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Oisin Murphy considered quitting riding during cocaine ban

Oisin Murphy admitted he thought about quitting racing altogether while serving a drugs ban.

The champion jockey was banned for three months in November after a racecourse test, taken at Chantilly in July, found traces of cocaine in his system.

Having always strenuously denied he had taken any drugs, Murphy requested a B sample – and upon receiving the results, France Galop held a hearing where the rider’s defence of environmental contamination from a sexual encounter and scientific hair test evidence was accepted.

Murphy’s three-month suspension took into account his defence, and is due to expire on March 11.

That will mark the end of a period where the 25-year-old Irishman said he felt his mental health deteriorate to the extent that he began to question whether he would return to the sport at all.

Speaking on the My Sporting Mind podcast, he described the experience of awaiting the judgement and the subsequent effect on his performance.

He said: “The first time I realised I was facing a suspension was August, and I didn’t know when I was going to be suspended and for how long, so that was quite stressful.

“I didn’t ride very well. On average I ride between 15 and 22 per cent rides to winners, in August that took a major dip and as a result my confidence and my whole outlook on life did as well.

“I remember not sleeping for days on end – I might get an hour here and wake up there, your mood changes and you don’t want to speak to anybody.”

At that stage Murphy was still leading the British Flat jockeys’ championship, a title he was attempting to defend having first won it in 2019.

Oisin Murphy is crowned Champion Jockey by athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson during QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot Racecourse
Oisin Murphy is crowned Champion Jockey by athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson during QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot Racecourse (Simon Cooper/PA)

After a decline in form as the case took its toll, Murphy found rivals William Buick and Tom Marquand were both beginning to gain ground at the top end of the table.

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“I had led the whole way from the flag fall in this jockeys’ championship, which means so much to me,” he said.

“It’s like winning the Premiership in football or like being Lewis Hamilton in Formula One. I’m not suggesting horse racing is any way like that, but for me, that’s how important it is.

“I knew I had great people behind me, from Qatar Racing, who employ me, to all the people who put me on these majestic animals on a day-to-day basis, but not everyone was fighting my corner, it was still very much up in the air.”

Ultimately Murphy did triumph, riding eight more winners than Buick and gaining a much-needed boost to his confidence in the process.

Oisin Murphy after winning his first Classic race, the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse, aboard Kameko
Oisin Murphy after winning his first Classic race, the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse, aboard Kameko (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“I thought the season was going to be defined in one of two ways – if I didn’t win the jockeys’ championship, it was going to be a season where I had allowed what was going on around me to defeat me.

“If I could get it over the line, I’d prove that when most people would have crumbled, when most people would have thrown in the towel, I picked myself up off the floor.”

Despite the victory, Murphy still harboured doubts over whether he would return to racing at all once the ban had expired.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ride again or when I wanted to race-ride again,” he said.

“I felt the world had turned against me over something I didn’t mean to happen.

“I spent a couple of weeks thinking about what I should do, when I say I wouldn’t get back on a horse, I’d still watch showjumping and ride as a hobby, but (I wondered) whether I wanted to race-ride again.

Murphy during a meeting at Salisbury in September
Murphy during a meeting at Salisbury in September (PA)

“I wasn’t entirely comfortable – the higher you climb, the further you fall.”

Murphy, who was champion apprentice in 2014 and is the retained rider for Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing operation, was supported in his decision to return by his idol Frankie Dettori, who himself served a six-month ban following a positive test for cocaine in 2012.

“When he came back, the racing public, and I can say this because I was there, they’d written him off,” Murphy recalled.

“I remember walking into Lingfield Park one day, he was sat with his legs crossed, he was overweight, he didn’t look like a jockey, he was miserable, he wasn’t speaking to anybody, he was very low.

“Then a couple of months later he turned his career around. He got the job with Al Shaqab and started riding for John Gosden, and suddenly, from his whole mental and physical well-being being demoralised and non-existent, he managed to climb back up.

Oisin Murphy with Roaring Lion and Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, whose Qatar Racing operation retains the jockey
Oisin Murphy with Roaring Lion and Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, whose Qatar Racing operation retains the jockey (PA)

“The last three years he’s been the number one jockey in the world and he’s the face of world racing, so I really admire him and really draw on him for inspiration sometimes.”

Dettori is one of a number of racing figures whose support for Murphy never wavered, with the Qatar Racing team and Andrew Balding, with whom Murphy spent his apprenticeship, also credited for their loyalty.

“He keeps telling me not to go off the rails,” he said of Dettori.

“People were worried and he was one of them, my employers and lots of people, even now I get text messages from people just checking that I haven’t done anything stupid and I haven’t been drinking excessively or anything.”

Oisin Murphy (centre) beside trainer and former employer Andrew Balding (right)
Oisin Murphy (centre) beside trainer and former employer Andrew Balding (right) (John Walton/PA)

Murphy will return to the saddle on March 12, a comeback that will be initially low-key as the British Flat season does not begin to gather pace until April.

However, Dubai’s World Cup meeting is held on March 27, a fixture Murphy has scheduled as his first major engagement since the suspension.

“For people who are really interested in (Flat) racing, March isn’t a very exciting month apart from Dubai World Cup night, but I’ve picked up some super rides from the Japanese there,” he explained.

“That’s a really welcome surprise, I wasn’t expecting anything there.”

Not only has Murphy resolved to return, he is also intent on reaching the same heights he has scaled previously and overwriting any negative connotations that may follow him.

“I’m in top spirits, but I need to achieve again, I can’t just roll back into the jockeys’ room and go around riding five horses a day and maybe winning on one,” he said.

