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Murphy rides racing's rollercoaster at Royal Ascot

·3-min read
Oisin Murphy celebrates on top of Alcohol Free after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot
Oisin Murphy celebrates on top of Alcohol Free after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot

By James Toney at Ascot

Big personalities Frankie Dettori and Oisin Murphy are the Chuckle Brothers of the jockey weighing room and while racing is a serious business, the latter finally got the last laugh at Royal Ascot.

Murphy is seen by many - including the man himself - as Frankie’s natural successor as the fans’ favourite when Dettori, 50, finally hangs up the saddle.

Despite a 25-year age gap, the pair have struck up a solid bromance, joking and taking pictures of each other as stewards walked a sodden course to decide whether nearly 30 millimetres of rain would force them to postpone a Royal Ascot day for the first time since 1964.

Three hours later and they splashed, splished and sploshed at close quarters in a thrilling finish to the Commonwealth Cup - racing’s past, present and future locked in a tussle for the ages under leaden skies.

Murphy, on Archie Wilson’s improving sprinter Dragon’s Symbol, flashed across the line just inches before his idol on Wesley Ward’s Campanelle, punching the air with joy and relief.

Within 20 minutes the result had been reversed by officials, another 20 minutes later and Murphy made no mistake as he piloted Alcohol Free to victory in the day’s other big Group 1, the Coronation Stakes.

Forget the horse's name, it was enough to make you reach for a stiff drink.

“Welcome to horse racing, I suppose that’s what makes it so exciting,” said Murphy, who leads the jockey standings with four winners this week, after also landing the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes on Quickthorn.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, it is what the stewards think. In Frankie’s words he said Dragon’s Symbol was the best horse in the race and does anyone else need an opinion?

“I was very disappointed for the connections of my horse; it wasn’t meant to be but thankfully I was able to make amends in the next race.”

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Murphy - who will pick up a four day stewards' ban for his Commonwealth Cup ride - boasts almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Dettori’s most notable rides, though he’d clearly like to forget the 50-year old’s 76th winner at the royal meeting.

But in this game there is always a cheer for every tear and Ward got to enjoy his 12th career success as Campanelle, last year’s Queen Mary Stakes winner, finally secured his upgrade.

American trainer Ward talks about Royal Ascot with such love and wide-eyed respect you half expect him to break into a verse from Jerusalem and check his phone for the latest cricket score.

For a man who admits he likes to work in his favourite tatty jeans, an old T-shirt and a baseball cap, Ward rather suits a top hat and tails.

“We’re elated, I’m just glad the stewards took their time to get it right,” he said.

“If we were in the States we’d be drinking champagne already. Both those fillies ran fantastic but I think it was a validated result.

“She really is special. It’s her first start since the Breeders' Cup and it is a testament to her ability to have that run on heavy ground. We didn’t know whether she’d like this ground but I knew she’d be okay on soft.

“Winning at Ascot, no matter how you get there, is just so special. This place has changed my life, if it wasn’t for Ascot my children would be going to community college, instead my eldest is off to law school.

“Lady Aurelia was very special but Campanelle is climbing right up there, if she’s not there already.”

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