Murphy maintains slender lead over Buick in title battle

Oisin Murphy heads into the penultimate day of the British Flat jockeys’ championship two wins in front of William Buick after both claimed a victory apiece at Chelmsford on Thursday.

Dual champion Murphy arrived at the Essex venue with a cushion of two successes and his win aboard Notions in the EBF Novice Stakes ensured he maintains that advantage as the duo head to Haydock on Friday.

Buick has been in sparkling form in recent days, riding a treble at Leicester on Tuesday before adding a Nottingham double on Wednesday and he was first off the mark at Chelmsford, steering Typical Woman to victory in the British Stallion Studs EBF Restricted Novice Stakes.

Murphy hit back in the very next race though and admitted he was feeling the pressure as he tries to secure a third successive title.

He told Racing TV: “I’ve been here before, I know what it’s like. No matter what everyone says, it’s not much fun – it’s a lot of pressure. Normally the pressures are only on big days, but I’m doing my best and I’m trying to make the most of every opportunity.

“I’ve got decent rides tonight and good rides tomorrow, and Saturday is obviously the best racing you can imagine. It’s a time we really should be enjoying it, but it’s tough work, race in, race out.

“I’ve got to thank everyone who puts me up – without the horses I can’t ride winners. I think last week I was 12 in front and standing here now I’m only two. So I need to make the most of every chance and hopefully that will be good enough.”

Both riders will be in action at Ascot on Saturday, with Derby hero Adayar the pick of Buick’s mounts while Murphy is looking forward to teaming up with Alcohol Free in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

He added: “She’s been freshened up since the Juddmonte International, she went home for a few weeks and I rode her on the grass and she felt as good as ever. Hopefully that break did her the world of good. I have massive respect for Baaeed and Palace Pier, but don’t forget she’s a star also and a straight track and the ground will be in her favour.

“She’s got a low draw near The Revenant – on paper there’s a lack of pace and she’s very fast as we know, so that may play to her strengths.”

Murphy was fortunate to escape injury when Discover Dubai took a heavy fall two furlongs out in the Free Streaming Every UK Race Handicap.

Buick’s best chance of the night appeared to be 2-9 favourite Lord Lovelace in the Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Novice Stakes, but after an early battle with the Murphy-ridden Golden Owl, the market leader dropped away to finish second behind Under The Twilight.

Murphy heads to Haydock with a total of 151 winners and five expected rides, while Buick is on 149 with a full book of eight mounts on Merseyside.

Coral make Murphy the 4-7 favourite to retain his title, with Buick a 5-4 chance to win his first championship. Paddy Power shortened Murphy to 4-7 from 4-6 favourite, while Buick is an 11-8 shot with that firm.

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “Jockeys are masters of precision timing and while most of this week it’s looked like William was timing his title challenge perfectly, a score draw tonight means we now feel Oisin is one step closer to securing his championship hat-trick.”

Buick halves deficit in title race with Nottingham double

William Buick kept the pressure on Oisin Murphy as a double at Nottingham cut the champion’s lead to two with three days of the jockeys’ title race remaining.

Murphy – who drew a blank from six rides – remains on 150 with Buick on 148 after his brace through Zebelle and Raasel from a full book of eight mounts.

Neither jockey had bothered the judge the sixth race – but the title race burst back into life with a stirring ride from Buick on Zebelle (13-2) in the Anderson Green Nursery Handicap.

The George Boughey-trained youngster was outpaced for the first part of the five-furlong dash, but came strong in the closing stages. Produced in the centre of the course, Zebelle responded to Buick’s urgings to record a crucial win by two and a quarter lengths.

William Buick strikes on Zebelle in the Anderson Green Nursery Handicap
William Buick strikes on Zebelle in the Anderson Green Nursery Handicap (Tim Goode/PA)

“They went very fast and she was outpaced. She’s very genuine and handled that ground well and came home with a wet sail,” Buick told Racing TV.

“I’ve had chances all day so hopefully I can keep going.”

Buick only had to wait 35 minutes to close the gap further as Raasel (13-8 favourite) extended his winning streak to three in the Persimmon Homes Handicap.

Mick Appleby’s in-form four-year-old, a winner at Goodwood and over this five furlongs, stayed on strongly to lead inside the final furlong and deny Wrenthorpe by half a length.

Paddy Power cut Buick to 11-10 from 7-4 for the title, with Murphy pushed out to 4-6 favourite from 4-9. Coral have Murphy at 8-11 and Buick at evens.

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “This reminds me so much of the titanic struggle between Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes in 2010 and punters continue to want William, who well and truly possesses the momentum at present.”

