Tommy Carmody-trained Fort Knox is bought by Sheikh Mohammed and will run in the Irish 2,000 Guineas

Johnny Murtagh heads to Chester today to team up with Willie Mullins’s Simenon

Johnny Murtagh crosses the Irish Sea for a pair of high-profile rides at Chester today knowing his chances of Classic success at home later in the month have received a significant vote of confidence from Sheikh Mohammed.

The burgeoning training operation at Murtagh’s Curragh stables received another boost yesterday with confirmation one of the world’s most powerful owners has purchased the Classic hopeful Fort Knox.

Although Fort Knox holds an entry in this Sunday’s Poule D’Essai Des Poulains at Longchamp, it is in the Irish 2,000 Guineas on home soil in over two weeks time that the brother to Dubawi Gold will get his shot at Classic success.

After two runs for Richard Hannon as a juvenile in 2012, Fort Knox was transferred by owner Andrew Tinkler to Ireland where Tommy Carmody officially holds the trainer's licence at a yard owned by Murtagh.


On his sole start to date this season, Fort Knox won a Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last month, sweeping from last to first under Murtagh for an impressive win.

The legendary jockey has stated his desire to eventually combine riding with training and said yesterday he is about to take the second part of the Turf Club’s trainers course next week.

The Tinkler-Murtagh-Carmody team only got off the ground at the start of 2012 but they enjoyed a memorable Irish Leger win with Royal Diamond last season.

Ruling out a trip to France this Sunday, Murtagh said yesterday: "He has been bought by Sheikh Mohammed and will carry his maroon colours in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. That's the race he will be trained for."

The former five-times champion jockey is at Chester today where he teams up with champion National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins for Simenon, topweight in the prestigious Chester Cup. Murtagh also rides the Charlie Hills-trained Premium in the Cheshire Oaks.

Aidan O'Brien has left three entries in this Sunday's French 2,000 Guineas – Festive Cheer, Flying The Flag and Gale Force Ten – while Jim Bolger has also left in three, including Leitir Mor who cut out the pace in last weekend's English Guineas won by Dawn Approach.

Two Irish hopefuls – Dermot Weld's Big Break and Aidan O'Brien's Hanky Panky – remain among the list of entries for the French 1,000 Guineas, the Poule D'Essai Des Pouliches. Hanky Panky, though, will be seen before that in tonight's seven-furlong maiden at Gowran. The half-sister to Giant's Causeway was surprisingly beaten on her first start of this term at Limerick but better ground should be a big help to her getting off the mark.
n Top National Hunt jockey Bryan Cooper faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after confirmation yesterday that he broke a leg in a fall at Down Royal on Monday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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