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.”

Create Belief first Royal Ascot winner for Johnny Murtagh as trainer

Johnny Murtagh celebrated his first winner as a trainer at Royal Ascot when Create Belief turned the Sandringham Stakes into a rout.

Murtagh enjoyed many memorable days in the saddle at the meeting – but very few will have given him as much satisfaction as this victory.

Well-backed when the torrential rain hit overnight, Create Belief was sent off a 6-1 chance in a field that saw nine non-runners due to the worsening conditions.

Ridden by Ben Coen – another to be celebrating a first Royal Ascot winner – Create Belief put the race to bed a long way out.

She cruised into the lead with a furlong and a half to run and despite being put up 10lb for a win in a big handicap at the Curragh last time out, she sprinted clear.

Sir Michael Stoute’s 5-1 favourite Samoot was the only filly to give any sort of chase, but she had no answer and was beaten five and a half lengths. Messidor was third, with She Do fourth.

Coen sported the colours of the RacehorseClub, who were second in the Grand National with Balko Des Flos.

The rider said: “It’s a huge win and a great feeling to be part of it. She travelled so easily and loved the ground. You can ride her any way you want, she’s such an uncomplicated filly.

“I couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Johnny. It’s my first time here and it’s a big help having someone like him behind me.”

Create Belief is set to step up in class now
Create Belief is set to step up in class now (Steven Paston/PA)

Murtagh was delighted to secure his inaugural winner at the showpiece fixture and said: “It feels extremely special. It’s a dream come true. I’m very proud of my family and team. It’s much tougher this training game as you are with them all the time. But the staff have put in so much hard work.

“Royal Ascot is the best week of the year, it’s very special, it’s magical and to come back and train a winner now after all those successes as a jockey, I’m just absolutely thrilled.

“It was not ideal for my filly with an 8lb penalty, but when the rain came it really helped her chances.

“She’s progressing and hopefully she can keep going now. She’s on the up and hopefully she can go on now and be competitive in Group races.

“We always thought she was a stakes filly in the making and she has been working well, so it wasn’t a surprise, maybe how easy she won, but I wasn’t surprised she won today.”

Quickthorn was a comfortable winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes
Quickthorn was a comfortable winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Oisin Murphy secured his second win of the day, and his fourth at the meeting, as 7-2 favourite Quickthorn relished the conditions in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes.

Murphy settled on the heels of the pacesetting Zabeel Champion and was perfectly placed to make his challenge as the field turned for home.

Hollie Doyle shot up the inside rail on last year’s victor Scarlet Dragon, while Raymond Tusk and Mirann tried to take a hand in the finish, but Murphy had plenty up his sleeve on the Hughie Morrison-trained Quickthorn, who stretched clear in the final furlong.

Raymond Tusk was a length and a half back in second, with the gutsy Zabeel Champion beaten three-quarters of a length in third.

Morrison said: “I’m so relieved the meeting was on.

“This horse didn’t come to hand quickly – he was leggy and weak and came back a bit sore last year. But when he did a bit of work with a filly called Urban Artist and then she came second in a Group Three, my spirits soared.

“We’ve won this four times now. It’s our sort of race.”

Significantly (red silks, centre right) on his way to winning the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes
Significantly (red silks, centre right) on his way to winning the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Clifford Lee rode his first Royal Ascot winner as the Karl Burke-trained Significantly just held on in the closing Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes.

Sent off a 10-1 shot, Significantly had posted an eyecatching piece of form last time in finishing second to Dragon Symbol, who was first past the post in the Commonwealth Cup before being demoted to second earlier in the afternoon.

Lee set sail for home with a couple of furlongs to run on Significantly and although he tired at the finish in the heavy ground, he fended off the late burst of Boomshalaa.

Burke said: “It’s been the plan for a while and to be fair it was Jeff Laughton’s (co-owner) plan. He hatched it after we were second to Dragon Symbol at Hamilton.

