2,000 Guineas hero Oisin Murphy proud of way racing has emerged from the lockdown

CHAMPION jockey Oisin Murphy has praised the whole of horse racing for showing all sport that there’s life after lockdown.

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy at Newbury earlier this week. Photo: Francesca Altoft.

The 24-year-old says he, and his colleagues, are in awe of the work that took place to ensure racing could resume on June 1.

From stable staff abiding by the two metre rule on social distancing to weighing room valets changing how they clean girths and tack, Murphy says the sport’s response has been phenomenal.

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In action at Doncaster today, one of his favourite tracks, he was speaking at the end of a week that began with him winning his first domestic Classic when Kameko got up on the line to land the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.

Oisin Murphy after winning last weekend's Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Kameko.

“Everyone has pulled together to abide by the rules and adhere to all the restrictions,” he told The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview.

“It couldn’t have gone any better, to be honest with you.

“There haven’t been any hiccups so far and everyone has played their part. It’s not easy, believe me, wearing a face mask, and trying to breathe, while controlling a 500kg animal in a race.

“But we all know that maintaining safety is important and it also shows the wider public that racing is aware of the situation in the rest of the country, with the lockdown, and is taking safety very seriously.”

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy is still getting used to wearing face masks in races. Photo: Alan Crowhurst.

This is evidenced by Murphy’s raceday reading. Before, this great student of racing would be studying the form book with meticulous attention.

Now, he says, it is the messages sent out by the Professional Jockeys Association on its app service – including video presentations on the procedures being deployed by reach racecourse.

And he credits the British Horseracing Authority and others with learning the lessons from Hong Kong, Japan and Australia where racing did continue during the lockdown.

The consequence, he says, is racing being in a fortunate position to hold its flagship meeting – Royal Ascot – next week just a fortnight after the sport’s resumption.

Even though crowds will be absent, he says it’s an opportunity to promote the sport – and celebrate its equine champions – with Norfolk Stakes contender The Lir Jet nominated as Murphy’s best ride of the week.

Newly acquired by his main owner Sheikh Fahad, he said the horse put up a “fast” time – he then adds “very fast” when making a winning racecourse debut at Yarmouth last week.

“The way the fixture list is, it is all about the quality of the horses now,” he says.

Yet, for Murphy, it is, in many respects, all about riding winners. Champion jockey last season for the first time, he’s already intent on defending his title and had won more races, and ridden in more contests, than anyone else before yesterday’s meetings.

Typically, he was more concerned about his five second-place finishes at Kempton on Wednesday night than the races he had won.

“I would like a lot less seconds,” he says before reminding himself about the hardships facing so many families.

But he remains buoyed by Kameko’s daring win in the Guineas, swooping late to deny Frankie Dettori on Wichita and the previously unbeaten Pinatubo.

Though no definite decisions have been made, Murphy expects the Andrew Balding-trained colt to line up in the Epsom Derby against Lingfield winner English King, a horse the jockey knows well, and Guineas fourth Military March.

And irrespective of whether the horse stays Epsom’s unique mile and a half trip, he believes Kameko will – just like his great and ill-fated 2018 champion Roaring Lion – be ultimately campaigned over 10 furlongs.

Asked if he was still on ‘cloud nine’, he laughed. “I didn’t have time to get up there,” said Murphy whose rides at Doncaster today includes Sir Michael Stoute’s Joyful Mission.

“I had 10 rides on the Sunday, eight or nine on the next days and riding out. It’s been full on, but I love it. I’m trying my best to be champion jockey again. I hope I can continue riding winners and keep everyone happy along the way. It’s good to be back.”

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