Oisin Murphy is thrilled to have live chances in both the Betfred Derby and Oaks at Epsom next week as he bids to continue his excellent comeback campaign.
The three-time champion jockey has been in high demand since returning from a 14-month suspension for alcohol and Covid breaches and has already claimed Classic glory aboard the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Mawj in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Murphy has not yet won the Derby or the Oaks – but has high hopes of netting one or both this year with The Foxes and Running Lion respectively.
The Foxes, trained by Andrew Balding, cemented his Derby claims with victory in the Dante Stakes at York last week, while John and Thady Gosden’s Running Lion oozed class when landing Newmarket’s Pretty Polly Stakes and delighted her connections when working over just shy of a mile at Epsom’s Derby Festival Gallops Morning on Monday.
“We were obviously delighted with Running Lion at Newmarket. She came out of the race well and today she went down very relaxed,” said Murphy.
“We jumped off just inside the mile and the idea was not to go mad but to do a sensible bit of work. We let them flow down the hill, maybe from the six-furlong pole round Tattenham Corner.
“Once I got her organised, although she didn’t take too much organising, I let her go forward in the straight but I resisted the temptation to ask her for an effort because I thought the Pretty Polly with a little bit of dig in the ground wasn’t long ago.
“That race would have made sure she was very fit so today was more about having a nice away day and coming here relaxing and going home.”
Murphy is keen to reward the support of those who have supported him since his return to the saddle, adding: “I’m so relieved and thankful to the trainers and the owners since I’ve been back. I’ve ridden for over 40 different trainers in Britain and I think I’m the busiest jockey in England and probably in Europe thanks to them.
“The Foxes was great in the Dante and I heard he was perfect when he trotted up on Friday. Hopefully he has a smooth run between now and the race.
“I’m delighted for his owners (King Power Racing) as they have invested an awful lot of money into the sport and to have a live chance in the Derby is great.
“I’m really happy to be in this position. To have two nice horses to ride in those Classics is fantastic.”
Both Running Lion and The Foxes will head to Epsom with stamina doubts hanging over them with neither having raced beyond a mile and a quarter so far.
Running Lion’s top-class sire Roaring Lion had his limitations exposed in that department when third over a mile and a half in the 2018 Derby, and Murphy admits only time will tell whether it will be the same story for his offspring.
He said: “I don’t know if Running Lion will stay, but no one knows. She might just find the last two furlongs too far, but it would be a nice way to find out in the Oaks if I was still on the bridle approaching the three-furlong market like I was on her sire.
“We don’t know if The Foxes will stay as he is by Churchill and his half-brother Bangkok was a real 10-furlong horse who was by Australia, but it would be nice to find out on the race day.
“Both of them can race a little bit behind the bridle and you can never be 100 per cent certain (they will stay). Going to the start I’m pretty sure neither will waste any energy which is so important as it is a long way down (to the start).”
John Gosden hopes to be double-handed in the Oaks, with Running Lion set to be joined by last week’s Musidora Stakes winner Soul Sister.
The Clarehaven handler does have stamina concerns for Running Lion in particular, but is happy to roll the dice.
He said: “The Musidora winner and this filly are very legitimate trial winners. They won their trials, a Listed and Group Three with authority. They very much belong in the race.
“Stamina-wise you never really know until you go a mile and a half. Everyone thinks it is a downhill track but it rises 150ft before you think about coming down hill and of course that last section where it climbs again at the finish can catch a lot of them out on stamina.
“Both the fillies have a lot of speed. They’re never worked together, but they both won their trials well which is great and I couldn’t be more pleased with the pair of them.
“It’s hard to say until you know with the trip, they’re both bred to be mile-and-a-quarter fillies and the last part is always the key, we don’t know. You can’t practice a race over a mile and a half at home I don’t think.”