Coral’s David Stevens said: “Although time is running out for William Buick, he continues to narrow the gap on Oisin Murphy, and as a result is now evens – the shortest odds he’s ever been – to win a first championship.

The two protagonists square up again on Thursday as they are both in action at Chelmsford.

Elsewhere on the card, Eldar Eladarov (13-8 favourite) looked an exciting prospect when running away with division two of the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes over an extended mile.

The Roger Varian-trained colt, who cost £480,000 at the breeze-ups, strung out the opposition in the closing stages under David Egan to beat Janoobi by five lengths, with Clear Day another five lengths back in third.

Eldar Eldarov was an impressive winner on his debut
Eldar Eldarov was an impressive winner on his debut (Tim Goode/PA)

Egan said: “Coming back from the breeze-ups it probably took a while to chill him out, but he’s matured throughout the year and I can only see a horse like him getting better as a three-year-old.”

Glentaneous (5-1) was an emphatic winner of the Kier Construction Handicap for trainer Brian Meehan.

The three-year-old, ridden by Andrea Atzeni, drew clear in the final furlong to take the feature race by three and three-quarter lengths from Sandyman.

Atzeni said: “It was never in any doubt. He jumped, we had a nice draw and he travelled good into the race.

“When I let him down he kept on lengthening all the way to the line. When I looked up at the screen I couldn’t believe how far clear he was. He won quite nicely and liked the ground.”

Buick fires Leicester treble to reduce championship gap to four

William Buick reduced Oisin Murphy’s lead in the jockeys’ championship to four after riding a treble at Leicester on Tuesday.

Reigning champion Murphy began the day with a six-winner lead over his great rival, the pair having ridden 149 and 143 winners respectively in a battle that concludes on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.

Murphy did manage to get himself to the 150-mark by steering Rod Millman’s 4-1 favourite Able Kane to victory in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap – but it was Buick who left the Midlands the happier after booting home three winners.

William Buick returns victorious aboard Parlando
William Buick returns victorious aboard Parlando (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Norwegian-born rider got off the mark for the afternoon in the second race for his boss, Charlie Appleby.

Riding the newcomer Parlando (4-5 favourite) in the second division of the British EBF Novice Stakes, he looked booked for second when Dream Show went three lengths clear. But when Dream Show began to drift into the middle of the course, Buick sensed his chance and drove Parlando up to make a winning debut by a head.

Buick would have fancied his chances of a quick double on Robyn Brisland’s second-favourite Porsche Cavalier in the British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Conditions Stakes.

She, though, was a clear second best behind Clive Cox’s well-bred Benefit (15-2), who was undoubtedly the potential equine star on show.

William Buick after winning with Kentucky Kitten
William Buick after winning with Kentucky Kitten (Mike Egerton/PA)

Buick had to settle for second again in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Nursery, with 7-2 joint-favourite Midgetonamission proving no match for market rival Hurry Up Hedley.

But while Murphy struck back aboard Able Kane, Buick ended the day in the best possible fashion – striking gold aboard Tim Easterby’s Kentucky Kitten (8-1) in the Visit Handicap before completing his hat-trick in the concluding leicesterraces Next Meeting Monday 25th October EBF Novice Stakes on John Butler’s Rhythm N Rock.

Murphy looked like making it two winners apiece with 8-15 favourite Future King, but having travelled strongly at the head of affairs for much of the way, Rhythm N Rock (5-1) charged home down the centre of the track to prevail by a length and a half.

Both riders are set to be in action at Nottingham on Wednesday, where Murphy has six booked mounts and Buick has eight.

Buzz registers third Cesarewitch for Henderson

Buzz provided Nicky Henderson with his third victory in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch, and a welcome success too for champion jockey Oisin Murphy at Newmarket.

It is 18 years since Henderson first claimed this prestigious staying handicap with top-class hurdler Landing Light, while popular veteran Caracciola added his name to the roll of honour in 2008.

Willie Mullins, who has taken over from Henderson as the most successful trainer at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years, fielded six runners in his bid for a joint-record fourth straight Cesarewitch success.

It looked as though Ireland’s perennial champion National Hunt trainer would triumph once again when his 2020 Triumph Hurdle heroine Burning Victory moved to the front under William Buick, but Buzz and Murphy followed her through to set up a grandstand finish.

Burning Victory looked to be getting the better of the argument racing inside the final furlong, but 8-1 shot Buzz – making his first appearance since finishing second in the Aintree Hurdle in April – reeled her in to prevail by a length and a half.

Calling The Wind was best of the rest in third, with Goobinator finishing fourth.