“If I make it my intention to come back, then I really have to do well.

“Now it’s the chance to come back and try to prove myself to people again and say ‘Don’t write me off, please. Give me another chance’.”

Murphy vows to ‘put things right’ as he serves riding ban

Oisin Murphy has voiced his determination to “put things right” as he prepares to begin his three-month riding ban after testing positive for metabolites of cocaine.

Murphy, who was crowned Britain’s champion Flat jockey for the second successive year last month, failed a test at Chantilly on July 19 – having ridden The Lir Jet, owned by his bosses, Qatar Racing.

Having always strenuously denied he had taken any drugs, Murphy requested a B sample – and upon receiving the results, France Galop held a hearing on November 25, where the rider’s defence of environmental contamination from a sexual encounter and scientific hair test evidence was accepted.

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Murphy’s three-month suspension took into account his defence, and will run from December 11 until March 11.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Murphy admitted he had witnessed cocaine being used the night before travelling to France.

Murphy said: “I became aware of a situation where cocaine was present in my environment and I saw it there and didn’t remove myself from that situation immediately.

“When you sign for your jockey’s licence every year you have got to abide by the rules.

“That was my error, and I very much have no self-pity. I made a mistake and I’ve got to live with the consequences.

“I got up the next morning and went to France and thought nothing of it. But I should have thought much more of it, and that was the block I have stumbled on.”

Oisin Murphy is a dual champion jockey
Oisin Murphy is a dual champion jockey (Simon Cooper/PA)

Murphy plans to use his time out of the saddle to reflect on what has happened.

He added: “I’ve never taken cocaine. I made a massive error and I’m missing out on plenty. I should be in Japan this time of the year, I love riding there. I’m going to miss the big races in Saudi Arabia and Super Saturday in Dubai.

“But I need to put things right and I need to use my time over the next three months to do the right thing and take the right step.

“This is going to go down on my CV – nobody is going to forget about this overnight.

“I’ve projected myself as a good ambassador for the sport, but clearly a good ambassador for the sport doesn’t fail a drug test, no matter how minimal that quantity is.”

Cocaine ban interrupts Murphy’s rise to top of profession

Oisin Murphy’s three-month suspension as a result of testing positive for metabolites of cocaine brings a temporary halt to a career which has seen him rise to the top of his profession over the last few seasons.

Murphy – who vigorously contested the findings of France Galop following a test at Chantilly on July 19 – was recently confirmed as champion jockey in Britain for the second time with 142 winners, topping the table on June 8 and never being headed.

His maiden title in 2019 was the icing on the cake for a career that has seen the Cork-born rider collect Group One victories around the world on a regular basis.

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Further lustre was added to his CV this year with a first Classic triumph, courtesy of the Andrew Balding-trained Kameko in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. The victory came in the colours of Qatar Racing, for whom he was appointed number one jockey in 2016.

Murphy, 25, began riding in the UK in 2013 and quickly made an impact, crowned champion apprentice in 2014 – yet another beneficiary of the Balding academy which has also produced the likes of William Buick, appropriately his closest pursuer in this year’s title race.

His first Group One triumph came aboard Aclaim for Martyn Meade in the Prix de la Foret in 2017, and there have been many more since – including a famous success in the Japan Cup aboard Suave Richard in 2019, a win Murphy described as a “dream come true”.

He recorded three top-level triumphs in Britain in 2020, including Dream Of Dreams for Sir Michael Stoute in the Sprint Cup at Haydock.

He also rode his 1,000th domestic winner at the end of October on the Michael Dods-trained Perfect Sign, in the Qatar colours.

He told Sky Sports Racing afterwards: “I ride for great people, and it’s really nice to get my 1,000th in these colours.

“When you start out as an apprentice, you hope to just get one winner – hopefully I can ride 1,000 more in the future.

“I ride good horses all over the world – I’m very privileged and I have to remember that.”

Murphy is one of a new breed of jockeys who communicate well with the public, be it in television interviews or on social media, and that will stand him in good stead when the time comes for his return in March.

Murphy faces three-month ban after positive cocaine test

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy has been banned for three months by France Galop after testing positive for metabolites of cocaine.

Murphy, who successfully defended his title this season, failed a test at Chantilly on July 19 – having ridden The Lir Jet, owned by his bosses, Qatar Racing.

Having always strenuously denied he had taken any drugs, Murphy requested a B sample – and upon receiving the results, France Galop held a hearing on Wednesday.

The ban will run from December 11 until March 11.

Murphy won the 2000 Guineas earlier this year on Kameko for Andrew Balding
Murphy won the 2000 Guineas earlier this year on Kameko for Andrew Balding (PA)

In similar cases the punishment has been a six-month suspension, however, the panel were persuaded by a combination of a hair sample and Murphy’s testimony that the positive test arose from an unintentional, environmental contamination.

Murphy has announced he will not appeal against the suspension, which ends before the Flat Turf season begins in Britain on March 27.

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In a statement issued through the Professional Jockeys Association, he said: “I would like to thank France Galop and the panel of Commissioners for a fair hearing and for accepting the evidence I presented that I had not taken cocaine.

“This evidence included my hair sample results – the results of which I am making public today – and an expert witness statement from an eminent toxicology and anti-doping expert.

“Whilst I am obviously disappointed that I will still have to serve a three-month suspension, I am pleased the Commissioners accepted the evidence presented and am hugely relieved to have been cleared of taking cocaine.

“I respect the rules of France Galop, respect their decision and will not be appealing.  Despite my relief, I regretfully put myself in a situation whereby cocaine has been able to filter into my system through environmental contamination and must live with the consequences.

“As a professional sportsman I cannot put myself in a similar situation again.

