Oisín Murphy aiming to maintain unbeaten record on Irish hope Matilda Picotte

Duo to contest $2m sprint in Saudi Arabia; Australian champion Verry Elleegant dies in Ireland due to foaling complications

Oisín Murphy will try to maintain his 100 per cent record on board the Irish hope Matilda Picotte in a $2 million sprint contest on Saturday’s Saudi Cup card in Riyadh.

The Kieran Cotter-trained filly flies the flag in the Group Two Turf Sprint, part of the undercard to the world’s richest horse race, the $20 million Saudi Cup.

Aidan O’Brien has opted to skip the feature contest on dirt with his triple-Group One winner Luxembourg, who is instead an odds-on favourite to land another of the $2 million prizes on grass at the King Abdulaziz track.

However, on an international programme worth a massive $35 million in all, it is a rare shot at a hugely lucrative pot for the Cotter team.


Matilda Picotte has proved something of a fairytale success story for the Co Laois-based trainer, including finishing third in last year’s 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

She closed her 2023 campaign by successfully teaming up with Murphy for the first time in the Sceptre Stakes, before the new partnership also landed the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket.

Some layers make Matilda Picotte a 6-1 shot to scoop the most valuable prize of her career to date in a contest where Godolphin’s Mysterious Night tops the betting.

“What she has done for us is immeasurable to be honest,” said Cotter. “To say you’ve been involved in a superstar, which she is to us, is very special. She’s brought us to a place that we could never have dreamed of going, it’s mind-boggling.

“As for the race, I think she has a huge chance. With the greatest respect about all the well-regarded challengers in the race, our filly couldn’t give a hoot about them!

“It’s great to know that we’ve got a horse who will be giving 100 per cent and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

The trainer reported the filly’s syndicate ownership has turned down “serious, serious money” to buy her.

“There are around 10 who own shares in Matilda, which is lucky, as if it was just one there was probably enough money on the table from prospective buyers for them to be tempted,” he said.

“The prize money in Saudi is obviously a big draw, so hopefully we can get some of it.

“Oisín has been fantastic with her, and he can’t wait to get back on board again, so he’ll definitely be travelling over for the ride,” Cotter added.

In bloodstock news, it has been confirmed the Australian champion Verry Elleegant has died in Ireland giving birth to her first foal.

The 11-time Group One winner, including the 2021 Melbourne Cup, died due to complications delivering a foal by Sea The Stars.

“It is incredibly sad that we pass on the news on behalf of the ownership group that Verry Elleegant has passed away due to complications giving birth to her foal,” former trainer Chris Waller said.

Part-owner Brae Sokolski explained Verry Elleegant had been three weeks overdue and could not be saved after a breech birth.

“Obviously, I’ve had a lot of highs in the game, but this is the worst thing I’ve had to endure.

“I had to call Chris Waller and [jockey] James McDonald and you could hear in their voice that they were close to tears as she meant so much. We will all miss her.”

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Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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