O’Brien seemed to be considering Champions weekend in Ireland as a preliminary before her top target in the Arc for which she is the 3-1 favourite. I’m sure “the boys” would be content with another halving to a victory by two lengths on the first Sunday in October. But then again as York showed us last week, a lot that can happen before that.

- TS

Sonnyboyliston grabs Ebor verdict for Murtagh

Sonnyboyliston hung on to give trainer Johnny Murtagh a second victory in the Sky Bet Ebor at York.

The handler sent out Mutual Regard to win the handicap feature back in 2014, and Sonnyboyliston (10-1) fended off Quickthorn to once again take the prize back to County Kildare.

Jockey Ben Coen bided his time through the early stages, sitting in mid division while Blue Cup and Humanitarian raced a couple of lengths clear at the head of affairs.

It looked as though Blue Cup had a handy advantage at the top of the straight, but he quickly dropped away, leaving Quickthorn in front.

However, Coen was poised to challenge down the middle of the track – and he edged in front in the final furlong, with 16-1 shot Quickthorn giving his all but eventually falling just short in a photo.

Alounak kept on for third, with Shanroe fourth. Favourites Ilaraab and Mt Leinster both finished down the field in heavy rain on the Knavesmire.

Johnny Murtagh celebrates with the Ebor trophy
Johnny Murtagh celebrates with the Ebor trophy (Nigel French/PA)

Murtagh said: “It’s all the hard work everybody does at home. It’s me knowing the kind of horse it takes to win these races, like when I was riding in them.

“I’m going back to my experience as a jockey. That’s the kind of horse we need for this track or that race.

“The last time he ran here he ran very well, and I liked the way he came home. He came on for that run, and that gave us confidence.

“He’s out of a good staying mare. Fair play to Ben. He was good.”

Sonnyboyliston is entered in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger at the Curragh on September 12, while Murtagh also nominated him for the Melbourne Cup at Flemington on November 2.

An Australian trip has not been ruled out, but Murtagh’s sights are set on the Curragh for now.

He said: “I have him in the Irish St Leger, and we’ll have to think about that first now before we consider Australia.

“Last year when he won (on) Irish Champions weekend over a mile and a quarter, I always thought when he stepped up in distance he’d get better.

Sonnyboyliston and connections at York
Sonnyboyliston and connections at York (Nigel French/PA)

“At the start of the year I thought he might end up in the Ebor. It doesn’t always work out like that, but today it did – by a head.

“He is a pretty good stayer. He has to improve a lot for the Irish St Leger – but he’s probably going to get a hike for that. It’s the next logical step.

“There have been a lot of people looking at him before today, and I’m sure they will be on again after today, but my plan is to go for the Irish St Leger.”

Murtagh planning dual challenge for Ebor prize

Johnny Murtagh expects to be doubly represented in the Sky Bet Ebor at York on Saturday through Mirann and Sonnyboyliston.

Murtagh, who has enjoyed winners at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood already this season, won the Ebor in 2014 with Mutual Regard but never won the race as a jockey.

Mirann, fourth in the Duke of Edinburgh at Ascot, is owned by the OTI Racing Syndicate based in Australia and is likely to head there after York.

Sonnyboyliston won a Listed race at Limerick on his penultimate outing before having a sighter over the Ebor course and distance behind Hukum in the Silver Cup.

Louis Steward and the Johnny Murtagh-trained Mutual Regard winning the Ebor in 2014
Louis Steward and the Johnny Murtagh-trained Mutual Regard winning the Ebor in 2014 (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

“Both horses are going, and are training very well. We’ve been thinking about the race for a while,” said Murtagh.

“Mirann will hopefully be heading on to Melbourne after that.

“Sonnyboyliston is also entered in the Melbourne Cup, but we are not sure what his plan is after the Ebor.

“Both horses are ready for the Ebor.”

Create Belief steps up in style at Leopardstown

Create Belief graduated to Pattern-race company in style with victory in the Group Three Invesco Pension Consultants Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown.

Winner of the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Johnny Murtagh-trained filly has progressed at a rate of knots this season.

Standing in for the suspended Ben Coen, Shane Kelly had her sat close to the pace set by Charterhouse in the mile affair and when asked inside the final furlong the daughter of Awtaad showed a serious turn of foot, shooting clear.

Georgeville closed on the 5-6 favourite at the line, but the race was won by then, with half a length the official margin.

Murtagh said: “She came out of Ascot really well. This is a big step up and you want to see can she run to 110 (rating).