“Even though I have been exonerated from taking cocaine, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Sheikh Fahad al Thani, David Redvers and Andrew Balding and thank them for their support.

Murphy has been crowned champion jockey for the last two years
Murphy has been crowned champion jockey for the last two years (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I also want to thank my legal team, particularly Florence Gaudilliere, who represented me in France but also Rory Mac Neice, the Professional Jockeys Association,  Johnno Spence and others who have advised and supported me throughout.

“Finally, I would also like to apologise to the whole Qatar Racing team, to the owners and trainers I ride for, my supporters, my weighing room colleagues and to my commercial partners as well as Racing to School.

“The next three months will give me much time to reflect on my actions, but I will learn from this experience and come back better and even more determined than before.”

Balding, who handed Murphy his big breakthrough as an apprentice jockey, said: “Oisin Murphy arrived at Kingsclere in 2012 and is very much part of the Park House family. I have been very proud to watch him thrive in the saddle, but also as an ambassador for the sport.

Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy following Kameko's Guineas win
Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy following Kameko’s Guineas win (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“Oisin is a kind, trustworthy and dedicated part of the team. I never doubted he was innocent, but I know this will really hurt him and I will make sure we do everything to help him return as a stronger and better person.”

The British Horseracing Authority confirmed it would reciprocate Murphy’s French ban.

A statement said: “The BHA is a signatory to the International Agreement between racing nations. All signatories to the Agreement must include within its Rules a provision that suspensions incurred in recognised racing authorities must be reciprocated.

“Therefore any suspension would automatically reciprocated as and when we are alerted to it by an internationally recognised body.”

Oisin Murphy confirmed as champion jockey once more

Oisin Murphy will officially be crowned Britain’s champion Flat jockey for a second time at Doncaster on Saturday after William Buick’s faint hopes of lifting the crown ended at Newcastle on Friday evening.

Reigning champion Murphy signed off for the season with a double at Southwell on Tuesday to take his tally for the campaign to 142, after which he headed for Kentucky to ride The Lir Jet and Kameko at the Breeders’ Cup.

Buick closed the gap to nine with a winner at Kempton on Wednesday and a double at the same venue on Thursday – but his championship ambitions were dealt a major blow after Thursday’s card was abandoned after three races due to fog, meaning Buick missed four rides.

With seven booked rides on the final afternoon at Doncaster on Saturday, Buick needed to steer home at least two winners from four mounts at Newcastle to keep the title race alive.

After finishing fourth aboard Mustarrid in the first race and second on Frow in division one of the seven-furlong handicap, Buick was relying on Strong Steps to win division two to make a title win mathematically possible.

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However, the Jim Goldie-trained eight-year-old could manage only sixth place, forcing Buick to admit defeat in his gallant pursuit of a first jockeys’ championship.

Murphy told Great British Racing: “I’m incredibly proud to have won a second champion jockey title and I’m extremely thankful for the team around me that have enabled me to do so – my agent, manager, driver, form-man, and family.

“It’s huge to win two jockeys’ championships in two years and beyond my wildest dreams. I tried my absolute best to do so and thank you to everyone who has helped along the way.

“I’m particularly proud of my strike rate for Andrew Balding. Sheikh Fahad allowed me to go wherever I wanted to and for that I must thank him and all the team at Qatar Racing too.”

Amongst his 142 wins, Murphy claimed his maiden Classic success when securing the 2000 Guineas aboard the Balding-trained Kameko.

Balding, who trained 45 of Murphy’s winners overall, said: “Oisin has been an integral part of Kingsclere’s success since he joined us as an apprentice, and this year has been no different.

“We have enjoyed 45 wins together this season, but the obvious one that stands out is of course Kameko’s win in the 2000 Guineas, that was such a special day for everyone involved. To also win another Group One in the Cheveley Park Stakes with Alcohol Free was a brilliant moment for the yard.

“Oisin set out to win the champion jockey title again this year and his hard work and dedication is exactly why he has achieved that goal. He is a great person to have around the yard and we are delighted for him.”

Like Murphy, Cieren Fallon is also a successful defending champion – becoming the first jockey to retain the apprentice title in 32 years.

Fallon, 21, who finished the campaign on 43 wins, including a first Group One triumph, aboard Oxted in the July Cup, repeats the achievement of Gary Bardwell who won consecutive apprentice titles in 1987 and 1988.

It is a double for Qatar, too, as Fallon was recently second jockey to Murphy.

Fallon said: “It’s an amazing achievement for me, it is something I set out to do after the success of last year. I’ve been very lucky to have the people I have around me to help me achieve these goals – my jockey coach, nutritionist, a great boss in Sheikh Fahad, William and Maureen Haggas, my mum and dad.

“They are all the best at what they do, so I’m very lucky to be in the position.”

He added: “Winning the July Cup with Oxted is obviously the greatest highlight of my year and a memorable day.”

Kameko pleases connections ahead of Mile mission

Classic hero Kameko delighted connections as he enjoyed a solo spin on the turf course at Keeneland ahead of his FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile assignment.

The 2000 Guineas winner endured a luckless run during the summer, but bounced back to form with victory in the Joel Stakes at Newmarket at the end of September and will be bidding to bow out in a blaze of glory in Saturday’s Grade One contest.

Regular rider Oisin Murphy was on board on Thursday morning as the son of Kitten’s Joy worked on his own, with the rider allowing him to open up coming round the bend and down the stretch in what was an eyecatching effort.

Murphy said: “He gets a bit lazy on his own, looking at everything, but he did enough. He had a little blow, nothing more than normal. He’s very fit and ready to go – all the hard work is done now.”

