ROYAL ASCOT is about big names, big races and big performances.
Oisin Murphy is certainly hoping for some big runs from his mounts this week with the leading rider set to pull on the silks of retained owners Qatar Racing. He will also be partnering several horses for new ally Martyn Meade.
We spoke to Murphy about his chances of Royal Ascot success and get a horse to follow for the season.
How important is Royal Ascot for you?
I don’t let it build up in my head too much but on reflection it’s probably one of the most important meetings of the year. It gets an awful lot of attention and from an owners’ and trainers’ point of view even having an outside chance means you have to take your chance because everyone wants a winner there.
You are retained rider for Qatar Racing. How much would a Royal Ascot winners in their colours mean for you and them?
It’s a very important meeting for Qatar Racing as they are partners with Royal Ascot through Qipco, so a lot of attention and focus goes on it. We have some good chances across the week and it would be great to have a winner or two for the boss.
You have also teamed up productively with trainer Martyn Meade. What sort of things should we be expecting from his yard this season?
He’s got a lovely team of horses and they’re really hoping for a big week at Royal Ascot. The ambition for them is to have as many Group horses as possible and I think there is a lot of talent in the yard. I think they’ll be winning a lot of good races this season.
You ride Advertise in the Coventry Stakes. How do you think he will get on?
He won nicely first time at Newbury and the form of that race has been franked several times since. He’s going there with a leading chance.
Can Eminent come back to form when he takes on Cracksman in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes?
Eminent was disappointing at Chester in the Huxley Stakes but he’s a high-class horse and we’re hoping he can bounce back in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. Obviously it’s going to be a very tough race but he capable to running very well in it.
Walk In The Sun looks an interesting contender in the Jersey Stakes. What do you think of him?
Walk In The Sun is one of a few horses Phoenix Thoroughbreds have transferred to Martyn. I’ve ridden him a few times at home and he’s a really lovely horse. He’s not run on turf yet but is unbeaten on the all-weather and we feel he’s a potential Group horse. There’s no reason he shouldn’t line up in the Jersey and be tested at that level, albeit it’s going to be a tough ask on what is just his third start.
Lightning Spear represents Qatar Racing in the Queen Anne. Do you think he can finally land that elusive Group 1?
He’s a multiple Group winner and while he went very close in the Lockinge last time, he’s yet to get his head in front in a Group 1. I know the horse very well and am very fond of him but this is going to be a very tough race – perhaps the strongest Group 1 of the whole year. Hopefully through the year we’ll get a chance to win a Group 1 and I know he’ll be giving his all at Royal Ascot to try and make the Queen Anne his.
Kings Shield goes for the St James’s Palace Stakes. Is he up to that level yet?
He’s a good horse. He didn’t handle the ground or track at Epsom. He wants the ground very fast – literally the quicker the better as he’s by Scat Daddy. John Gosden has always thought he was a nice horse and he wouldn’t be running the horse if he didn’t think he’d run well.
Roaring Lion will not be running at Royal Ascot after his third in the Derby. What did you make of that run and what is the plan for him?
It was agonisingly close and in a way it’s slightly better to be third rather than second as that would’ve been really hard to take. I’m looking forward to him dropping back in trip for the Coral-Eclipse as he’s come out of the race really well. For someone of my age to have a horse as talented as him to look forward to makes me very lucky. Hopefully he stays healthy and we’ll have plenty of big days with him this season.
And, finally, is there anything else you are looking forward to at Royal Ascot?
Not at Royal Ascot but I will give you a horse to follow. Confidant is a horse I think is well worth keeping an eye on this season. He was a good winner on his debut at Newbury as I don’t think he was fully wound up. He’ll be a lovely horse as the season goes on as he’s a big, strong horse. I haven’t pressed a lot of buttons on him but he gives me a good feel and I like him.