“We thought then we would come here off a mark of 92. He’s a 100-plus horse all day long for me. He’s always been a good work horse, but he’s just been a bit frustrating. We’ve learnt how to ride him now and he’s better off rolling along.

“I’m delighted for Clifford to get his first Royal Ascot winner. He’s in the yard six or even seven days a week and works hard. He’s very strong and powerful in a finish.”

Derby options for Earlswood following Gallinule success

Earlswood emerged as a potential Derby contender after claiming victory in the Heider Family Stables Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh.

The Pivotal colt joined Johnny Murtagh following the retirement of former trainer John Oxx, since when he had opened his account at Navan before finishing third in the Dee Stakes at Chester.

Stepping up to Group Three level, the three-year-old travelled strongly in the hands of Ben Coen for much of the 10-furlong contest.

Once asked to extend, the 11-2 winner soon settled matters and came home with a length and three-quarters in hand over Arturo Toscanini.

Betfair halved his odds to 33-1 for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5.

Murtagh said: “He’s entered at Epsom, but there is free entry into the Irish Derby after winning this race so that’s another option.

“I’ll talk with the owner and we’ll decide what to do.”

Coen was delighted to ride his first Group-race winner of the season.

“He’s good and hardy. Chester was probably a bit tight for him the last day. It’s a big galloping track here and he loved the ground,” said the jockey.

“It was great to get a horse like that into the yard after John Oxx retired and it’s brilliant to get a new owner into the yard as well.”

Seamie Heffernan was banned for six days for using his whip with excessive frequency aboard fifth-placed Matchless.

Curragh beckons for Royal Ascot hopeful Create Belief

Johnny Murtagh’s Create Belief will bid for a return to winning ways at the Curragh this weekend – en route to Royal Ascot.

The three-year-old was successful on her seasonal debut in a maiden at Gowran early last month, before being stepped up in both trip and distance for Navan’s Listed Salsabil Stakes.

Create Belief managed only 10th there, but Murtagh is confident Saturday’s drop back to a mile for the Betway Spring Fillies Handicap will suit better for the filly owned by micro-share syndicate RacehorseClub.

“She came out of her last run very well,” said Murtagh.

“We feel she didn’t stay the distance of one mile and two furlongs, so we are dropping her back to a mile this weekend.

“She worked up the grass this morning – we’re very happy with her.

“She did a nice piece of work last Friday – so she’s fit, she’s well and she’s ready to go.”

Beyond this weekend, Murtagh has a trip to England pencilled in for Create Belief next month in the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“We always had a plan of going to Royal Ascot with her,” said the Kildare trainer.

“Hopefully this weekend will go well, and the mile fillies’ handicap Listed race (the Sandringham Stakes) will remain our target.”

Create Belief is one of four horses in whom shares are available via RacehorseClub – with Grand National runner-up Balko Des Flos, Welsh National winner Potters Corner and Commonwealth Cup hopeful The Lir Jet also partly owned by the syndicate.

“We’re all very excited, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people involved who will get a great kick out of it,” Murtagh said of the venture.

“The more people we can get involved in racing, to get bitten by the bug, the better.

“This opens up avenues for a lot of people who might never own a racehorse on their own.

“They should have a good experience, but you can’t beat winners – a winner is always a good way to get them more involved!”

Murtagh will also be running Cazoo Derby hope Earlswood at the Curragh on Sunday, with the Glyn Davies-owned colt due to line up in the Group Three Gallinule Stakes.

“We have still left Earlswood in the Cazoo Derby,” he said.

“He is going to run at the Curragh on the weekend – and if he comes out of that well and if everything goes well, we might take our chance in the Cazoo Derby.

“It’s a big race, the owner is keen, I’m keen – and we think he’s a nice, solid and progressive horse.

“He’s mature for a three-year-old, and we think he’ll handle Epsom.”

