Our new columnist Oisin Murphy reveals 20 horses that he's looking forward to riding this year once racing is back under way. Read him on Sporting Life every Friday.
Hi everyone I hope you're all doing as well as can be at the moment.
As I said in last week's opening Sporting Life column I'm very lucky in that I live in the countryside and am still able to go to work - to a few yards at least. I haven't been able to get everywhere, I can't wait to get back on the likes of Kameko and Telecaster for example, but I was riding out at John Gosden's on Thursday morning which certainly whets the appetite for riding top-class horses at the races again.
We still don't know when racing will return in the UK, but hopefully it won't be long, under safe and strict social distancing conditions, of course.
Here are 20 horses I'm looking forward to riding when racing does resume.
All the best,
Arctic Vega (3yo, Andrew Balding, PDR Properties)
He won first time out at Kempton when I was in Japan. He’s a beautiful horse who has quite a high knee action, so he’ll want to get his toe in a little bit. A son of Lope De Vega, he’s only had the one run but I think he can progress through the grades, through the handicaps and be a horse to follow for sure.
Benbatl (6yo, Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin)
Along with Roaring Lion he’s the highest-rated horse I’ve ever ridden and I love Benbatl, we’ve been on a journey together since 2017. He’s taken me all around the world, I’ve won two Group Ones on him, I was third in the Saudi Cup on him on Dirt, he’s just a fantastic horse. He’s got a heart of gold and if he was human he’d be your best friend, if there was ever a horse that you go to bed dreaming about every night it’s him. He’s got an incredibly high top speed that he can sustain for a long period of time, he’s so tough. He’s bred to be a champion being by Dubawi out of Nahrain, he’s a big boy and an absolute star. Hopefully there are more big days to come.
Darain (3yo, John Gosden, Qatar Racing)
He’s training very well. He’s galloped on the grass in the last couple of weeks and Kieran O’Neill rides him most days and he’s been happy with him. A full-brother to Too Darn Hot, he’s a different type to him, more of a staying type, and will probably be starting out over a mile and a quarter, while ultimately his best trip could be a mile and a half. But actually, on pedigree he’s bred to be that type of horse, Too Darn Hot was just a bit of a freak. Hopefully he stays sound now as we’re obviously all very excited about him and the world is his oyster at this stage.
Dashing Willoughby (4yo, Andrew Balding, Mick and Janice Mariscotti)
I’m a huge fan of Dashing Willoughby, he stays well, he’s very uncomplicated. At Ascot I kicked him out of the gate to get my position and then I was able to switch him off after going two furlongs and that’s really difficult as at Ascot you’re straight into the turn and then you’re going downhill. The horse clearly has a fantastic constitution, he danced every dance last year, ran in all the big races. I’d be quite hopeful he can compete at the top level dropping back to a mile and a half as well. He doesn’t have a fabulous turn of foot but he has a high cruising speed and he can sustain it for a long period of time. Like lots of Nathaniels, he likes to get his toe in, so he’ll be a fantastic horse for later on in the autumn. At the same time he does run well on fast ground as he’s quite light on his feet, he doesn’t carry lots of fat, and he’s a horse that can race often. He’s my staying horse to look forward to, the Cup races are worth an awful lot of money and I’m sure he’ll be targeted at those, but the option is there to come back and mix trips.
Deirdre (6yo, Mitsuru Hashida, Toji Morita)
She’s back in training in the UK and I saw her this morning. She looks really well and I absolutely love her. I don’t know what the plan is at the moment but she’ll be ready for whenever they get racing. It would be lovely to go back to Goodwood for the Nassau Stakes and on fast ground she’s an absolute star. I’d be very hopeful, now that she’s freshened up after Saudi Arabia, that she’s ready. She clearly under performed out in Saudi Arabia, she tanked through the race as she’s so much better than all of them, but it just wasn’t to be. Her big target is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but I’d be worried for her on slow ground, she wants top of the ground and the harder the better for her.