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David Redvers, racing manager to owner Qatar Racing was also trackside to watch Kameko’s gallop.

He added: “(I’m) absolutely delighted, he had a proper blow there, and more importantly Oisin is absolutely delighted. His skin looks great, he’s moving really well and loving that quicker surface, so it’s all to play for now.

“It’s beautiful ground, absolutely beautiful.”

Kameko claimed Classic glory at Newmarket back in June
Kameko claimed Classic glory at Newmarket back in June (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Redvers will welcome Kameko to Tweenhills Stud in Gloucestershire following his American run, with the colt due to start his stallion career in the new year.

“He will be coming straight to Tweenhills from the airport when he lands, so he’ll be coming to do the job he’s earned,” Redvers added.

Kameko was one of a number of European raiders in action, with Aidan O’Brien’s sizeable team – which includes the likes of Magical, Mogul and Battleground – all stretching their legs.

The Ballydoyle horses worked in two groups, with Battleground in the smaller batch, as O’Brien’s squad walked round the track anti-clockwise for a circuit before turning and cantering back the right way to acquaint themselves.

Frankie Dettori was also on course to pair up with New Mandate, whom he rides in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile also featuring fellow Ralph Beckett inmate Devilwala and Battleground.

Beckett was on hand to watch his duo enjoy a decent blowout ahead of their big-race date.

Champion Oisin Murphy reaches 1,000 winners milestone

Oisin Murphy reached 1,000 domestic career winners aboard Perfect Sign at Southwell.

The champion jockey achieved the landmark on the Michael Dods-trained juvenile with victory over Sealed Offer by two and three-quarter lengths – in the colours of his retained owner, Qatar Racing, edging closer to retaining his title.

As well as being successful in the UK, Murphy, 25, has had winners all over Europe and the rest of the world.

Born in Cork, he began riding in the UK in 2013 and quickly made an impact, being crowned champion apprentice in 2014.

He was appointed number one jockey for Qatar Racing in 2016, and in June this year secured his first Classic success – landing the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket with Kameko, in the Qatar colours.

Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “I ride for great people, and it’s really nice to get my 1,000th in these colours.

“The filly is in the sale on Thursday, so it’s a good moment.

“When you start out as an apprentice you hope to just get one winner – hopefully I can ride 1,000 more in the future.

“I ride good horses all over the world – I’m very privileged and I have to remember that.”

Murphy is already looking to the future, including on Kameko next week when Andrew Balding’s colt is due to run the last race of his career at the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

“We’ve been so lucky to find good horses over the years,” he added.

Kameko and Oisin Murphy will be heading to the Breeders' Cup next week
Kameko and Oisin Murphy will be heading to the Breeders’ Cup next week (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“Roaring Lion was a champion, as is Kameko, but to replace them isn’t easy – so we keep trying.

“To win my first Classic on Kameko was great – growing up as a child you watch all the Classics, and that was very special.

“Kameko heads to the Breeders’ Cup, and we took him to Kempton this morning and we went round left-handed so he could get used to that.”

Oisin Murphy makes it business as usual with gritty Berkshire Rocco success

Oisin Murphy earned some relief after a difficult 24 hours as St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco opened his account for the season in the Teentech Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot on Friday.

It was announced on Thursday that the reigning champion jockey had returned a positive result for metabolites of cocaine following a test carried out by France Galop at a meeting at Chantilly on July 19, where he finished second aboard The Lir Jet in the Group Two Prix Robert Papin.

Putting aside his off-track issues, the Classic-winning rider was seen at his strongest aboard the Andrew Balding-trained 1-2 favourite to deny Albafora by a head in the Listed prize over a mile and three-quarters.

Murphy said: “He ran fantastically at Royal Ascot when he was second to Santiago and he was second in the Leger on his last start. He is a really tough horse and I’m delighted he got his head in front.

“I would never question his attitude as he is really tough and tries very hard, but he has been on the go since the spring and he has danced every dance.

“He ran in the Derby trial (at Lingfield) and he has been really busy. He was possibly not up to his rating today, but he won and that’s what matters.”

Having been informed of his positive test result in August, Murphy, who subsequently organised a hair sample test, which the Professional Jockeys Association said produced a negative result, is now awaiting news on the analysis of his ‘B’ sample from France Galop.

Oisin Murphy at Ascot on Friday
Oisin Murphy at Ascot on Friday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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Murphy, who strongly denies any wrongdoing, said: “I’ve the best people around me and my agent is working tirelessly to try to find me winners and the jockeys’ championship means I’ve got plenty to focus on.

“Absolutely (got hope over the ‘B’ sample). Let’s take every day at a time and try to keep riding winners.”

As for Balding, he believes Murphy’s riding skills will not be affected whatever the outcome of the situation.

The trainer said: “It is a matter for France Galop, but all I can say is that I’ve known Oisin for a long time and he is a very hard-working, professional, talented jockey. I’m sure whatever comes of it, he will come out of it a high-class jockey and that won’t change.”

Though Berkshire Rocco was clear of his three rivals on ratings, Balding feels he did well to win given the testing conditions.

He said: “He has been the bridesmaid in a couple of big races this year. We were taking a bit of a chance, but we thought it would be nice to get his head in front and finish the year on a bit of a high. He has toughed it out, but he has been on the go a while.

“He probably wants better ground than that, so he has done well in the circumstances. He is a tough one, but I did think the filly was going to come and get him.”

Looking ahead to next season, Balding expects the son of Sir Percy to be seen to even better effect dropped back in trip.

He added: “I think he will be very effective over a strongly-run mile and a half. I don’t think he is an out-and-out stayer myself.