“There wasn’t much pace in the race, she was a little bit wide all the way, but Shane said he rode her like the best filly in the race.

“He said she quickened up and put the race to bed and then idled a little bit. When she gets to the front she thinks she has enough done, but I’m delighted with that.

“I’ll speak to Sheikh Fahad and the team. She’s in the Matron (Stakes, Irish Champions Weekend) and it looks the obvious next step for her.”

He added: “People are talking about the ground for her, but if she couldn’t go on that ground today we were in trouble. It’s on the slow side of good.

Celebration time for connections of Create Belief
Celebration time for connections of Create Belief (PA)

“She does handle extreme ground well when other horses don’t, but he said she felt very comfortable on that ground today.

“I’m absolutely delighted for Shane. He came to me earlier this year and said where do I fit in? I said you’re second jockey and Ben is first.

“Ben is suspended so these are pressure rides for Shane, but I have faith in him. He’s been around a long time now. He’s served his time, works very hard in the yard and he’s never let me down once. He knows the horses well and he’s solid.”

Ryan Moore returns victorious aboard Interpretation
Ryan Moore returns victorious aboard Interpretation (PA)

Interpretation is another horse going the right way and he made it three in a row for the campaign with a gutsy success in the Listed Vinnie Roe Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt led from the start, closely attended throughout by Fernando Vichi.

The latter really pushed the even-money favourite and at one stage looked like he might get on top, but Ryan Moore’s mount found more and prevailed by a length and three-quarters over the St Leger trip of a mile and three-quarters.

Moore said: “He has a super attitude and is very uncomplicated. He keeps galloping but he would have been very comfortable even coming back in trip today.

“That was the slowest ground he’s ran on this year, but he handled it well.”

Limiti Di Greccio made a winning start for Paddy Twomey in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.

Sent off at 7-2, the daughter of Elzaam had shown promise in two runs for John Kinsella and looks to have a bright future.

Twomey said: “I’m delighted she won and it’s very unlike me to run one only having her such a short time, but she’s an absolute credit to Johnny Kinsella who trained her before.

“She never missed a beat and did everything right since she came into our place. He gave me great confidence the day I collected her that this would happen.

“I hope she is going to be a stakes filly going forward and I decided that if she was going to be that she would have to come here and win today.

“She’s out of Galileo mare and she should get a mile in time. I’d imagine she will come back here for the Ingabelle on Champions Weekend and I will be getting to know her between now and then.”

Limiti Di Greccio could meet Tut Tut in the Listed Ingabelle Stakes after the Jessica Harrington-trained filly took the Irish EBF Auction Series Maiden.

Assistant trainer Kate Harrington said of the 5-2 winner: “We might come back here on Champions Weekend. The same syndicate won it before (in 2018) with Sparkle’n’joy.

“The syndicate have some nice horses this year and hopefully will have a bit of fun with them.”

Create Belief goes for Group Three honours at Leopardstown

Royal Ascot heroine Create Belief tests Group-race waters for the first time in the Invesco Pension Consultants Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown.

Johnny Murtagh’s filly claimed her third victory from four starts this season with a dominant display in the Sandringham Stakes at the showpiece meeting in June.

The daughter of Awtaad faces a step up in class for Thursday’s Group Three feature, but Murtagh is relishing the challenge.

He said: “She’s in good form. We’ve just been waiting for the ground and we’re looking to getting her out now.

“We’ll see how she copes with Group company. She’s rated 110 now, so she has to go into this sort of league and we’ll find out if she’s up to it.

“The ground in Leopardstown is on the easy side and there’s plenty of rain around, so let’s hope the rain comes.”

Create Belief is the highest-rated of nine runners declared for the one-mile contest.

Military Style winning at Leopardstown last season
Military Style winning at Leopardstown last season (Brian Lawless/PA)

Course winner Military Style is an interesting contender for Aidan O’Brien on what is his first competitive appearance since finishing down the field in the Group One National Stakes at the Curragh in September.

The Jessica Harrington-trained Real Appeal bids for back-to-back Group Three wins at Leopardstown after landing the Ballycorus Stakes in June, but must concede weight all round.

Jim Bolger’s Flying Visit and Neptune Rock from Joseph O’Brien’s yard also feature.

Ottoman Emperor in control at Goodwood

Johnny Murtagh once again proved that when he sends his runners over to Britain they warrant the closest inspection as Ottoman Emperor ground out victory in the John Pearce Racing Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

Murtagh recently enjoyed his first Royal Ascot winner with Create Belief, having won the 2014 Ebor with Mutual Regard, and operates at a healthy strike-rate when he makes the short journey across the Irish Sea.