Champers Elysees primed for Curragh return

Trainer Johnny Murtagh is looking forward to Champers Elysees’ return to the track at the Curragh for what he anticipates will be a big year for the filly.

Champers Elysees begins her campaign in Monday’s Group Three Coolmore Stud Circus Maximus Irish EBF Athasi Stakes.

She made giant strides in a very short pace of time in 2020, winning a handicap in June and climbing all the way up to landing the Group One Matron Stakes at Leopardstown in September.

However, that success means the four-year-old must carry a 5lb penalty and give between 2lb to 17lb to her rivals on her return.

Murtagh said: “It’s her first run of the season, (but) she’s in very good form

“It can be difficult with a penalty, but it’s a good starting place for her.

“She’s strengthened up, and there’s a big year ahead for her.

“There’s a few nice fillies’ races, and we’re looking forward to Royal Ascot with her.

“We’re not sure which race yet. We’ll have to see how tomorrow goes.”

Champers Elysees and Colin Keane won the Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes at Leopardstown
Champers Elysees and Colin Keane won the Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes at Leopardstown (PA)

Jessica Harrington is responsible for three of the nine runners – although No Speak Alexander’s participation is ground dependent.

“I’m wanting rain for one, and not for the others,” said the County Kildare trainer.

“I want rain for No Speak Alexander. She’s a nice filly. I’ll see what the ground turns up.

“Valeria Messalina is having her first run. She doesn’t want it too soft. Zaffy’s Pride goes on anything.”

Of the others, Aidan O’Brien saddles Queen’s Speech – winner over the course and distance on her only start as a two-year-old – while Ger Lyons runs the Group-placed Soul Search.

O’Brien has the likely hot favourite Broome in the Group Two Coolmore Sottsass Irish EBF Mooresbridge Stakes.

A close fourth in the 2019 Derby, Broome had a disappointing 2020 but has bounced back to win both his starts this term – including the Alleged Stakes over this course and distance last month.

Harrington reports Ancient Spirit to have benefited from his first run of the season at Leopardstown three weeks ago – but she is mindful of the tough task he faces.

“I think he has come on for it,” she said.

“He’s got Broome to beat and (Joseph O’Brien’s) Twilight Payment. It will be a competitive little race.”

Ado McGuinness has a similar assessment as he sends stable stalwart Salstonstall into battle.

“He’s in good form. It will be hard to be beat O’Brien’s horse (Broome),” he said.

“We’ll be doing his usual, dropping him in – and hopefully he can pick up the pieces and see what happens.

“He’s in good order, and we’re happy with him.”

Saltonstall (right) will represent trainer Ado McGuinness
Saltonstall (right) will represent trainer Ado McGuinness (Niall Carson/PA)

Murtagh pitches Lord Gorgeous into Listed company for the Gain First Flier Stakes.

The Bated Breath colt is one of six previous juvenile winners in a nine-runner field.

Lord Gorgeous got off the mark at Dundalk on his second start, following his debut at Naas in which he was a promising third to Tenebrism.

“He came out of his last race well, but this is a big step up,” said Murtagh.

“It looks a very competitive race. But there’s not many races for him, so we’re keen to see where he fits in.

“It’s a good race. There are lots of good two-year-olds in Ireland at the moment.”

Tenebrism’s trainer O’Brien is represented by Cadamosto, winner on his racecourse bow at Dundalk, and his son Donnacha has Tipperary scorer Elliptic, while Fozzy Stack is two-handed with Castle Star and Cheerupsleepyjean.

Magic finishes with flourish to claim Committed prize

Measure Of Magic got up close home to claim Listed honours in the Committed Stakes at Navan.

The Johnny Murtagh-trained filly was produced with a determined challenge by Ben Coen to collar Logo Hunter.

Coen kept Measure Of Magic off the early pace set by Erosandpsyche, with Sister Rosetta close up, before making his move.

Logo Hunter and the 6-5 favourite Lipizzaner looked like fighting out the finish, but Measure Of Magic (11-2) responded to Coen’s urgings to go and land the spoils by three-quarters of a length.