It was a notable victory for Murphy, who was forced to sit out Friday’s card at Newmarket after failing a breath test.

“I’m not faultless, but I’ve got to do better,” said Murphy, as he reflected on the past two days.

“I shouldn’t be making mistakes like that. It shouldn’t happen, and I’m just sorry to everyone. It’s great to get some confidence back, but I should know better.”

On the success of Buzz, he added: “Nicky told me to try and be in the first half because he stays well, but there was a massive rush on, as you might expect.

“I was drawn low, and he was a little bit hesitant, so I had to take back – and I got on the back of Andrea (Atzeni on Reshoun), who is very good tactically and he knew what was going to happen.

“I followed him until I peeled out, and I thought Will’s horse might hit a brick wall. I couldn’t make my horse go any faster, so when I put my hands back I might have looked confident, but it wasn’t until late that I thought I was going to win.

“It takes some planning, for the horse not to miss a beat over that length of time, but fair play to Nicky.”

Jess Stafford, spokesperson for the winning owners Thurloe Thoroughbreds, said: “It’s so exciting – the horse has improved so much.

“We can look at all the nice races over hurdles now. He’s turned a corner this summer and is more relaxed now.

“I was confident earlier in the week because of the ground, but then it started drying out. We just got away with it.

“He’s got all the big targets now – he’s a proper Grade Two/Grade One horse over hurdles. The race at Aintree is for him – he’s got a huge future.

“Most importantly, 25 per cent of the prize-money goes to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.”

Oisin Murphy misses Newmarket rides after failed breathalyser test

Oisin Murphy missed his rides at Newmarket on Friday after failing a racecourse breathalyser test.

The dual champion jockey – who started the day 11 winners ahead of William Buick in this year’s title race, which concludes at Ascot next Saturday – had been due to have five mounts at Headquarters, including Mise En Scene in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile.

But in a post on his Twitter account, Murphy said: “I was requested to take a breath test at Newmarket today. I blew under the drink drive limit but over the riding limit.

“I’m sorry to all the people I’ve let down today. I take full responsibility. I will be riding tomorrow.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates being crowned champion jockey
Oisin Murphy celebrates being crowned champion jockey (Simon Cooper/PA)

A notice from the stewards regarding the 1.15 race at Newmarket, which should have been Murphy’s first ride of the day, read: “An enquiry was held following a report from the Equine Welfare Integrity/Collection Officer that Oisin Murphy, who was declared to ride Fiorina, had failed a breathalyser test prior to the race.

“Murphy, the Equine Welfare Integrity/Collection Officer, and Raceday Assistant were interviewed. Having heard their evidence, the matter was referred to the Head Office of the British Horseracing Authority for further consideration and Murphy was stood down for the remainder of the day.”

Benbatl digs deep to regain Joel Stakes title

Benbatl returned to winning form with a gutsy success in the Unibet “You’re On” Joel Stakes at Newmarket.

Saeed bin Suroor’s popular seven-year-old had not got his head in front since winning a Meydan Group Two in February 2020, although he had been limited to just three runs in the intervening period – including when just edged out by Kameko in this mile contest last year.

Partnered by Oisin Murphy, Benbatl was settled in second as Pogo set a testing pace up front, with the front-runner coming up the stands side while Benbatl stayed a little wider in the middle of the track.

Pogo looked to have stolen the advantage at one point. But when Murphy gave the signal, 13-8 chance Benbatl hit top gear to edge in front a furlong out and eventually prevail by three-quarters of a length in a new track record time.

Pogo kept on gamely for second – with 11-8 favourite Master Of The Seas, sporting the first colours of Godolphin while Benbatl was in the second-string silks, staying on for third.

Benbatl, who was winning the race for a second time after also triumphing in 2019, is now 10-1 from 16s for next month’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot with Paddy Power – while the same firm go 12-1 about his Champion Stakes chance and make him a 5-1 shot from 8s for next year’s Dubai World Cup at Meydan.

Oisin Murphy celebrates after Benbatl's win
Oisin Murphy celebrates after Benbatl’s win (Mike Egerton/PA)

Murphy hailed Benbatl as “the horse of a lifetime” after winning a seventh race on the Dubawi entire, with the duo’s first success having come in the 2017 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He said: “He’s been a machine for a number of years.

“He gave me my first ever Royal Ascot winner. We’re in 2021 now – four years later – and he’s still winning Group Twos.

“He is the horse of a lifetime. When he won this race in 2019 he ran to a rating of 125.

“He’s one of the best horses I’ve ridden, and I’m thrilled that we’ve got him back on track. They’ve done a super job at the stable to produce him year in, year out.

