Murtagh targets Falmouth Stakes with star performer Purr Along

In his debut training season the once standout jockey is eyeing Group glory

Johnny Murtagh rode more than 100 Group One winners during a legendary riding career and could attempt to record an official first top-flight success as a trainer if Purr Along gets the green light to run in Friday's Qipco Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket.

Over the years the prestigious July festival has been a happy hunting ground for the Irish man who rode Frizzante (2004) and Starspangledbanner to July Cup glory. And he still holds a record three victories in the Falmouth during its 10-year history as a Group One with Soviet Song (2004-05) and Simply Perfect (2007.)

Purr Along is one of nine entries remaining in this week's Falmouth and the entry also includes other Qatar Racing-owned candidates in Just The Judge and Kiyoshi. But Purr Along has been a star performer for Murtagh, with a Group Three win at the Curragh and a fine third to the ante-post Falmouth favourite at Royal Ascot.

“We’re looking to work her on Tuesday and then make a decision after speaking to the owners. They have other possibles but I think they are pretty flexible in terms of having more than one runner if they think there’s a chance of winning,” said Murtagh


yesterday. “She’s in very good form and seems to handle any sort of going. She handled soft well at the Curragh and handled Ascot very well so all ground seems to come alike to her.”

Royal Diamond famously secured a Group One success in the Irish Leger and the stable stalwart is likely to try and repeat last year’s success in next month’s Leger trial at the Curragh before another attempt at the final classic of the season in September.

"He came back a little stiff after his run in the Ascot Gold Cup but seems fine and hopefully he can run in the Leger trial again," said Murtagh, who will be keeping a close eye on this Saturday's July Cup where his old ally Sole Power will have another crack at the championship sprint in which he was fifth last year.

Murtagh rode Sole Power 14 times in all, including when winning last year's Kings Stand, and recommended his friend Richard Hughes as a perfect fit for the sprinter when trainer Eddie Lynam was looking for a jockey at Royal Ascot.

Lynam's hold on the sprinting scene is illustrated by also having the 5 to 2 July Cup favourite Slade Power and Murtagh appeared to be leaning towards the younger horse as a possible winner.

“I was very impressed with Slade Power at Ascot [Diamond Jubilee Stakes] and for a July Cup I think he might just be the one of Eddie’s,” he said.

Irish sprinters dominate the betting for the July Cup with the Diamond Jubilee runner-up Due Diligence a 4 to 1 second-favourite to give Aidan O’Brien a fifth win in the renewal while Abbaye hero Maarek is also in contention but ground conditions could turn out to be too quick for him.

Murtagh's Curragh colleague Kevin Prendergast is looking further ahead to next month's Phoenix Stakes for his star juvenile Beach Belle who could take on males in Ireland's first Group One juvenile contest of the season.

"All going well she's going to run in the Heinz. If something changes we can always wait for the Moyglare [September 14th]," said Prendergast. "We decided not to go to Ascot. I just feel the ground in Ascot can get very firm and it is sometimes hard to get them back afterwards. We think our filly is pretty smart."

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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