Royal Ascot: Top jockey Oisin Murphy’s tribute to tragic young eventer

OISIN Murphy was crowned leading jockey at Royal Ascot for the first time – and dedicated his triumph to teenage eventing star Tiggy Hancock, who was killed in a riding fall in Dublin last week.

Foxes Tales ridden by Oisin Murphy celebrate winning the Golden Gates Stakes, during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse.
Foxes Tales ridden by Oisin Murphy celebrate winning the Golden Gates Stakes, during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse.

It was a typically magnanimous gesture by the dual champion jockey who arranged for all riders to sport yellow ribbons on Saturday, the meeting’s final day, in memory of 15-year-old Hancock.

Murphy secured the accolade for the first time when Foxes Tales won the Golden Gates Handicap – the penultimate race of the meeting – to take his tally to five.

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This success for King Power Racing was just sufficient to hold off Ryan Moore, one of the most dominant Royal Ascot riders of recent times, whose final day treble was headlined by Sir Michael Stoute’s Dream Of Dreams finally landing the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the third time of asking.

Oisin Murphy celebrates after winning the Golden Gates Stakes on Foxes Tales, during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse.

As Foxes Tales was pulled up, Murphy’s arm was held aloft in triumph by Frankie Dettori – showing that there were no hard feelings after the pair were involved in a controversial finish to the Commonwealth Cup on Friday.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Tiggy’s family and friends, it’s such a tragic loss,” reflected Murphy.

“I grew up riding ponies myself, there’s no words to describe what they must be feeling right now. We’re all thinking of them right now and all we can do is send our thoughts and prayers. It puts life into perspective.”

As he looked back on a week that saw Group One success on Alcohol Free in the Coronation Stakes, a humbled Murphy added: “When I was a child, I watched this meeting with my parents, I never thought this honour could belong to me but the last few days have been incredible.

Queen Elizabeth II and racing manager John Warren (centre) speak with jockey Oisin Murphy during day five of Royal Ascot

“It’s absolutely beyond my wildest dreams, Ascot is the Olympics of our sport and just a big thanks to everyone who has given me a ride on these fast horses.”

Top trainer at the showcase meeting was John Gosden and his son Thady, who now hold a dual licence. Gosden senior was quick to praise the Ascot executive for coping with Friday’s monsoon weather – and welcoming back 12,000 spectators a day and whose number included the Queen on Saturday.

Both he and Murphy were amongst a number of luminaries to enjoy prolonged conversations with a beaming Queen as she attended the meeting for the first time since 2019. She, like so many of the racegoers, were simply pleased to be back on a racetrack – albeit in limited numbers.

“Fabulous racing and horses seemed in great order, and I think it’s a testament to willpower that it’s been pulled off with Government blessing to go ahead, and I think it’s a very safe environment,” said Gosden.

Royal Ascot was a designated Government test event for the return of spectators.

“Of course, we are in big, open spaces, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, but it was very safe at the same time.”

As the Covid tests undertaken by all racegoers are studied, the hope will be that this flagship fixture paves the way for all racecourses, and other sporting venues, to welcome back fans in much more significant numbers.

Ascot chief executive Guy Henderson said: “First of all, it was a real boost to be accepted as part of the Government’s Events Research Programme. The truth of the matter is that the events industry across all sectors needs people to be sustainable.

“We have learnt from Covid-19 that human beings are basically social creatures, and we need these events to help us open up. This week has felt like coming out of hibernation for most of us and it has been absolutely wonderful. We aimed to deliver what I would call an ‘authentic little Royal Ascot’ and I hope everybody enjoyed it.”

Looking ahead to next year, Henderson added: “Royal Ascot 2022 in The Queen’s platinum jubilee year cannot come too soon. What we are really looking for is a smooth growth path in the second half of this year.

“We have quite a lot of uncertainty in July, but we are hoping we will get clarity on the precise date that we can move into Step 4 and exactly what the regime will be for major events in Step 4.”

They are sentiments that will be shared and endorsed by every sporting administrator in the country.