“Outside of Andrew Balding, Saeed is probably my biggest supporter. Winning these black-type races is what it’s all about.”

Benbatl on his way to victory
Benbatl on his way to victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

Bin Suroor felt Benbatl was unlucky not to win on his seasonal bow in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood last month, but was thrilled to see him back in the winner’s enclosure.

He said: “He’s a tough horse that always tries his best. He’s won this race twice now and has won big races in Germany, Australia, Dubai and England.

“He is the horse that is leading the stable. We follow him really! We have had a lot of fun with him.

“He missed the break at Goodwood. I spoke to Oisin immediately after the race and he said ‘if I hadn’t missed the break, I would have won’.

“We’ll keep the options open for him. It could be Champions Day, but we’ll talk to Sheikh Mohammed and make a plan for him.

“It could be the Breeders’ Cup, we’ll see.”

Murphy back to double-figure lead over Buick in title battle

Oisin Murphy broke new ground with his first winner at Hamilton as he stretched his jockeys’ championship lead over William Buick to double figures.

While Murphy’s title rival had to serve a ban on Sunday, the dual champion made a rare trip to the Scottish course for five rides.

He was out of luck on the first two, as Ben Curtis instead rode a quickfire double, but then struck on all-the-way winner Trusty Scout in the Big Drew Hunter Memorial Selling Stakes – taking his tally to 134 this season, and into a lead of 10 over Buick.

Trusty Scout, also providing trainer David O’Meara with a double, dominated from the front on rain-softened ground to win at 16-5, by a length and three-quarters from Caballero.

Assessing his battle over the next month to outdo Buick and record his third successive title, Murphy told Racing TV: “It’s really hotting up, (and) he’s going to have a lot of ammunition coming up – with Charlie Appleby’s two-year-olds.

“So I’m going to have to work very hard, and stay out of the stewards’ room – and I hope the yards I’m riding for will keep flying.

“They’ve been having great seasons – from Andrew Balding, Ed Walker, Hughie Morrison, Saeed bin Suroor, loads of people have been helping me.

“So if we can finish off the next few weeks that would be brilliant.”

Murphy was again unplaced on his fourth mount Water Of Leith, and then had to settle for second at his final attempt with Mews House – behind easy winning favourite Albegone in the Members Of Hamilton Park Racecourse Handicap.

But reflecting on the previously unsuccessful Trusty Scout’s first career victory, he added: “It’s great to get on the scoresheet here.

“I’ve been here before and haven’t had a winner – so thanks to David O’Meara for putting me on one today.

“I actually missed a winner here, because my flight was delayed the last time I was here. But thankfully, we were on time today!”

Both Murphy and Buick are in action on Monday, at Leicester.

Title frontrunner Murphy hits back with treble

Just 24 hours after William Buick closed the gap to six in the race to be champion jockey courtesy of a treble, the man defending the title, Oisin Murphy, secured a hat-trick of his own at Newbury.

Murphy is now 1-3 favourite with Paddy Power to defend the championship, with Buick a 2-1 chance.

His first winner came in the Dubai Duty Free Nursery Handicap on Ed Walker’s American Star (11-2) – who had been slightly outclassed in the Gimcrack at York but, down in grade and up in trip, proved in a different league to his rivals here.

“David Ward (owner) asked Ed Sackville (bloodstock agent) to buy him a Gimcrack horse – but he found six furlongs too sharp, and we should have run him in the Acomb,” said Walker.

American Star was always in command under Oisin Murphy
American Star was always in command under Oisin Murphy (Steven Paston/PA)

“He did that very nicely, was well-ridden – and it never looked in any doubt to me.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do now. We may go back up in class but we’ll just wait and see – that looked a good race.”

Murphy then made every yard of the running in the feature Dubai Duty Free Cup on Saeed bin Suroor’s Silent Escape (16-5 joint-favourite).

The winner is now heading to Dubai, where there will no doubt be plenty of options for her.

The champion jockey ended the day by winning the Crossland Employment Solicitors Handicap on Andrew Balding’s Neenee’s Choice (13-8 favourite), who himself was scoring for the fourth time in a row.

“He’s just a very honest horse, and Oisin gave him a lovely ride,” said Balding.

“He’s in the Cambridgeshire but he won’t get in it. We’ve no great plans, so we’ll just take stock.”