“He could possibly be a Hardwicke-type, but there are so many good options for horses like that. We will give him a nice, long break now and look forward to having a lot of fun next year with him.”

St Leger ninth Tyson Fury gave the form of the world’s oldest Classic a further boost when prevailing by a head in the Charlie Waller Trust Novice Stakes.

Kieran Shoemark steers Tyson Fury to glory
Kieran Shoemark steers Tyson Fury to glory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Richard Spencer, trainer of the 4-1 shot, who is named after the WBC world heavyweight champion, said: “He is a big horse and he probably didn’t handle that ground so we will probably put him away now until next year.

“I thought he ran very well in the St Leger, but they didn’t go quick enough for him. His fractions in the Leger were very quick turning in.

“Next year he will be a stronger horse and we could see him running from a mile and a half down to a mile and a quarter.

“He is an exciting one.”

Raaeq will return to Ascot later this month for a shot at the Balmoral Handicap on Qipco British Champions Day after routing his rivals in the Racing Welfare Handicap.

Trainer Brian Meehan said of the 13-8 winner: “He has just kept improving. He is clearly very talented and is only going to get bigger and stronger.

“He is in the Balmoral, we will speak with connections and discuss it but that seems the most likely next step.”

He added: “I couldn’t be more proud of the horse today as he is really starting to show everything we thought of him.”

Rochester House (6-1) enhanced his value before going under the hammer at the Autumn Horses In Training Sale at Tattersalls with a tenacious success in the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Gordon Carter Handicap.

Trainer Mark Johnston said: “He obviously stays very well. We took him out of the Cesarewitch as he is in the sales and the owner wanted something to show everybody he is still there rather than taking a pot-shot at the Cesarewitch.”

Oisin Murphy vows to prove innocence after testing positive for cocaine

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy has vowed to do “everything that I can” to prove his innocence after testing positive for metabolites of cocaine at a meeting in France earlier in the year.

Murphy was tested by France Galop at Chantilly on July 19, where he partnered The Lir Jet to finish second in the Group Two Prix Robert Papin.

The rider was informed in August of his positive result and subsequently organised a hair sample test, which returned a negative result, according to the Professional Jockeys Association.

A statement issued on his behalf by the PJA said: “On July 19, 2020 Oisin Murphy was selected for urine testing at Chantilly racecourse. On August 19 he was informed by France Galop that his ‘A’ sample had returned positive for metabolites of cocaine.

Oisin Murphy steered Kameko to glory in the 2000 Guineas earlier this season
Oisin Murphy steered Kameko to glory in the 2000 Guineas earlier this season (Nigel French/PA)

“On the same day, Oisin organised for an independent laboratory to undertake hair sampling to prove his innocence. The hair sample was taken on August 22, with the collection process filmed by the laboratory for authenticity.

“The laboratory analysed multiple 0.3cm segments of Oisin’s hair and on August 26 the results of the hair test returned completely negative for metabolites of cocaine, which was entirely expected as Oisin has never taken cocaine.

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“These results have been shared with France Galop and he awaits the results of France Galop’s analysis of his ‘B’ sample.”

Murphy maintains his innocence, adding: “I have never taken cocaine in my life and I will do everything that I can to prove that I have not taken cocaine.

“I want to thank those who are supporting me and in the meantime I want to keep riding winners and focus on my career.”

Murphy later admitted his relief the case was now public knowledge, although he would have preferred to have waited until the results of both tests were returned before commenting.

He told Racing TV: “I had to release a statement today as the story had got round, but it is a weight off my shoulders. I’d been riding to the best of my ability and had a great week last week, but something needed to be said today – and I’m pleased it’s out there.

“People will examine every ride now, and if I give one a bad ride, they’ll probably say it’s because of this, but I have a brilliant support team and I am innocent. I think those closest to me believe in my innocence, so I’ve been able to push it out of my head.

“I’ve got to trust in France Galop and try to carry on as normal. A lot of important things are going on in the world at the moment, and this is crucial in my career, but it’s out of my control.

“Of course (there was a sense of disbelief). I don’t come into contact with drugs, I didn’t ever expect to hear from France Galop, BHA or wherever else I ride around the world. I don’t even take pain killers – I take an inhaler, and that’s about it.

“I don’t know the next steps. I’ll have to hear back from France Galop, which could take a few weeks. In an ideal world the headlines wouldn’t have come out today – we could have waited until we had a clearer picture – but now we have to wait on the ‘B’ sample.”

Oisin Murphy celebrated Group One glory with Alcohol Free at Newmarket last weekend
Oisin Murphy celebrated Group One glory with Alcohol Free at Newmarket last weekend (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Murphy, who is retained rider to Qatar Racing, enjoyed a landmark first Classic victory aboard Kameko in the 2000 Guineas back in June and last week partnered Alcohol Free to Group One glory in the Cheveley Park Stakes.

He is also leading the way in the Flat jockeys’ championship with 111 winners to his credit at the start of racing on Thursday, 13 ahead of William Buick in second place.

The British Horseracing Authority has been informed of the matter, and a spokesperson said: “We have been made aware that there is an ongoing anti-doping matter in France in relation to Oisin Murphy, which is currently the subject of further analytical investigation.

“We will continue to liaise with the Professional Jockeys Association and France Galop, and assess any new information as it becomes available.”

Peslier to ride Stradivarius in Arc

Olivier Peslier is thrilled to have picked up the ride on Stradivarius in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The top stayer is on course to join fellow stable star Enable in Paris next Sunday, with the great mare bidding to become the first horse to claim a third victory in Europe’s premier middle-distance contest – under Frankie Dettori.