Unraced at two, Ottoman Emperor made his debut at Dundalk in May behind Sir Lamorak before winning a Cork maiden in April.

He then won a Gowran handicap before also being successful in a decent event at Navan – but this represented a steep step up in class against a number of rivals who had already run in Classics.

Sent off an 11-1 chance, Ben Coen was determined to keep his mount close to the pace and tracked Wordsworth before hitting the front over a furlong from home.

He took two lengths out of the field, although with 100 yards to run his stride began to shorten and the chasing pack closed in.

Sir Lucan and Frankie Dettori did best of those, getting to within half a length, but the line came in time for Coen. Derby fifth Third Realm was third, with Youth Spirit and Wordsworth also close up.

The winner was cut to 10-1 from 20s for the Cazoo St Leger by Betfair – and the Doncaster showpiece looks like being the target.

Murtagh said: “He did it the hard way – Ben said he was racing lazily the whole way, but he’s like that.

“He’s a little bit babyish, we don’t really know how good he is or how good he can be, coming to the top of the hill he (Coen) said he lost his balance a little bit and then he grabbed hold and really became strong.

“He got to the the front a bit soon, but he wasn’t stopping once the other horses got to him, he put his head down.

“One thing about him is he’s really genuine and really tough, I think he stays the distance really well.

“We were here to find out – is he a mile-and-a-half horse or can he stay a mile and six? I think he answered a lot of questions today.

“We’d love to give him a shot at the English St Leger next, it’s a very nice race and we’d love to have a live chance in it.”

The former multiple Classic-winning rider added: “This horse has stepped up from day one, I know he got beaten in his maiden, but he’s just kept improving physically and mentally I think he can improve a bit more.

“Today was a big ordeal, a big crowd and a bit of atmosphere, he’s never seen that before so he was a little bit on his toes.

“I think mentally he can still grow up a little bit and he could be a very nice staying horse this year and on into next year.”

Dettori said of Sir Lucan: “Aidan (O’Brien) said he might stick him in the Voltigeur and the Leger, that’s the plan.”

Roger Varian added of 5-2 favourite Third Realm: “He stayed on steadily and galloped all the way to the line. He’s a horse that might be better with more give in the ground than there was today.”

Murtagh sights set on autumn campaign for Earlswood

Earlswood is on a summer break following his decent effort when fourth to Hurricane Lane in the Irish Derby.

The son of Pivotal had a troubled passage in the colts’ Classic at the Curragh yet belied his odds of 28-1 with a big run.

He had earned his place in that exalted line-up by winning the Group Three Gallinule Stakes at the same track in May.

“He’s good and has gone on a little break,” said Murtagh.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go with him. We’re going to speak to the owner and get a plan for the autumn.”

Earlswood holds an entry in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger back at the Curragh in September.

Murtagh is also allowing sprinter Urban Beat a holiday after ending a busy spell with a creditable third to Winter Power in the City Walls Stakes at York on Saturday.

“He ran well. The filly that won (Winter Power) looked good,” said the County Kildare handler.

“We’re going to give him a break now. He’s been busy so we’re going to give him a break and freshen him up and get him back in the autumn.”

Murtagh revealed Fourhometwo has left his yard to continue his career in Australia.

The Ajaya gelding ended his spell with Murtagh on a high by winning the Listed Celebration Stakes at the Curragh.

“The owners have taken him to Australia and he’s going to continue his career out there,” he said.

Urban Beat hits right note in Rockingham Handicap

Urban Beat defied top weight and a seemingly unfavourable draw to win the €100,000 Paddy Power Rockingham Handicap at the Curragh.

Johnny Murtagh’s charge was the class act of the race being a Group Three winner at Dundalk in October, but had been below that level of form in three outings this term.

Sent off a 9-1 chance under Ben Coen – still on the crest of a wave following his Royal Ascot win aboard Murtagh’s Create Belief – the six-year-old was one of only three runners to keep to the near side rail.

Coen was keen to grab the initiative and it appeared that he never relinquished it, as two lengths up with two furlongs to run Urban Beat kept to his task willingly and was never challenged.

On the far side there were a host in with chances, with Master Matt coming out best, but two lengths behind the winner. Jungle Jane was third.

“We said we’d let him bowl along, in handicap company,” said Coen.

“He jumped, pinged the gates, travelled with me and quickened up from two down.

