OISIN MURPHY was convinced that Benbatl needed dropping back in trip after finishing fifth in last year’s Epsom Derby to Wings Of Eagle.
The horseman’s instincts were correct. Saeed bin Suroor’s horse provided Murphy with a first Royal Ascot win when landing the Hampton Court Stakes over a mile and a quarter.
And, following a successful winter campaign in the Middle East, Benbatl and the in-form Murphy – buoyed by Corinthia Knight’s high-profile success at Lingfield yesterday – seek even greater riches in today’s Dubai Turf at Meydan.
Part of the prestigious Dubai World Cup card, horses are racing for a £2.6m jackpot in this nine furlong contest.
The winner of his first two starts at Meydan this year, Benbatl was narrowly denied by today’s adversary Blair House last time out when denied a clear passage.
“Sometimes in racing, as in life, things don’t always go to plan,” wrote Murphy, 22, on his British Champions Series blog.
“That was certainly the case in Meydan earlier this month where my ride Benbatl had everything against him from the start.
“His wide draw, stumbling start and the subsequent slow pace meant I found myself him stuck out wide on him for most of the race.
“I didn’t give him the best ride that day and with the extra ground we covered he did very well to get as close as he did to the winner.
“I felt I was on the best horse in the race, but sometimes things don’t go your way.
“Thankfully Saeed Bin Suroor has kept me on board for ‘Super Saturday’ though and I can’t wait to get back on him.
“It won’t make me any more nervous before the race, in fact it will change very little.
“I’ve done my homework, know how I’m going to ride him and if it doesn’t go your way on the day, then that’s just racing. I may be slightly more determined come race time, but the plan remains the same.”
The nephew of Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey and trainer Jim Culloty, victory would reward Murphy for a flying start to 2018 as the former champion apprentice confirms his status as one of the country’s elite Flat riders.
The prolific rider accrued nearly 50 winners on the all-weather circuit here – despite commuting to Dubai once a week for rides on high-profile horses like Benbatl – and this culminated with Corinthia Knight’s stirring victory on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at a rain-soaked Lingfield.
Trained by up-and-coming trainer Archie Watson, the win in the six furlong race for three-year-olds was the victorious horse’s fourth this year for the Ontoawinner syndicate whose yellow and white silks were carried to dual Group One success by Karl Burke’s Quiet Reflection.
And there’s no reason why the horse can’t prosper on the turf where Murphy will be hoping Benbatl can contest the top middle distance races and that Roaring Lion, second in last season’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, develops into a genuine Classic contender for trainer John Gosden and owners Qatar Racing.
Murphy said: “I’m thrilled for Archie and his staff. It’s a valuable race and he’s already a Listed winner.
“He’s quite good on turf as well, but he just hasn’t run as much on it.
“He’s a nice horse to have and is a flag-bearer for the yard.”
As for Watson, he said: “He is a very good sprinter and he is getting better.”
Like Murphy who won the 2015 Ebor on Litigant, another rising star of the weighing room is Adam McNamara who won York’s historic handicap 12 months later on Heartbreak City.
Previously attached to the Malton stable of Richard Fahey, McNamara, has moved south in search of further opportunities and his move paid off when winning the apprentice riders’ race – the opening contest on Lingfield’s All-Weather Championships Finals Day – on Brian Meehan’s Take The Helm.
“I went to ride him out last Friday and he felt in fantastic form, and I knew he was bouncing – he’s made my job easy,” said McNamara who was 21 earlier this month.
McNamara main trainer is Roger Charlton. “I am loving the new job,” he said. “Mr Charlton has been very good to me. He has a lovely bunch of horses and fantastic staff – they have made the transition very easy.”