Johnny Murtagh looking to leave his mark on Royal Ascot as a trainer

Trainer looking to add to the 48 wins he racked up there as a jockey

Measure Of Magic comes home to win at Down Royal last July. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho/Presseye

Measure Of Magic comes home to win at Down Royal last July. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho/Presseye

 

Johnny Murtagh could have up to half a dozen chances to secure a breakthrough success as a trainer at Royal Ascot next week.

The man who partnered 48 Royal Ascot winners during a stellar riding career is keen to hit the mark in his different role at the world famous meeting.

“It would mean everything. I rode my first Royal Ascot winner, Ridgewood Pearl in the Coronation Stakes in 1995, and I remember it as if it was yesterday.

“It’s different as a trainer. You’re with them all the time. It’s a different kind of satisfaction altogether. They’re like your kids, really,” Murtagh said on Friday.

He will continue his popular broadcast role on ITV during the five days but it is the chances of some of his top horses that will take priority.

His first official Group One winner as a trainer, Champers Elysees, will try to bounce back to form in Wednesday’s Group Two Duke Of Cambridge Stakes.

The progressive Annerville will take her chance in the following day’s Ribblesdale Stakes while Create Belief (Sandringham) and Mirann (Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes) will compete on Friday.

On that same day, however, it is the speedster filly Measure Of Magic who will reach for Group One glory in the Commonwealth Cup.

The American filly Campanelle is set to start a hot favourite for the six-furlong event for three-year-olds having followed up her Queen Mary success last year with victory in the Prix Morny.

However, it is going to be her first start of 2021 while Measure Of Magic is two from two this season and can boast some of the best sprint form in Ireland.

Successful in a pair of Listed races (Committed and Polonia Stakes) named after star Irish sprinters of the past, she proved too good for another rising star in Logo Hunter at Navan in April before following up at Cork.

Measure of Magic was beaten in her only start at six furlongs as a two-year-old but that was on soft ground.

“It’s a big step up but she deserves a shot at it. She goes on most grounds but good to firm should be ideal. It will help her to get home. Her form is very good and she wasn’t stopping the last day. It’s a big ask but I’m looking forward to finding out where she fits into the sprint division.

“She really strengthened up over the winter. She surprised me the way she won at Navan but we were very impressed the way she won the last day. Her work is good, her weight is good,” Murtagh added.

The Commonwealth Cup was introduced in 2015 to provide a target for three-year-old sprinters.

Murtagh retired from the saddle the year before having won most every other race at the meeting and being crowned top rider for the week on five occasions.

His list of wins include five in the Ascot Gold Cup with both Yeats and Royal Rebel winning twice for him.

“I always went there thinking I could be champion jockey. I got a good feel for the place the first couple of rides I had around there so it’s a place I’ve always wanted to do well in,” he said.

Another possible runner for him next week is Lord Gorgeous, should he make the cut for the Windsor Castle Stakes on Wednesday.

Guaranteed a spot that day is Champers Elysees, winner of last year’s Matron Stakes, after which she was sold to top Japanese owner, Teruya Yoshida.

The filly has been beaten twice at the Curragh this year on soft ground but conditions are set to be very different at Ascot.

“She ran twice on soft ground and didn’t fire. Danny Sheehy rides her all the time and says she’s coming back to herself now so I’m hoping a mile, Ascot and fast ground will kick her season off properly.

“The Japanese, and the Yoshida family, are big fans of Ascot. So this was always her number one target for the early part of the year. Then Arc weekend is the other big target,” Murtagh commented.

Ben Coen, 19, and in his first season as stable jockey, will partner all the Murtagh runners.

Stradivarius was made odds-on by some firms to equal Yeats’s record of four Gold Cup victories next week after Friday’s forfeit stage.

Fourteen other horses were left in the stayers’ championship event including both Serpentine and Santiago, winners of last year’s Epsom and Curragh derbies respectively.

Serpentine was supplemented into the race at a cost of £30,000. He is set to be the first Derby winner since Blakeney in 1970 to line up in the Gold Cup.

Tony Mullins left in his popular mare Princess Zoe while Joseph O’Brien can call on both the Melbourne Cup hero Twilight Payment and Master Of Reality.

Stradivarius returned to action in April with a Sagaro Stakes victory at Ascot.

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