Runner-up Logo Hunter was a length and a half ahead of Lipizzaner.

Coen said: “She only got five last year, but she’s strengthened up from two to three well.

“I rode her to get the trip, she quickened up well for me, but she didn’t do much when she got there.

“She’s a nice filly, a proper sprinter with loads of speed. Five or six, it doesn’t matter to her as she’s strong enough now to stay six.

“She loves the ground, she’s a good-moving filly. Hopefully she’ll improve again off the back of that.”

Masseto put up a gutsy performance when making a wining debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

Gavin Ryan brought Masseto (4-1) with a sweeping run in the centre of the course and Donnacha O’Brien’s youngster knuckled down in the closing stages to get the better of Celtic Times by half a length.

The pair pulled four and three-quarter lengths clear of Butterfly Island in third.

Amalfi Coast, the 13-8 favourite, could not get a run at a crucial stage of the race but stayed on well to take fifth place.

Masseto could head for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

O’Brien said: “I thought he was very good because he was very green. He broke slow and travelled in snatches.

“When he quickened up, it looked like he passed half the field in half a furlong and then he looked like he idled when he got there. He’s obviously got plenty of talent.

“Looking at that, you’d have to hope he’s an Ascot two-year-old. On paper it looked like a good race, I know dad (Aidan) liked his and (brother) Joseph liked his. There were plenty of other nice pedigrees in there.

“I suppose you’d have to look towards the Coventry. He was very green, we’ll see how he comes out of it, then have a look and see what suits him. I don’t think it would be any harm if there was another race beforehand.

“The first two-year-olds I ran were the ones I actually liked most, nearly, but maybe I ran them a bit early and they’ll be better as they come along.

“The last two I’ve run have been impressive, so maybe they are just coming.”

Independent Missy (5-1) got on top in the last 100 yards to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies & Mares Handicap.

Ronan Whelan brought Tracey Collins’ five-year-old with a well-timed challenge to go on and win by half a length from Miss Molly T.

Collins said: “I’m delighted. She’s probably been a little bit disappointing for us because we expected more of her early on.

“She’s come well in her coat and was pleasing us, so we decided to come here as it was a fillies’ handicap.

“Ronan’s given her a lovely ride and she came off the pace well, so she probably just needs a very strong run race.

“She was only beaten a few lengths in some good races. She’s probably a filly that lacked confidence and hopefully she can go forward from here.”

Gordon Bennett (13-2) ran out a ready winner of the Kilberry Apprentice Handicap.

Hitting the front a furlong out, Richard Brabazon’s three-year-old galloped on strongly for Nathan Crosse to score by a length and a half from The Peckhampouncer.

“That was a bit of excitement at the start of the season for us,” said Brabazon.

“We always thought he was a lovely horse, but he’s a horse that gets himself a bit upset and he was running too free in his maidens last year.

“He was just doing it the wrong way around, showing tons of speed and then not getting home.

“I said to Nathan today ‘just do one thing, try to get cover and then take it from there’. He did it beautifully and the horse settled for him. I was nearly more thrilled about that than winning because looking to the future, we can manage him a bit now.
“I think he’s a nice horse for the future. Physically and mentally we are only starting.”

Murtagh excited as Know It All returns

Johnny Murtagh is excited to get Know It All’s season under way in the TRI Equestrian Gladness Stakes at the Curragh.

A winner over the course and distance as a juvenile two seasons ago, the Qatar Racing-owned filly is bidding to double her Group Three tally on her return to action on Saturday – following victory in the Derrinstown Stud Fillies Stakes last summer.

Know It All went on to perform with credit at Group One level on her next two appearances, finishing a close-up third in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville and then fourth behind stablemate Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

“We’re looking forward to getting her season started,” said County Kildare trainer Murtagh.

“She’s ready to start off, and we’re hopeful of a big year ahead.