Enemy (3yo, John Gosden, Qatar Racing)
Enemy’s a lovely horse. He won over seven furlongs at Ascot first time out and he’s done well from two to three. He doesn’t carry loads of condition but he has strengthened up and he’s also got a little bit taller. He’s a horse with quite a lot of pace and I view him as a miler, I don’t think he’ll stay much further than that. I am quite excited about him, I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t above average although we’ve no idea how good he is yet. John doesn’t test them too hard on the gallops and he’s only had one race, but I really like him. He’s from a brilliant family, he’s out of Prudenzia which makes him a half-brother to proven Group One winners like Magic Wand and Chiquita.
English King (3yo, Ed Walker, Bjorn Nielsen)
Ed Walker was very good to me last year and he has a very nice horse called English King. I really like him, he’s a son of Camelot, and although I haven’t ridden him in a race yet I have ridden him in a gallop and he’s very exciting. He’s a proper staying type, typical Camelot, loads of energy and I think he’s quite a nice horse.
Heart Reef (3yo, Ralph Beckett, Qatar Racing)
She’s an Australia filly that won first time out at Haydock last September. She was beaten on her second start but she got a little bit hairy and it was late in the year, she possibly wasn’t at her best so I’d forgive her that. She hasn’t grown much over the winter, she’s a very similar type to what Ralph does incredibly well with, she’s going to be a mile and a half type filly and hopefully she’ll pick up black type.
Higher Kingdom (3yo, Archie Watson, Clipper Logistics)
He’s owned by Clipper Logistics so obviously Danny Tudhope and Kieran Shoemark have first call on him, but I love him. Archie’s done a great job training him and he’s in a great place at the moment. He’s a son of Kingman that just looks like he’s going to improve and improve. He’s not a flashy work horse, he just does enough in the mornings, but he’s in a great place mentally and physically at the moment.
Kameko (3yo, Andrew Balding, Qatar Racing)
I love this horse. I rode him a lot last year in his work and it’s always a good sign when you’re going into Andrew Balding’s once a week and he’s putting you on the same every time. He improved a lot with racing last year. He’s very Kitten’s Joy in that he carries quite a lot of weight all the time and he takes his gallops very well. I only got to sit on him twice this year before lockdown and I was pleased with him, he’s got very strong. He’s got a super temperament, he’s very relaxed, so he might not sparkle in his work on a day-to-day basis, but when he gets to the track or he gets on grass he’s a different horse. I’m really excited about him, please God he stays in one piece as I think he can have a big year. Trip-wise, I’d be very confident he will stay a mile and a quarter, whether he’ll truly stay a mile and a half I don’t know, he does have an awful lot of pace. If he does he’ll be an exceptional racehorse. He’s like Roaring Lion in several ways, including in his temperament, he never pulls and he’s super cool at the start.
Military March (3yo, Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin)
He’s a beautiful big horse. I was very pleased with him last year, especially when he won the Group Three Autumn Stakes. I think he’ll stay well, he’ll definitely stay a mile and a quarter. I don’t know whether he’ll stay a mile and a half but I’d be more confident that he will than he won’t if that makes sense. I really like him, he’s got a super temperament, he’s really tough, he ticks every box.
Run Wild (3yo, John Gosden, Tweenhill Fillies & Merdian Int)
Run Wild has always been a little bit hot-headed, Maisy rides her at home and has done a super job at getting her to relax. She wears a hood at home but she won’t wear it at the races, it’s just to keep her calm. She did a little bit on the grass with Rab Havlin the other day and he was very happy with her. She’s not a quickener, she’s a galloper, but she looks a miler type as she needs to relax in her races. I felt she should’ve won the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster last September, James Doyle rode us to sleep on Powerful Breeze. But Run Wild has done very well physically, she’s very strong, very tall, she’s superior, physically, to most fillies and I’m quite excited about her.
Selino (4yo, James Fanshawe, Qatar Racing)
He absolutely bolted up at Wolverhampton in October by 10 lengths and was a private purchase for Qatar Racing. Sheikh Fahad wants another Melbourne Cup-type horse, he’s obviously won the Melbourne Cup before with Dunaden but that was in the Pearl Bloodstock colours. He looks like the perfect horse to do well and develop into a Cup horse, James Fanshawe’s a fantastic trainer and does well with any type of horse, but he does particularly well with these late-maturing types. I haven’t been in to sit on him, I possibly will do soon, but I’m really pleased we purchased him and I hope he’s going to go on and do very well.