“He got a bit lonely in the last 50 yards, but that’s expected as it’s a lonely place when you are in front that long.

“He had to be hardy and he was. I’m delighted as he’s a deadly horse, everyone loves him in the yard so it’s nice to get his head in front.”

Atomic Jones (striped cap) comes out on top in a blanket finish
Atomic Jones (striped cap) comes out on top in a blanket finish (PA Wire)

Ger Lyons trained another first-time-out juvenile winner when Atomic Jones (11-2) prevailed in a blanket finish to the Barronstown Stud Irish EBF (C&G) Maiden.

The result may have been different, however, if Shane Crosse had managed to find racing room a stride earlier on Joseph O’Brien’s Point Gellibrand, who was all dressed up with nowhere to go for most of the final furlong.

As soon as he got out Point Gellibrand flew, but failed by a short head with Shark Bay just a nose away in third.

“We’re very happy with him, he’s a big raw horse and he came here to have a day out and to improve,” said assistant trainer Shane Lyons.

“Obviously he has ability to be able to do that. Colin (Keane) said he loved the ground and he’ll be a lovely horse over a trip next year.

“He’s a fine big horse and like one of ours he will improve so we’ll take it from there.”

Leigh Roche excelled on Michael O’Callaghan’s Fastnet Crown (13-2) in the Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes Handicap.

Fastnet Crown (right) and Leigh Roche arrived late on the scene
Fastnet Crown (right) and Leigh Roche arrived late on the scene (PA Wire)

Last in the early stages on the near side, Roche managed to make his way over to the far-side group before coming clear to beat Goodnight Girl by three-quarters of a length.

“He’s so lazy throughout the race that you are always on the back foot,” said Roche.

“I just got there and luckily enough I had something to aim at all the way up the straight.

“He did it well, he shows plenty of ability at home but he just throws it away in the first half of races. It takes him three furlongs to get going and when he gets going he motors home. He was good today.”

Effernock Fizz caused a 22-1 shock in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ragusa” Handicap to provide trainer Katy Brown and Niall McCullagh with a winner.

Effernock Fizz made all the running to land a big pot
Effernock Fizz made all the running to land a big pot (PA Wire)

“She’s been a revelation for us,” said Brown.

“She’s run in a nice handicap here for the past two years and I said to myself ‘there’s no group horse in it this year to beat her’ as last year she was beaten by Mighty Blue and the year before by Kastasa.

“She’s entered for the Grade Three Grimes Hurdle on Thursday and we’ll see how she comes out of this. She was fourth in it last year and if she’s OK she’ll go for it again.”

On a day when both Aidan and Joseph O’Brien saddled winners, Donnacha made sure he did not leave empty handed when Emporio (15-8 favourite) got off the mark in the Finlay Volvo Irish EBF Median Auction Maiden.

Murtagh full of Derby confidence in rising star Coen

Johnny Murtagh has full faith in Ben Coen as the teenager prepares for the biggest ride of his short career to date on Earlswood in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Coen could hardly be heading to the Curragh at a better time, having ridden Murtagh’s Create Belief to victory in the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot last week.

In former multiple Classic-winning jockey Murtagh, the 19-year-old could have no better tutor – but the Kildare trainer admits Coen is far ahead of where he was at the same stage of their respective careers.

“I keep telling him he’s much better than Johnny Murtagh was at 19,” he said.

“He’s much cooler, he’s much calmer and he’s much more on the ball.

“He’s a very nice fella, he rides very well. That was his first time on the big stage at Ascot last week, and he seemed to thrive on it. That’s what you have to do when you are under pressure.

“I think he’s the real deal. I keep forgetting he’s only 19 – and he’s only going to get better, riding these good horses in these big races.”

Earlswood booked his ticket for the Derby on Saturday by winning the Gallinule Stakes, and Murtagh expects the step up to a mile and a half to bring out even more improvement on his return to the Curragh.

Earlswood was impressive in the Gallinule
Earlswood was impressive in the Gallinule (PA Wire)

He added: “You have to stay to win at the Curragh, the last three furlongs are a long way home – it’s fair though, (and) the best horse usually wins.

“Ballydoyle normally run four or five every year and make sure it’s a test. I think our horse will get the trip well.

“The favourite (High Definition) looks like he’ll improve for York, but I think the Epsom Derby was a very good race this year. It was a properly run race, and there didn’t look to be many hard-luck stories.

“High Definition will have to be everything they say he is, and he’ll have to improve a good deal from York.

“The Irish Derby is open – and it’s strong.”