Three-time champion jockey Oisin Murphy hopes he can continue his whirlwind return to the saddle after admitting it is ‘fantastic’ to be heading to Epsom Downs with two live chances of securing breakthrough victories in the Betfred Derby and Betfred Oaks.
The 27 year old expressed his delight to be riding The Foxes in the Betfred Derby and Running Lion in the Betfred Oaks after partnering the latter in a piece of work around the iconic track at the Derby Festival Gallops Morning organised by The Jockey Club today.
Working just under a mile, the John and Thady Gosden-trained daughter of Roaring Lion, who claimed the Listed Howden Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on her last start, appeared to handle the track well before pulling clear of her lead horse under Murphy.
And having already secured Classic glory this year on his return from serving a 14-month ban for alcohol and Covid breaches with victory aboard Mawj in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Group One-winning rider hopes he can add more big race glory to his impressive CV.
Murphy said: “We were obviously delighted with Running Lion at Newmarket. She came out of the race well and today she went down very relaxed.
“We jumped off just inside the mile and the idea was not to go mad but to do a sensible bit of work.
“We let them flow down the hill, maybe from the six pole round Tattenham Corner.
“Once I got her organised, although she didn’t take too much organising, I let her go forward in the straight but I resisted the temptation to ask her for an effort because I thought the Pretty Polly with a little bit of dig in the ground wasn’t long ago.
“That race would have made sure she was very fit so today was more about having a nice away day and coming here relaxing and going home.
“I’m so relieved and thankful to the trainers and the owners since I’ve been back. I’ve ridden for over 40 different trainers in Britain and I think I’m the busiest jockey in England and probably in Europe thanks to them.
“The Foxes was great in the Dante and I heard he was perfect when he trotted up on Friday. I presume he will be cantering up this morning and hopefully he has a smooth run between now and the race.
“I’m delighted for his owners as they have invested an awful lot of money into the sport and to have a live chance in the Derby is great.
“I’m really happy to be in this position. To have two nice horses to ride in those Classics is fantastic.”
The one big question The Foxes and Running Lion still have to answer is to prove they stay a mile and a half, however although their breeding suggests they might be better over shorter Murphy feels that will give themselves every chance of seeing out the trip.
He added: “I don’t know if Running Lion will stay, but no one knows. She might just find the last two furlongs too far but it would be a nice way to find out in the Oaks if I was still on the bridle approaching the three like I was on her sire so that would be great.
“We don’t know if The Foxes will stay as he is by Churchill and his half-brother Bangkok was a real 10 furlong horse who was by Australia, but it would be nice to find out on the race day.
“Both of them can race a little bit behind the bridle and you can never be 100 per cent certain (they will stay). Going to the start I’m pretty sure neither will waste any energy which is so important as it is a long way down (to the start).
“It is a mile and a half to post and if they take you on and don’t settle for even a furlong, particularly when you climb from when you come out of the paddock to the mile as you are climbing the whole way, it can be tricky.
“It is really important they go to post relaxed and then in the race they relax. I think they will both give themselves a good shot at staying.”
Having partnered Running Lion’s late sire Roaring Lion to finish third in the 2018 Derby the Lambourn based rider believes she shares some of his traits and he is confident she can follow a similar trajectory to him.
He added: “I’ve ridden in her in both her starts since I returned and she hasn’t turned a hair. She has been so chilled out and that is a great characteristic and he certainly had that.
“It did surprise me a little bit (how well she won at Newmarket) but her work on the Rowley Mile was really nice without having to ask her to extend. I hope we can get really excited.
“Her sire improved from race to race as a three year old. His best ever performances were the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes so I hope that she can progress with racing as well.”
Echoing the same stamina concerns regarding Running Lion was her joint-trainer John Gosden, who alongside his son Thady, will also saddle recent Tattersalls Musidora Stakes scorer Soul Sister in the Betfred Oaks on Friday 2nd June.
He said: “The Musidora winner and this filly are very legitimate trial winners. They won their trials, a Listed and Group Three with authority. They very much belong in the race.
“Stamina-wise you never really know until you go a mile and a half. Everyone thinks it is a downhill track but it rises 150ft before you think about coming down hill and of course that last section where it climbs again at the finish can catch a lot of them out on stamina. Both the fillies have a lot of speed.
“They’re never worked together, but they both won their trials well which is great and I couldn’t be more pleased with the pair of them.
“It’s hard to say until you know with the trip, they’re both bred to be mile and a quarter fillies and the last part is always the key, we don’t know. You can’t practice a race over a mile and a half at home I don’t think.”
Should Running Lion fail to see out the trip in the Betfred Oaks a quick turnaround could be on the cards with Gosden senior hinting that a trip to France to contest the Prix de Diane over a mile and quarter at Chantilly on June 18th.
He said: “We were very happy to come here (with Running Lion), she’s taken the race well and I’ve managed to run in the Oaks and the Prix de Diane before.
“We’ve won the Prix de Diane once nine days later and once 14 days or so later, so you can run in both and it isn’t an impossibility.
“We’ve done it twice and won it twice having done it (Star Of Seville 2015 and Nashwa 2022), so I have the confidence to see how they run here and consider both for that.”