Murtagh faces dilemma over Leger or trip down-under with Diamond

Sudirman leads National entries

Over the years Johnny Murtagh has faced trappy big-race choices as to which horse to ride but with his trainer-hat on, he now appears to have a major dilemma over whether to allow Royal Diamond defend his Gain Irish St Leger title at the Curragh on Sunday or aim him at a potential €1 million jackpot in Australia next month.

Both Murtagh and owner Andrew Tinkler are deciding if the hugely-lucrative Caulfield Cup on October 19th is worth the sacrifice of bypassing the final classic of the 2013 season. Targeting the Australian race, and possibly the Melbourne Cup afterwards, means quarantine regulations rule out a tilt at this weekend's prestigious feature, worth a comparatively meagre €200,000.

A spokesman for Murtagh said yesterday evening: “No final decision has been taken as to where Royal Diamond runs next . . .A final decision is not likely to be taken until later in the week.”

Royal Diamond sprang a 16-1 surprise last year to seal a hugely successful first season for the Tinkler-Murtagh operation which had Tommy Carmody officially training the string. Murtagh took over the licence earlier this year and he put his stable star in among an entry of 18 horses at yesterday’s five-day stage.


Seven are from Britain, including last year's third Brown Panther, owned by former footballer Michael Owen, as well as the international star Red Cadeaux who was third in the 2011 renewal.

Just a trio of three-year-olds remain in the final Irish classic of 2013 – Galileo Rock, Leading Light, who are among the favourites for the Doncaster Leger 24 hours earlier, and Victory Song.

Sunday’s other Group 1 is the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes which has just nine left in, including the Phoenix winner Sudirman.

Ruby Walsh’s mount Laganbank has topweight in the 26,000 handicap chase at Galway tonight but crucially he looks like getting the fast ground conditions he favours.

Walsh will also be fancied to score on Darroun in the Beginners Chase but this one will have to beat Minella For Value. The 2012 Plate hero Bob Lingo is favoured by the conditions of the second chase while Dont Tell No One looks capable of stepping up.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column