“We’re excited to get her out.”

Know It All is one of 12 horses declared for the seven-furlong contest, with last year’s winner Lancaster House returning to defend his crown for Aidan O’Brien.

Other hopefuls include Joseph O’Brien’s Speak In Colours, Tom Dascombe’s British raider Brad The Brief and and the Ado McGuinness-trained Current Option, who is expected to improve from his comeback run when fourth at Dundalk last month.

“I think Current Option will run a big race in the Gladness,” said McGuinness.

“I knew he was a bit short going to Dundalk, and he’s always a bit gassy starting off. He likes to have a run, and it’s good to get that under his belt.

“He’s done a few bits of work, and I’m happy with him.”

Group Three honours are also up for grabs in the Holden Plant Rentals Alleged Stakes, in which McGuinness saddles the high-class Bowerman.

Winner of the Diamond Stakes at Dundalk last autumn, the seven-year-old made a successful start to 2021 when landing a valuable prize in Qatar in February.

McGuinness added: “Bowerman has his first run back since his trip away. Hopefully the ground won’t be too dead.

“He’s up against it, but it’s great to have horses that are capable of running in these races.

“We are looking at a race at Belmont in June that we have got an invitation to, but it’s such a hassle with the Covid – and you could end up having a member of staff away for a month.

“It’s very expensive for one horse, and we are doing a costing on the whole thing at the moment.

“It’s a $700,000 race, and I’d love to go, but it’s such a hassle.”

The one to beat in the Alleged Stakes is Aidan O’Brien’s Broome, who impressed with victory on his seasonal debut in the Listed Devoy Stakes at Naas three weeks ago.

The Ballydoyle handler’s son Joseph has a trio of contenders in Numerian, Pondus and Thundering Nights.

Murtagh to train for the Aga Khan

Johnny Murtagh is “delighted” to renew his association with the Aga Khan, who is to add the trainer to his roster for 2021.

Murtagh enjoyed some of his greatest days as a jockey in the owner’s famous green and red silks.

He won the 2000 Derby at Epsom on Sinndar, with whom he also went on to follow up in the Irish version and win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the Aga Khan and trainer John Oxx.

Murtagh also rode the likes of Timarida, Alamshar, Enzeli and Kalanisi to big-race glory – and following on from his first Group One winner as a trainer this season, when Champers Elysees won the Matron Stakes, he has attracted one of the sport’s major supporters to his yard.

“I am delighted to renew our partnership with H.H. the Aga Khan and his team,” said Murtagh.

“A hugely successful owner-breeder operation worldwide, I look forward to receiving his draft of yearlings here at Fox Covert Stables and hopefully many winners to come, to add to our great association together.“

Pat Downes, manager of the Aga Khan Studs in Ireland, said on “We have watched Johnny’s training career develop over the last few years, and undoubtedly 2020 has been a highly successful year for him.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to have him train for the Aga Khan Studs, and we will be sending him some yearlings in the coming weeks.

“His Highness and Johnny have enjoyed some great days in the past together, and hopefully there will be good days to look forward to in the future as well.”

Murtagh will join Dermot Weld and Mick Halford as trainers for the Aga Khan in Ireland.

Champers Elysees bids to spark Sun Chariot celebrations

Johnny Murtagh has hailed “remarkable” filly Champers Elysees as she bids for a second successive Group One win, in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket.

The trainer is fully appreciative of his charge’s rapid upward trajectory this term – graduating from a Curragh handicap win at the start of the campaign, to Listed glory and Group Three success before landing a top-level prize in the Matron Stakes last time out.

Champers Elysees subsequently changed hands and will sport the colours of Teruya Yoshida for the first time at Newmarket – and given it is only her fifth race this term, Murtagh remains hopeful the Elzaam filly still has something in the locker.

Champers Elysees and winning connections after her Matron success
Champers Elysees and winning connections after her Matron success (PA)

He said: “With a filly like her, you just don’t know when they’ll stop (improving).