Having steered Stradivarius to win the Goodwood Cup on two occasions, Andrea Atzeni was due to be reunited with him.

However, he is expected to miss out because, under the current Covid-19 guidelines, he would have sit out the eight-day quarantine period on his return to Britain – and he is required to ride for retaining owner Sheik Mohammed Obaid at Newmarket the following week.

Olivier Peslier has been booked to partner Stradivarius
Olivier Peslier has been booked to partner Stradivarius (Steve Parsons/PA)

In his anticipated absence, Gosden has turned to veteran French jockey Peslier, who won the Arc three years running in the 1990s aboard Helissio, Peintre Celebre and Sagamix, before adding a fourth success aboard Solemia in 2012.

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Peslier said: “It’s fantastic to pick up the ride – Stradivarius is a super horse.

“There are a lot of very good horses in the race, of course, but I think this week there is a lot of rain coming – and I don’t think it will be a problem for him.

“He is a stayer and a very famous horse.

“I have the experience and know the track well. I am very confident, and we need to fight for that (fifth Arc win).”

Triple Gold Cup hero Stradivarius is a general 14-1 shot for the Arc, with Aidan O’Brien’s Love the marginal favourite ahead of Enable.

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy has not given up hope, meanwhile, of making the trip to Paris – where his potential mounts include Telecaster in the Arc – without having to quarantine on his return.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori have been lobbying the BHA, and particularly Dr Jerry Hill, to get dispensation – like professional footballers – that if they passed a certain number of Covid tests leading up to next weekend, and after the weekend and they flew privately etcetera and came into contact with literally nobody, would it be possible not to participate in the quarantine?

“We don’t have a firm answer yet, but we’re certainly hopeful – and it would be fantastic if we were granted that privilege, because I feel like we wouldn’t be putting anybody at risk.”

Oisin Murphy could ride Telecaster in the Arc
Oisin Murphy could ride Telecaster in the Arc (Simon Cooper/PA)

A definitive response appears imminent, Murphy adding: “We’ll have a clearer picture tomorrow (Monday).

“I hope I’ll be part of it. There’s Deirdre (in the Prix de l’Opera) and Telecaster – I love Telecaster, but until we know, I can’t go to connections and say ‘I’d love to ride your horse’.

“I think we’ll know in the next day or two. We do (need to), because it’s unfair on connections if things are left up in the air.

“These are top races, and you want to be sorted and confirmed for certain horses.”

Alcohol Free sparks Cheveley Park celebrations

Alcohol Free prevailed in a tight finish for the Group One Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Andrew Balding’s filly was less exposed than most of her rivals in the six-furlong prize, but Oisin Murphy gave her a positive ride.

The champion jockey was happy to take up the running from favourite Miss Amulet at half way and she was there to be shot at running up the hill.

The previously unbeaten Dandalla moved into contention briefly, but her challenge petered away and it was Richard Fahey’s Umm Kulthum, a winner at Ayr last weekend, and Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet who gave Alcohol Free the most to do.

Despite having just the third run of her life, Alcohol Free showed a willing attitude and while Umm Kulthum challenged on her far side and Miss Amulet on her inside, Alcohol Free, a sustained late gamble, won by half a length and a head.

The winner was given a 20-1 quote for next year’s 1000 Guineas by Betfair.

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Alcohol Free had finished second behind Happy Romance last time out, but turned that form around with Richard Hannon’s filly who was only fourth this time.

“She didn’t have a great draw at Salisbury and she showed a bit of inexperience and we knew she would come on for that,” said Balding.

“At the end of the day, Happy Romance was likely to be one of the favourites and we only had a couple of lengths to find on her. We had the option to run in the Rockfel, but Jeff (Smith, owner) was keen on going for the Group One and he was dead right.

“She has been on a fast track really, as she only started faster work about three weeks before she ran and we went to the races not knowing quite what to expect as she was the first two-year-old filly we had run.

“She won very easily there (Newbury) and the next logical step was to go for the Dick Poole and she showed enough there to warrant coming here.

“She should stay (a mile) I would have thought. She relaxes well. She acts better with a bit of cover. Oisin was intent that he couldn’t see any pace in the race and he didn’t want to be too far back.

“I’m well past giving him instructions. He did a fantastic job. Just for the yard, it is fantastic, as Jeff has been with us a long time, with dad (Ian Balding) and he has been a big supporter of ours, so it is great to get him a Group One winner again.

“She won’t run again this year. We will see how she does in the spring and we will make a decision nearer the time (whether she runs in a trial). She is obviously good enough to go (to the Guineas), so we don’t need to go to a trial to find out – it’s just whether she would benefit for a run in the spring.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates Alcohol Free's victory
Oisin Murphy celebrates Alcohol Free’s victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Murphy added: “Andrew has done a top job with her because he’s had to carefully manage her training regime. She’s very generous at home and he’s kept a lid on her.

“It’s brilliant for the owner and brilliant for the stable. We’ve a class of horse in the yard at the moment that we’ve never had before.

“She’s a Group One winner now and certainly fits into the 1000 Guineas category for next year because she hits the line well and she also relaxes. She’s a super filly.

“I don’t win enough Group Ones for Andrew and he’s supplied me with two this year. Hopefully we can continue to add to the tally.”

Joel joy for Kameko at Newmarket

Classic hero Kameko made a triumphant return to Newmarket with a comfortable success in the Shadwell Joel Stakes.

Andrew Balding’s stable star has raced over a variety of different trips since his career-defining victory in the 2000 Guineas – finishing fourth over a mile and a half in the Derby, over a mile in the Sussex Stakes and over a mile and a quarter in the Juddmonte International.