Heredia showed a smart turn of foot to remain unbeaten
Heredia showed a smart turn of foot to remain unbeaten (Steven Paston/PA)

Heredia potentially threw her name into the hat for one of the big juvenile contests at the end of the season when maintaining her unbeaten record in the Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises British EBF Fillies’ Conditions Stakes

The Richard Hannon-trained Dark Angel filly had got off the mark with the minimum of fuss at Windsor 20 days ago – but faced three other previous winners here, including Charlie Appleby’s 4-9 favourite Silk Romance who looked smart when winning at Newmarket.

“She’s a lovely filly, a homebred of Andrew Stones (St Albans Bloodstock) and I have to say (pre-trainer) Malcolm Bastard has done an amazing job,” said Hannon.

“She came to me in June and she’s been really sweet ever since. We thought a bit of her when she went to Windsor, and she won there.

“I’d say that was a smart race – she looked like she enjoyed the seven furlongs, but where we go know I don’t know.

“There are loads of options, but I didn’t want to put her in anything in case she finished sixth at Windsor, and then I’d look a plonker. If we need to supplement for something we can now, because she’s paid for it.

“We’ll all have a chat, but I would be keen to run her again looking for some black type.”

Deodar made a winning debut for Ralph Beckett
Deodar made a winning debut for Ralph Beckett (Steven Paston/PA)

Ralph Beckett introduced a nicely-bred newcomer in Deodar to win the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes.

The dogs were barking for Hannon’s Witch Hunter, who was sent off the 7-4 favourite and in a prime position throughout.

Deodar had been slightly outpaced early, but got the hang of things from halfway under Rob Hornby and fairly powered home with the rail to assist him, beating the favourite by a neck – although there was not much between the first five home.

“He’s just come together in the last three weeks – it took him a long time to work out what was required, but he’s suddenly realised,” said Beckett, of the Juddmonte-owned son of Bated Breath.

“In his last bit of work he put it together between his ears.

“I don’t know what we’ll do with him now. Richard fancied his, so I’d say it was a good effort, and we’ll have to work out what to do.

“He’s out of a Selkirk mare, so should have no trouble getting further. I’d say we’ll crack on with him now.”

Roger Charlton’s Makram (11-4 favourite) survived a stewards’ enquiry to win the Dubai Duty Free Handicap.

James Doyle’s mount drifted out as Calling The Wind challenged, but the view taken was that there was not enough interference to change the result. The winning distance was a head.

“He’s a lovely horse – but I think he’s heading to the sales now because he can earn far more abroad than he can here, unfortunately,” said Charlton.

Silent Escape takes Listed prize as Godolphin hold sway

Silent Escape led home a Godolphin one-two-three in the Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury.

Previously successful at Newcastle and Sandown this season, Saeed bin Suroor’s filly was a 16-5 joint-favourite to make it three wins from four starts in the hands of champion jockey Oisin Murphy, who was positive from the outset.

The daughter of New Approach led down the centre of the track for much of the way, with the Charlie Appleby-trained pair of D’bai and Al Suhail giving vain chase inside the final furlong.

Silent Escape was not for catching, however, with Murphy pushing her out to prevail by a length and a half from D’bai, with the other joint-favourite Al Suhail close up in third place.

Bin Suroor said: “She won well. She’s improved since her last run and looked good today, even though the ground was a bit soft for her.

“We’re happy with the way she finished her race, but now I want to take her back to Dubai for the season there.

“We’ll keep her on turf. Well, we’ll keep options open, but I would think we’ll keep her on the turf. She’s a nice filly, but I want to look after her for the future.

“She has only lost once, this filly – but since then, she has been improving all the time.

Saeed bin Suroor was delighted with Silent Escape
Saeed bin Suroor was delighted with Silent Escape (John Walton/PA)

“The big key for her is the ground – when she works on good to soft ground she acts better on it.

“I think she’ll get a mile. But looking at the pedigree, by New Approach, he ran in the Derby. Oisin said a mile is fine for her now.

“There are some nice races for her in Dubai.”

Four-star Murphy extends championship lead

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was the toast of Goodwood with a near 105-1 four-timer on Tuesday.

Murphy is closing in on a third successive title after pulling further clear of his closest pursuer, William Buick – 126 winners to 109.

Piffle (13-2) opened Murphy’s account when following up her Windsor success with a neck verdict over Breezy Storm in the South Downs Water EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes.

Outside World (100-30), trained by Mark Johnston, gave Murphy a double when making all the running in the Farmer Butcher Chef Fillies’ Nursery Handicap.

Johnston provided Murphy with his treble on Themaxwecan (7-4 favourite) in the Royal Sussex Regiment Handicap.

Murphy brought up his four-timer with a facile triumph, by seven and a half lengths, on 2-11 favourite King Vega in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Novice Stakes.

