No Melbourne Cup trip for York hero Sonnyboyliston

JOHNNY Murtagh has confirmed his Ebor and Irish St Leger hero Sonnyboyliston will not travel to Australia for this year’s Melbourne Cup.

This was former trainer Johnny Murtagh celebrating the Sky Bey Ebor win of Sonnyboyliston last month.

Just three weeks on from his lucrative success at York, the four-year-old provided the legendary jockey with his first Classic success as a trainer when getting the better of Twilight Payment in a thrilling finish at the Curragh on Sunday under Ben Coen.

Murtagh admits the Melbourne Cup is a big draw, but feels his stable star has done enough for this season.

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He said: “I spoke to the owners the other day and the horse has come out of the race really, really well.

Sonnyboyliston, pictured winning the Sky Bet Ebor, will not contest the melbourne Cup, says trainer Johnny Murtagh.

“But to be fair to him, he’s run in the Ebor and ran in a grueller here at the Curragh – a very strongly run race over a mile and six. It was a titanic battle with him and Twilight Payment and he came out on top.

“He’s been on the go for a long time and hasn’t let us down all year. I feel it’s time for him to have a little break now.

“He’s only four and is one of the top stayers in Europe at the moment. Stradivarius isn’t getting any younger.

“The Melbourne Cup was in the back of our minds, but it wasn’t the plan – and to go over there and take on the best in Australia, the Melbourne Cup has to be the No 1 target.”

Murtagh revealed Australian-based owners have been in touch with a view to purchasing Sonnyboyliston from the Kildare Racing Club.

But with increased measures in place for horses travelling Down Under, connections are keeping hold of the gelding for the time being.

“It’s very difficult to get down there full stop,” Murtagh added.

“It’s hard to get people there with the Covid restrictions. It’s hard to get down there as a trainer and enjoy the whole build-up and everything that goes with the Carnival.

“We’ve had a few offers. There were a few offers before the Ebor and there were a few offers after the Ebor.

“But everyone was saying ‘get him in the bone scan’ and ‘we don’t want to buy him unless he can come down here and run in the race’.

“He passed the vetting for Hong Kong last year, which is pretty severe, and it was just at the last minute that the guys decided to keep him and run him as a four-year-old, which was good for us.

“He’s a pretty sound horse, but he’s had a hard season and I just didn’t fancy putting him through all that at this point of the year.”

In other news, Davy Russell returns to the saddle at Downpatrick tomorrow after 11 months on the sidelines with a neck injury.

The dual Grand National-winning jockey, who began his professional career in North Yorkshire with the late Ferdy Murphy, has been out of action since a fall from Doctor Duffy at the first fence of the Munster National at Limerick last October.

He initially hoped to be back for Cheltenham and then Aintree in the spring.

Once he had missed all the big Festivals, Russell was determined not to rush back and instead made sure he was 100 per cent recovered before targeting a return to action.

The veteran rider’s comeback also coincides with the return to racing this week of Russell’s main trainer Gordon Elliott following a six-month suspension for bringing the sport into disrepute after a photo emerged of him sitting astride a dead horse on his gallops.