Back over the Rowley Mile for this Group Two assignment, Kameko was being niggled along by Oisin Murphy at the halfway stage, but displayed courage and class to respond to the champion jockey’s urgings and take over the lead from last year’s winner Benbatl.

Just as the 85-40 chance looked to have victory sewn up, Regal Reality finished with a flourish, but Kameko always appeared to have matters in hand and passed the post half a length to the good.

Benbatl was not disgraced in finishing third on his first start since the Saudi Cup in February.

Balding said of the winner: “It was not easy giving weight to good horses. He always hits a flat spot in his races and he stops a little bit in front. I thought he might hit the front a bit too soon.

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“It was going to be a long wait until Ascot and/or the Breeders’ Cup, if the ground is bad at Ascot, and he is a horse that could have done with a run in between.

“One hundred per cent that was as good as his Guineas win. There was no hiding place today with the penalty and proper, good older horses in the race.

“I don’t think we have had a fair crack of the whip with him this year. The horse has not had the campaign that we really wanted.”

Kameko (right) saw off Benbatl (centre) and Regal Reality to win the day
Kameko (right) saw off Benbatl (centre) and Regal Reality to win the day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Kameko is likely to make his next appearance in either the QEII at Ascot on October 17 or at the Breeders’ Cup.

Balding added: “I think there is no doubt he is a miler and that was a really good effort. He has done it on slightly slower ground today, but full credit to the horse – he is very decent.

“I’d like to go to Ascot, personally. At some stage it would be interesting to see what he could do on soft ground and the likelihood is it will be slower at Ascot than it was today, but that is the unknown.

“It will be the owner’s decision. He is a very valuable horse as a stallion and I don’t want to take the risk that might effect his appeal to breeders at stud.”

On whether Kameko will stay in training next season, he said: “I think that is a decision the owner and the Qatar Racing team will take shortly. I don’t have a final answer, but I think the likelihood is that he will be at stud next year.”

Murphy said: “I’m delighted for Sheikh Fahad (owner) and everyone. To give weight away to older horses is a very difficult task and he stuck his head out and did everything right in the race.

“He ran straight as a die. He is so tough and consistent and, on ratings, I think that will rate higher than his Guineas win as to give weight away to older horses shows what a top horse he is.

“He is a very intelligent horse. I took him down in a hack canter and I had him really quiet at the gate. If I lit him up at all, he would have travelled really on the bridle. I was happy for him to race a little lazily today.”

Saeed bin Suroor was satisfied with Benbatl’s run and an Ascot rematch could be a possibility.

He said: “Frankie (Dettori) said he needed the race. He will improve for the race. He is entered at Ascot in the Champion Stakes and the QEII and we will have a look at both and see. He will be ready for both of those races, but he doesn’t want soft ground.

“It is unlikely that he would go to America. I would say after Ascot he will go back to Dubai.”

Ranch Hand outbattles Withhold for Rose Bowl glory

Ranch Hand ended a lengthy losing streak when showing his battling abilities to secure a tenacious success in the Jockey Club Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket.

The Andrew Balding-trained Dunaden gelding stuck to the task well over two miles in the Listed contest to gain his first victory in more than a year.

Having raced in the last pair for much of the race, Ranch Hand forged on just outside the furlong pole before defeating last year’s winner Withhold – who was in front of him last time out – by half a length, to complete a double for champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

Balding, speaking away from the track, said of the 15-2 winner: “He is a home bred and I’m delighted to have won a Listed race with him.

“He was beaten by Withhold last time, but in fairness it is probably the first time he has had his conditions this season. Two miles with give in the ground is what he wants.

“He has shown a fair level of form on the Flat and I think we will now go jumping with him as he will be a lovely hurdler.

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“We used to keep the odd jumper in the yard, we’ve not had one for a little while now, but it was something everyone was keen to do.”

Lost In Space initiated Murphy’s brace and a double for trainer John Gosden when completing a hat-trick of victories with a four-length success in the Bentley Motors Nursery Handicap.

Gosden said: “He is a lovely little horse that has knocked up a hat-trick. He has done nothing wrong.

“He will be going to the sales in October at Tattersalls. He is a lovely horse to race in Hong Kong or America.”

Grand Bazaar (4-7) returned to winning ways to make it two for Gosden, and provide the concluding leg of a double for William Buick, when running out a two-length winner of the Federation Of Bloodstock Agents Handicap.

Gosden said: “He has been running well in big races and this one rather cut up, which I was surprised about. They just went a bit hard at Ascot last time. He is a genuine horse that tries hard. He might well come back for the Old Rowley Cup, but he could go further.”

Buick got the ball rolling aboard the Charlie Appleby-trained La Barrosa (4-7), who claimed the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes by a length.

Royal Champion earned quotes of 33-1 for next year’s Derby with William Hill and Betway following an impressive length-and-a-quarter debut success in the Rossdales EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes.

Roger Varian, winning trainer,said of the 100-30 shot: “He travelled into it nicely today and I think he got to the front plenty early enough for his first run. He probably got tired up the hill and a bit lonely, but I thought he did it pretty well.

“We expected good things from him and he has made a nice start. Hopefully it’s a start he can build on and be one of our nice three-year-olds to look forward to next year.”

Atzeni was also successful aboard Zoran (6-4 favourite) in the Newmarket Challenge Whip Handicap.

Lady Of Aran provided trainer Charlie Fellowes with his first winner in 47 days when opening her account for the campaign by a head in the British Stallion Studs EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap.

Fellowes said: “I’ve been on the cold list for a long time – too long. They’ve been running so well, they’ve just been unlucky.