It was a red-letter day for Johnston as well, with Toussarok (9-2), ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, giving the Middleham handler a third winner at Goodwood and Bowman (11-4) scoring at Leicester in the hands of Ben Curtis for an across-the-card four-timer.

‘Hard work’ continues for Murphy in chase for third championship

Oisin Murphy has his sights set on a third consecutive champion jockey crown after notching up his 100th winner of the campaign at Windsor on Monday.

Murphy hit the milestone with the Rod Millman-trained Prince Of Harts following a sparkling run of form that has seen him bag more than 20 winners in the last two weeks, including a five-timer at Kempton plus hat-tricks at Newmarket and Brighton.

The reigning champion gained his 100th win in a total of 434 rides, yielding a strike rate of 23 per cent which compares favourably to previous title-winning seasons when he needed 539 and 544 rides respectively to reach a century.

Murphy said: “I’m delighted to reach 100 winners in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship. So much thanks goes to all the stable staff and connections that are behind me. I really appreciate it.

“I’m very fortunate to ride for great people and I’d love to be crowned champion jockey once again on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.”

Murphy has a cosy advantage over his nearest title challengers William Buick and Tom Marquand, but is taking nothing for granted.

He added: “It’s fantastic that I’ve reached a century of winners in fewer rides than I’ve managed before, but William Buick and Tom Marquand are world-class riders and the hard work continues in the chase to ride winners.”

Oisin Murphy continues hot streak with Brighton treble

Dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy continued his flying form as victory on Ravens Ark in the feature Land And Power Civil Contractors Handicap helped him record a treble at Brighton.

Murphy, fresh from a remarkable five-timer at Kempton the previous evening and setting the pace in this year’s championship, was registering his second winner on the card this time with his narrow success in a race which is run for the Brighton Challenge Cup.

He had to be at his strongest too on Hughie Morrison’s 9-5 favourite, who found minor trouble in running and then once in the clear still appeared unlikely to get past eventual runner-up Contingency Fee until leading in the final strides to score by a head.

Ravens Ark was wearing first-time cheekpieces.

At the suggestion he had taken his time before delivering the four-year-old for his second win of the season, Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “I didn’t have much choice.

“He got away well, but I couldn’t really sit any closer.

“I had in my mind not to get stuck inside, so I could get rolling on time.

“But (David) Probert (on market rival Kelmscott) was able to come round me and keep me in for a little bit.

“Then he got going again. This was a good spot for the horse – he stays well, and he’s likeable. He saves energy – like me!”

Murphy, successful on Roger Charlton’s 5-6 shot Big Boy Bobby in the preceding Woodcote Flying Club BBQ Handicap, then had to settle for second on another favourite Mostallim – a length and a half behind He’s Our Star, ridden by 7lb claimer Mollie Phillips for Tony Carroll in the Donatello Restaurant Brighton Handicap.

But he was quickly back in the winner’s enclosure and stretching his sizeable lead in pursuit of a third successive title thanks to Mick Appleby’s Rhyme Scheme in the Cazoo Search Drive Smile Selling Handicap.

The 6-5 favourite was in front throughout and repelled the challenge of Deeds Not Words by three-quarters of a length to break her duck at the 18th attempt.

In-form Phillips completed a double when 3-1 shot Porterinthejungle was another to lead all the way en route to a length-and-a-quarter victory, for Robyn Brisland, in the closing Silk Series Handicap – for pro-am female jockeys.

Passion And Glory proves Glorious winner for Bin Suroor

Passion And Glory clung on for a thrilling victory in the l’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Glorious Stakes at Goodwood.

Saeed bin Suroor’s charge was bidding to make it three from three for the season in Britain following dominant victories at Lingfield and Ascot, but faced a step up in distance and class for this mile-and-a-half Group Three.

Racing on the speed throughout in the hands of Oisin Murphy, the 2-1 chance had most of his rivals in trouble halfway up the straight and looked the most likely winner entering the final furlong.

Fox Tal attempted to make a race of it, while Jim Goldie’s admirable veteran Euchen Glen charged home from the rear down the middle of the track, but the line came in time for Passion And Glory to hold on by a neck.

Bin Suroor said: “His last three runs he improved and even today, I wasn’t sure about the ground and he handled it really well.

“Now I think I’m going to take him to Germany, Baden-Baden, for the Group One in September.

“I’ve always liked him, but there’s always been tiny problems that have stopped him. But he’s sound and he has improved from every race and he’s doing good.

“They were small injuries but they kept him out, then he was ready to run and they’d come back, but nothing major.”