“She’s been remarkable this year, starting off in a handicap, and she’s gone up to Group One company – winning all the way.

“This will be her fifth run of the year, so she hasn’t been over-raced.

“We know it’s a tough assignment and she has to travel, which she’s never done before, but she’s tough and genuine.

“Her preparation has gone very smoothly, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Peaceful is a Classic winner
Peaceful is a Classic winner (PA)

Champers Elysees had Irish 1,000 Guineas victor Peaceful back in second at Leopardstown, and Aidan O’Brien’s charge renews rivalry at Newmarket.

She is one of four previous Group One scorers in the race – along with the John Gosden-trained Nazeef, who landed the Falmouth Stakes back in July, Sir Michael Stoute’s Veracious and Billesdon Brook, representing Richard Hannon.

A shock 66-1 winner of the 1000 Guineas back in 2018, Billesdon Brook also sprang a 16-1 surprise in this race last year – and while she has yet to strike in five starts this term, Hannon believes Newmarket brings out the very best in his mare.

Billesdon Brook won the Sun Chariot last year
Billesdon Brook won the Sun Chariot last year (Tim Goode/PA)

He said: “Billesdon Brook loves it at Newmarket. She seems to run 10lb better there than she does on any other track.

“We didn’t think she would win the 1000 Guineas, which she did, and we didn’t think she would win the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes last year, and she did. I see no reason why she shouldn’t run a massive race.

“She comes alive at Newmarket. The straight mile seems to suit her a lot more than a round mile. She is working super at home. She doesn’t need much work because she is quite a keen-going sort – you really don’t have to do too much with her.”

Cloak Of Spirits (left) was a winner at the track last week
Cloak Of Spirits (left) was a winner at the track last week (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hannon has a second string to his bow in the mile event, which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series, in Cloak Of Spirits – who returned to winning form in a Listed race at the track last week.

He said: “Cloak of Spirits deserved that win in the Rosemary Stakes last time out. She is tough and a really sweet filly. Sheikh Mohammed Obaid has said to give her one more run.

“She is in good form, she loves the track at Newmarket, and she is just coming good. She came good this time last year, so I am hopeful she can run a big race.”

Comparing his two hopefuls, Hannon added: “Billesdon Brook looks like she is 15 in comparison to some three-year-olds. She is massive, very strong and robust, whereas Cloak Of Spirits is quite slight and elegant.”

Terebellum is one of three runners for Godolphin
Terebellum is one of three runners for Godolphin (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Godolphin have three runners in the race, with the Gosden-trained Terebellum, Saeed bin Suroor’s Final Song and Half Light – who represents Henri-Alex Pantall and was supplemented for the race on Monday.

Feliciana De Vega, who is making her seasonal bow for Ralph Beckett, William Jarvis’ Lady Bowthorpe and the Amanda Perrett-trained Lavender’s Blue complete the line-up.

Champers poised to sparkle again in Sun Chariot

Champers Elysees will face 11 rivals as she bids for a second Group One win in Saturday’s Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket.

The three-year-old completed her meteoric rise through the ranks when landing the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown last month – graduating from a Curragh handicap at the start of the season to top-level success, via Listed and Group Three wins.

Champers Elysees, who is trained by Johnny Murtagh, was subsequently purchased by Teruya Yoshida and will sport his colours for the first time at Headquarters. Like at the Curragh, the daughter of Elzaam will be ridden by Colin Keane.

Peaceful represents Aidan O'Brien
Peaceful represents Aidan O’Brien (PA)

Aidan O’Brien’s Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful was second to Champers Elysees at Leopardstown and will try to reverse that form under Ryan Moore.

The home defence is headed by the John Gosden-trained duo of Nazeef and Terebellum, with the pair renewing old rivalries having finished first and third respectively in the Falmouth Stakes back in July.