“She always gives 120 per cent and Georgia (Dobie) gets on with her brilliantly and she really runs for her, so that was lovely to see. I’d love to get some black type with her.”

Oisin Murphy anticipating tough test for Kameko in Joel Stakes

Oisin Murphy is well aware of the task facing 2000 Guineas Kameko as he prepares to lock horns with Benbatl in the Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket on Friday.

Andrew Balding’s Kameko provided the reigning champion jockey with his first Classic success over the course and distance in early June.

Murphy also knows the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Benbatl well, having steered him to two of his three Group One wins to date, and when he dominated from the front in this Group Two contest 12 months ago.

Murphy said: “Benbatl is one of the highest-rated horses in the world and Kameko is a Classic winner who ran the fastest ever Guineas, so it’s a mouthwatering prospect.

“It will be hard for Kameko with the penalty – we have to give Benbatl 1lb – but there were limited options and he’s in super form and ready to run.

“I obviously love Benbatl. I only raced against him once and that was in the Juddmonte International when I won on Roaring Lion.

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“I’ve ridden Benbatl in work recently as well and he’s also in super form.”

Oisin Murphy knows Benbatl well
Oisin Murphy knows Benbatl well (John Walton/PA)

Kameko has plied his trade over a variety of different trips since his Guineas triumph – finishing fourth over a mile and a half in the Derby, over a mile in the Sussex Stakes and over a mile and a quarter in the Juddmonte International.

Murphy feels the return to a mile will see him at his best in what is a prep race for next month’s QEII at Ascot.

Murphy added: “He travelled very well in the Sussex and got into second place in the Juddmonte, having sat last, and then his run petered out at the line.

“Hopefully the ground continues to dry today – both he and Benbatl want top of the ground.”

Frankie Dettori and Saeed bin Suroor team up
Frankie Dettori and Saeed bin Suroor team up (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Following last year’s success, Benbatl floundered in the mud in the QEII at Ascot, but he bounced back with successive wins in Dubai earlier this year.

Third place in the inaugural Saudi Cup set him up for a tilt at World Cup glory, only for the Meydan showpiece to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Benbatl missed his intended comeback in last month’s Celebration Mile due to the prevailing rain-softened ground at Goodwood – and Bin Suroor is keeping his fingers crossed conditions on the Rowley Mile are not too testing for Frankie Dettori’s mount.

Bin Suroor said: “Benbatl is doing good. He did his last piece of work on the Watered Gallop here in Newmarket and he is doing really well.

“It is his first run in Europe since he went to Dubai and Saudi Arabia. We are looking for a good result from him.

“It’s a tough race, but he won it last year and it’s the right race for him.

“We don’t want the ground to be too soft – good ground would be good for him.”

Six runners remain after both Duke Of Hazzard and Urban Icon were pulled out on Friday morning, because of softening ground.

The field is completed by Regal Reality, Top Rank, Zabeel Prince and Tilsit.

Murphy straight back to business with 100th winner of the season

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy made a successful return from suspension when bringing up his century for the season aboard The Kodi Kid in the opening race at Bath on Monday.

Murphy received a seven-day ban for careless riding after steering Tiritomba to victory at Ayr last month and was forced to sit out last week’s St Leger Festival at Doncaster and Longines Irish Champions Weekend as a result.

He appeared to have an excellent chance of making a winning comeback aboard Andrew Balding’s The Kodi Kid, who was the 11-10 favourite for the EBF Novice Auction Stakes off the back of finishing second on his first two starts at Chepstow and Sandown last month.

Supporters of the market leader will have had few concerns, with The Kodi Kid travelling powerfully to the lead before readily pulling four lengths clear of Grand Scheme – providing Murphy with his 100th winner from 539 rides since the resumption of racing on June 1.

Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s great to get another one on the board for Andrew – he’s my biggest supporter and the horses are flying, so I’m thrilled.

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“It’s great to do it (ride 100th winner) for Andrew. This horse ran well last time and this was a good spot for him.”

Reflecting on his spell on the sidelines, he added: “I tried not to get too fat! I watched a lot of replays. Andrew had a Group Three winner and a Group Two winner – I’m obviously thrilled the stable has continued in super form.

“I went to Lake Como (in Italy), which was different. Obviously I don’t go on holidays, but it was super and it was great to see somewhere new.”

Martyn Meade saddled Viaduct to win at Bath
Martyn Meade saddled Viaduct to win at Bath (Adam Davy/PA)

It did not take Murphy long to claim his 101st winner of the campaign – producing the Martyn Meade-trained Viaduct with a well-timed challenge to emerge victorious in the Visit attheraces.com Handicap.

The 6-1 shot had been off the track since finishing a close-up third at Kempton in December.

Freddie Meade, assistant to his father, said: “We’ve found the key to him at home. He’s had a bit of time off and hopefully he’s improving.”

Tom Marquand is Murphy’s nearest pursuer in the jockeys’ title race after Saturday’s St Leger hero struck gold aboard Impulsive One for trainer William Haggas in the Home Of Winners At valuerater.co.uk Nursery.

It has been an excellent few days for Tom Marquand
It has been an excellent few days for Tom Marquand (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Runner-up on his last couple of outings at Newmarket and Windsor, the 5-4 market leader comfortably went one better.

Marquand has now ridden 78 winners this season, putting him one ahead of William Buick.

“I probably made a mistake on him last time – not getting him wound up early enough. I suppose Bath suited him that bit better, with a nice, stiff climbing finish,” said Marquand.

Looking back at his Classic triumph aboard Galileo Chrome, he added: “It still feels pretty surreal, to be honest.

“I know everyone says it’s a dream come true, but genuinely it really is.”