On the subject of taking the Cape Cross gelding to America, Bin Suroor said: “We have to think about the Covid things in Australia, I will see, I have to think about it, in normal times I would have about four or five, but we have to think this time.”

Goldie said of Euchen Glen, who is bound for York and the Ebor: “We couldn’t quite peg back the winner, who is a progressive horse. Paul (Mulrennan) deserves a lot of credit as he nearly always gets it right. We dropped into the worst of the ground today, but imagine if we’d won the penalty would have meant carrying 10st 2lb in the Ebor.

“He wouldn’t have run with that, so there is a blessing.”

York challenge on the agenda for Sussex heroine Alcohol Free

Alcohol Free is set to take on the colts again next month after overcoming Poetic Flare in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Successful in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the Andrew Balding-trained filly attempted to make all in the Falmouth at Newmarket last time out but had to give best close home to Snow Lantern, who took her on again.

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was determined to delay his challenge on this occasion and made sure he played his hand late.

After a slow early pace, Century Dream injected some speed into it a long way from home and caught a few rivals on the back foot.

Kevin Manning set off in pursuit on 11-8 favourite Poetic Flare and on entering the final furlong hit the front – but Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero was soon to face a bigger challenge, as Alcohol Free (7-2) quickened impressively and went on to win by a length and three-quarters.

Snow Lantern, who could have run in the Nassau Stakes over 10 furlongs later in the week, made up plenty of late ground to claim third, the same distance away, completing a one-two-three for the three-year-olds against their elders.

Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes
Oisin Murphy salutes the crowd after winning the Sussex Stakes (John Walton/PA)

Balding said: “Maybe we got lucky with Here Comes When (winner in 2017), although that was hugely rewarding, don’t get me wrong.

“But this filly has already won two Group One races, so it was lovely to see her cement her place at the top of the tree.

“It’s a privilege, it really is. Just watching her at home in the mornings is demoralising for the other horses, we have to keep swapping the lead horse because she’s just so good. She’s hardly blowing afterwards, it’s just effortless for her.”

He went on: “I was awful (watching the race), I was calling Oisin all sorts of names! It was a rough race and I’m sure there were hard luck stories, but I think she was easily the best horse on the day.

“It’s just lovely to see her do that because we’ve always believed in her, it’s no easy task coming and taking on the colts and the older horses and to do it in that style is just fantastic.”

Looking to future plans, Balding suggested the daughter of No Nay Never could be seen on the Knavesmire next month.

He said: “We had a long debate yesterday, Mr (Jeff) Smith and I, about spending five grand of his hard-earned (money) keeping her in the Juddmonte (International).

“It’s a mile and a quarter, it’s a big ask, but as Jeff said, she’s won Group Ones already.

“We’ve got nothing to prove, but it’s a possibility she may turn up there.”

He added: “She doesn’t need too much (training), she doesn’t even need training to be honest, she does it all herself.

“She’s always been very good, right from the start, we ran her on one bit of work when she went to Newbury and absolutely hosed up.

“She’s been the victim of bad draws whenever she’s run and I think she probably could have won more – in the Guineas she’d have been placed if she was drawn in the middle or on the far side.

“There is trepidation with taking on any of those horses, Poetic Flare and Snow Lantern as well.”

Smith last won the race in 1984 with Chief Singer, while he has also tasted Goodwood glory with the likes of Lochsong and Persian Punch.

He said: “This filly is something else, the way she has won that, it’s simply incredible.

“I’m thrilled to pieces, and what a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.

“She’s a champion. There’s no question in my mind, she’s the real deal.”

Murphy paid his tribute to both the filly and the team behind her.

The rider said: “I can’t thank everyone at Park House enough. Alcohol Free really can be a handful in the mornings. Cassia has to deal with her every day and deserves a medal because she can be really tough work.

Oisin Murphy celebrates with Alcohol Free
Oisin Murphy celebrates with Alcohol Free (John Walton/PA)

“Anyone who follows me on Instagram will see that, when I go to tack her up, she looks like she is going to bite or kick me. Then when you get near her, she is quite the opposite. She is a special character.

“Alcohol Free is so, so talented and what a thrill I got from that. I’ve won this race before on Lightning Spear and last year it all went wrong on Kameko. Day to day, you have to just keep kicking.

“She thrives on racing, and she felt super on Saturday – we only went four furlongs, but I was full of confidence to be honest, particularly when the rain came.

“Jeff Smith has been an incredible supporter of horse racing for a long time. I don’t know how many employees there are at Park House Stables, but they all play their part and this will mean the world to them.”

