It remains to be seen whether Roger Varian’s colt, ridden by Sardinian-born jockey Andrea Atzeni, can become a Classic champion next year – he does not yet hold entries in the 2000 Guineas or Epsom Derby and had to be supplemented into this race a week ago after not featuring amongst the original entries.
Yet there is no doubt that 18-year-old Murphy is a champion in the making.
After his 9,260-1 four-timer on last month’s Ayr Gold Cup card, the only surprise is that he did not repeat the feat at even greater odds on Town Moor – another stride and he would have prevailed on John Quinn’s 11-1 dual-purpose chance Kashmir Peak. This classy four-year-old, well-beaten by the Bryan Cooper-inspired Our Conor in the JCB Triumph Hurdle in March, will revert to obstacles and line-up in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham’s Open meeting next month.
Murphy won the big sprint on Dungannon for Andrew Balding. It brought up the trainer’s first century of winners, the first time the feat has been done at his family’s historic Kingsclere stables.
He took the penultimate race on Highland Colori, his Ayr Gold Cup hero, before taking the finale on Soaring Spirits for the aforementioned Varian.
Murphy is likely to spend the winter work-riding in Australia for top trainer Danny O’Brien in order to protect his rapidly diminishing 5lb claim.
Now on the 36-winner mark, he attributed the win on Dungannon – co-owned by Balding’s father Ian (father of TV’s Clare) – to learning from his mistake at York earlier this month when he was too handy. “When he wanted to go, I knew I had to take another hold,” said Murphy with tactical subtleties that extend way beyond his teenage years. “I’m just thankful ‘the Boss’ gave me another chance.”
Yet Balding senior, the man who masterminded Mill Reef’s career in the early 1970s, has no doubts that Murphy is a fine talent who is comparable to William Buick, the two-time St Leger winner who served his formative years at Kingsclere.
“Yes he is,” said Balding when asked if Murphy was champion jockey pedigree because of his ability to make split-second decsions. “He is very intelligent, an extremely good horseman, just a very relaxed jockey.
“We’re very lucky to have him. Very grounded, delightfully quiet, good hands, confident but very polite. Someone with confidence and good hands is likely to settle a horse better than someone who does not have those qualities.”
Balding went on to explain that these qualities were self-evident when a young AP McCoy, 11 short of 4,000 wins over jumps after five wins at Aintree over the weekend, first arrived at his brother Toby’s stables in the mid-1990s.
As for the big race, racegoers were divided over whether Kingston Hill is a genuine Classic contender – or whether he simply handled the rain-softened mile trip better than his rivals.
A notable win for Varian, who had to shut down his stables in August after they were afflicted by a virus, he says he has an “open book” as regards to 2014 and whether the two-year-old will be better over further.
Yet Atzeni has no doubts. “He will stay a mile-and-a-half,” he told the Yorkshire Post.