Richard Hannon is also double-handed with last year’s winner Billesdon Brook and Cloak Of Spirits, who struck at Listed level at Newmarket last week.

Billesdon Brook will defend her Sun Chariot crown
Billesdon Brook will defend her Sun Chariot crown (Tim Goode/PA)

As well as Terebellum, Godolphin are also represented by the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Final Song and Henri-Alex Pantall’s Half Light, who was supplemented for the race on Monday.

Last year’s runner-up Veracious tries her luck again for Sir Michael Stoute, while Ralph Beckett’s Feliciana De Vega makes her seasonal bow having won the Darley Stakes on her final start of 2019.

The William Jarvis-trained Lady Bowthorpe and Amanda Perrett’s Lavender’s Blue – the mount of Hollie Doyle – complete the line up.

Matron victor Champers Elysees added to Sun Chariot field

Johnny Murtagh’s Champers Elysees and the Henri-Alex Pantall-trained Half Light have been supplemented for Saturday’s Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket.

Murtagh’s filly provided the former Irish champion jockey with his first Group One win on Irish Champions Weekend when a ready winner of the Matron Stakes and she will maintain her partnership with Colin Keane.

Following her breakthrough top-level win, Champers Elysees has been bought by Teruya Yoshida, a major player in the Japanese bloodstock industry who saw his colours carried to victory in this race by Sahpresa in 2011.

“We’ve been happy with her since the Matron and this looks the next logical step,” said Murtagh.

“We supplemented this morning. It’s going to be tough race – it’s a Group One they are always hard to win – but we’ve been happy with our filly since the Matron.

“Colin Keane is going to ride her again and we’re looking forward to it.

“For Mr Yoshida to be involved in the yard is a big thing. He runs a huge operation and only buys the best. For her to be good enough for him is great, and it’s also great he’s going to leave her in training with us next year.

“The stable is going from strength to strength and we need those high-profile owners in our yard to elevate us to the next level.”

Half Light, owned by Godolphin, was beaten narrowly by Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision in a Group Two in Germany last time out.

Last year’s winner Billesdon Brook is also one of 17 fillies left in the contest.

She is one of two for Richard Hannon, who could also run Cloak Of Spirits, who got back to winning ways last week having earlier in the season finished placed in the 1000 Guineas.

Billesdon Brook won the Sun Chariot last year
Billesdon Brook won the Sun Chariot last year (Tim Goode/PA)

John Gosden has left in Terebellum and Nazeef, while Sir Michael Stoute’s Veracious is set for her third appearance in the race.

Roger Varian’s Daahyeh, last seen finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup, is another notable entry, but Hugo Palmer took out Powerful Breeze, another filly who has not run this season.

Jessica Harrington could run Albigna while Aidan O’Brien’s Peaceful, winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas, is sure to be among the favourites although she has a length and a quarter to find with Champers Elysees from the Matron.

New owner for Champers Elysees

Matron Stakes winner Champers Elysees has been sold to prominent Japanese owner Teruya Yoshida.

The three-year-old gave trainer Johnny Murtagh his first Group One win in the mile heat at Leopardstown earlier this month, completing her rise from Curragh handicap victor to top-level success, via Listed and Group Three triumphs.

Champers Elysees had raced in the colours of Fitzwilliam Racing, but will now race for Yoshida, who has owned the likes of Elusive Kate, Sahpresa and White Muzzle in the past.

Murtagh tweeted: “We are delighted to welcome Mr Yoshida of Shadai Farm to Fox Covert Stables. Champers Elysees will now run in his famous colours.

“Her next intended engagement is the Sun Chariot Stakes G1 on Oct 3rd @NewmarketRace.”

Kinane and Murtagh lead tributes to Pat Smullen

Mick Kinane hailed a “top-class professional and top-class man” as he paid tribute to his long-time weighing-room colleague Pat Smullen.

Smullen, who died on Tuesday evening at the age of 43 following a brave battle against cancer, succeeded Kinane as stable jockey to Dermot Weld at Rosewell House on the Curragh in 1999 and enjoyed huge success in the role.