Manning felt ground conditions had not played to the strengths of Poetic Flare.

He said: “It was the same story as in Paris (sixth in French 2000 Guineas), and we were running a little bit behind the bridle, while on good ground he travels into his races. This ground has blunted his speed.

“I felt he was spinning on the ground and going up and down on one spot, though to give him credit he dug very deep and fought back when the filly went past him.

“The ground was tacky and holding, and there was no bounce in it.”

Una Manning, Bolger’s daughter, added: “Poetic Flare has lost nothing in defeat. He loves his racing, loves his work. He’s an easy horse to deal with and to travel. Bringing him over here wasn’t going to be any sort of disadvantage to him even if the ground didn’t turn out like he wanted.”

Of Snow Lantern, Richard Hannon said: “I’m delighted with her run, it was a good, sound effort. She hit a flat spot, but the way she stayed on suggests she might want a mile and a quarter.

“The ground was a little bit sticky, but she showed she handles it, while she doesn’t have much to find with the winner.”

Smith so proud of ‘champion’ Alcohol Free

As perfectly illustrated by Euro 2020 and the Olympics, sport moves in cycles.

Injury might preclude one from team selection, a below-par showing might deny one of a medal, but often, all in good time, the opportunity is presented again somewhere along the line.

Only in the sport of horse racing, however, can one man triumph in the same event either side of a 37-year gap.

That man is Jeff Smith, chairman of Salisbury racecourse and long-standing racehorse owner.

It was in 1984 that Smith’s dark brown colt Chief Singer emerged the victor after a roughly-run renewal of Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes.

Clad in Smith’s purple and pale blue colours, the horse was riding the crest of a wave having also won the St James’s Palace Stakes and the July Cup.

Jeff Smith (far left) after Alcohol Free's Coronation Stakes win
Jeff Smith (far left) after Alcohol Free’s Coronation Stakes win (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The same is true of his 2021 runner Alcohol Free, who won the Fred Darling and the Coronation Stakes before being narrowly beaten by Snow Lantern in the Falmouth.

The Sussex Stakes is a different proposition to those contests, of course, with colts very much on the scene and no upper limit on the age of contenders.

Those conditions pitched Alcohol Free alongside her most esteemed rivals to date, the chief threat amongst them being Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace winner Poetic Flare.

Alcohol Free is famously restless, and while Poetic Flare strode calmly at the side of his one handler, Andrew Balding’s filly strained against the two staff tasked with guiding her around the parade ring.

Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Alcohol Free
Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Alcohol Free (John Walton/PA)

Sent to post in a tell-tale red hood, the devil horns associated with racing’s tricky customers, she put her raucousness to good use as she scrapped from the rear of the field to the front, eyeballing Poetic Flare at the furlong pole and then pulling away happily under Oisin Murphy.

A tearful Smith and an elated Balding gathered to meet them in the paddock, where she stood so placidly in a large, braying crowd that one might conclude all of her pre-race mischievousness is produced purely for dramatic effect.

“This filly is something else, the way she has won that is simply incredible,” said Smith, whose Persian Punch and Lochsong have also famously graced the Goodwood winner’s enclosure.

“I’m just thrilled to pieces, what a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.

“Providing she got cover and something to aim at, then I felt, not confident, but I felt very hopeful.

“Then she was bumped around and pushed back and I thought ‘oh bloody hell, I’m not so sure’.

Alcohol Free returns to the winner's enclosure
Alcohol Free returns to the winner’s enclosure (John Walton/PA)

“But the way she picked back up, she showed what she really is.

“She’s a champion, there’s absolutely no question in my mind, she’s the real deal.”

Asked about Chief Singer, who led him to the exact same spot in the Goodwood winner’s enclosure in 1984, the owner said: “Well it was 37 years ago, I had jet black hair and no worries in the world and I thought it was all very easy, I’d just come back and do it again.”

Now he has, under no illusions as to how hard Group One winners are to come by and how rare it is to find a filly that can shrug off top-class colts with such ease.

It is difficult, as evidenced by a Sussex Stakes roll of honour almost exclusively made up of colts, but you would be hard pressed to convince Alcohol Free of that fact.

It looks like being a clash with the colts next, too, for Alcohol Free – in a race that will present a test of a different kind, namely distance.

Balding explained: “It was Jeff Smith’s idea in the first place, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea, to put her in the (Juddmonte) International at York and we decided to keep her in at yesterday’s forfeit stage.

“It might be asking a bit much, going a mile and a quarter, but she’s a filly that has won three Group One races, so we have very little to lose.

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll regroup and go back to the mile race on Champions Day.”