Smullen went on to become Irish champion jockey nine times and was a multiple Classic winner, landing the Derby in 2016 aboard the Weld-trained Harzand.

“He was a gentleman. He came to Dermot’s, things moved on and he took over my job and did a fantastic job for a long time,” said Kinane.

“He was a top-class professional and a top-class man. We had some great tussles and we had some good times.

“Unfortunately he couldn’t win his last battle, but he tried so hard.”

Pat Smullen won the Gold Cup at Ascot on Rite Of Passage (right)with Johnny Murtagh second on Age Of Aquarius
Pat Smullen (right) won the Gold Cup at Ascot on Rite Of Passage with Johnny Murtagh second on Age Of Aquarius (Sean Dempsey/PA)

One of Smullen’s keenest rivals throughout his career was Johnny Murtagh, who is now a successful trainer – and as recently as Saturday Smullen was still in touch with his old friend.

“The racing world mourns a true legend,” said Murtagh.

“I had a big winner on Saturday (Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes) and one of the first messages I had was from Pat saying ‘well done, Johnny, brilliant win’ so he was showing class right up to the end.

“He set the standard in the weighing room in Ireland, everyone wanted to be like him – he was the champion jockey in Ireland in more ways than one.

“He leaves some legacy. We knew all about him in racing, but it wasn’t until he retired the wider community got to see what he was like, raising all that money for cancer research and pulling so many people together for his charity race last year.

“In and out of the saddle he was just a really great guy and my thoughts and now with Frances (wife) and the kids and his mam, all his family. It will be a tough few days, but we look on his life and career with very fond memories.”

Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Irish Oaks with Covert Love
Pat Smullen celebrates winning the Irish Oaks with Covert Love (Pat Healy/PA)

Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer will always be grateful for his association with Smullen.

The pair teamed up for a number of big-race victories – most significantly with Covert Love in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in 2015, as Smullen and the filly gave Palmer his first Classic success.

Palmer said: “I’m hugely saddened by the news that Pat has died. A finer jockey or finer man is impossible to imagine really.

“He was always a star to work with before and after a race, and was invariably brilliant in a race. He rode some great winners for me early on in my career.

“Short Squeeze and Gifted Master were two of the key ones, but his efforts aboard Covert Love in both the Irish Oaks, which was our first Classic, and in the Prix de l’Opera, which was a thrilling victory and an extraordinary ride, were things that I will remember forever.

“I’m just incredibly grateful not only for what Pat did for me and my career, but also to have known him. My heartfelt sympathy to his wife Frances and their three children.”

Harzand and Pat Smullen come home in front in the Derby
Harzand and Pat Smullen come home in front in the Derby (David Davies/PA)

Smullen also steered Harzand to victory in the Irish Derby for owner the Aga Khan. Pat Downes, general manager at the Aga Khan’s Irish studs, said: “It’s very sad news. We had some great days. Obviously Harzand’s two Derbys were the highlight.

“A great jockey, but also a great person and he battled hard for the last two years.

“It’s a terrible loss to his family – Frances, and (children) Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and it’s just so sad, but I think in time we can all look back and feel lucky we have known him. He was a really great person.”

Famous Name was a prolific winner in the hands of Pat Smullen
Famous Name was a prolific winner in the hands of Pat Smullen (Niall Carson/PA)

One of Smullen’s most remarkable associations was with the Weld-trained Famous Name in the Juddmonte silks of Khalid Abdullah.

Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: “Famous Name won 21 races, and 20 of them were at Listed or Group Three level – Pat rode him to win every single one. You can’t imagine that that has happened many times

“He was an incredibly talented jockey, but an even better human being. I know Prince Khalid was incredibly fond of him as well, both as a rider and a person.

“He was a rare breed of a man, as he showed with his work for charity.

“His life may not have had great quantity, but it had fantastic quality.”