Starcat (3yo, Hughie Morrison, Martin Hughes & Michael Kerr-Dineen)
He’s by Lope De Vega and I rode him in work a bit last year. Unfortunately for me he broke his maiden at Kempton when I was in Japan, but he’s owned by very nice people who have been big supporters of mine since I was an apprentice and I reckon he’s a proper horse. He bolted up in a mile maiden and there was a bit of a gamble on him that day, I think all the lads in the yard knew he was pretty good. He’s very solid, a mile and a quarter type and he’s another one that could be lining up in some decent races. He’s well named, Starcat, as he is a star, a beast of a horse, very strong, loads of bone, you couldn’t miss him walking around the paddock. Watch out for him.
Telecaster (4yo, Hughie Morrison, Castle Down Racing)
Telecaster is training well. Hughie Morrison has been really pleased with him. I’m itching to go and sit on him but obviously with the lockdown I haven’t been able to go there and ride him yet. I’m not sure what route Hughie wants to go down with him, it’ll obviously depend on the race programme. I would say it would be unlike Hughie to put him straight in a Group One, he’ll want to get a confidence-building run into him and let him enjoy a race first. But you look back at that Dante win and the field he beat, it was a Group One in everything but name. He’s beaten the best three-year-olds in training and he did it well. For me, he didn’t stay in the Derby. He cantered round, but also he was quite immature as a three-year-old, he only got going at the end of March, so it possibly came too soon. There’s only one Derby so you have to go for it and he was training very well in the build-up to Epsom, but it just didn’t work out. Hopefully he can bounce back this year.
The Tin Man (8yo, James Fanshawe, Fred Archer Racing – Ormonde)
He’s such a star. I believe he should’ve won the Haydock Sprint Cup last year. James had him in brilliant order, he just stumbled coming out of the gate and that was the difference between winning and losing. He’s a brilliant old horse and I’m actually very confident, even though he’s eight now, that he can still compete again at the highest level. I’d love for him to win another Group One, he deserves it, and James does such a good job managing these older sprinters. It wouldn’t surprise me if he were able to come out and win at the top level again this year.
Threat (3yo, Richard Hannon, Cheveley Park)
He’s a very hardy son of Footstepsinthesand who I won the Gimcrack on last year. He’s quite tough, he’s boss to ride, he stands tall in the stalls and he’s very professional. I’d say he’s not the flashiest, he wouldn’t win anything by 10 lengths, but he’s always worked like a good horse. I think Richard Hannon is keen to go a mile with him and that would make sense with future stallion prospects in mind. If he could win a mile Group One on top of what he achieved as a juvenile that would be huge. Because he’s so easy to ride he’s got a chance of staying, he’s got a fantastic temperament and he’s a high-class horse. I saw him a few weeks ago, I didn’t ride him, but he looks very well.
Under The Stars (3yo, James Tate, Saeed Manana)
She’s a very tough, hardy, filly. Bruce Raymond and Phillip Robinson, who run Rabbah Bloodstock, have been very kind to me since I was an apprentice, and they got me on this filly. I won the big sales race on her at Newmarket and James has done a super job with her. I think the plan is for her to go for a Classic trial.
Veracious (5yo, Sir Michael Stoute, Cheveley Park)
Obviously Ryan Moore will get first shout on Veracious, but I won a Group One on her last season and would love to ride her again this year. Winning the Falmouth Stakes on her was one of the biggest moments of my career. I dreamt of riding for Sir Michael Stoute and it’s a measure of the man that he put me back on her after I failed to carry out my only instruction at Ascot which was to get her to relax. He put me back on her and he’s a star man. I hear she’s training well and I’d love to ride her again at some stage.
Via De Vega (3yo, Andrew Balding, PDR Properties)
I absolutely love this horse. I won on him at Sandown first time out and he did really well to win, he came from a long way back and was very green. He disappointed in a Group One in France in the back end but I didn’t ride him that day and I suspect he just wasn’t 100 per cent. Sometimes they come back in and seem absolutely fine, but it transpires they didn’t travel super or something like that. I worked him on the grass before that Group One and I loved him, I haven’t sat on him much this year but I’m a huge fan of the horse and I genuinely feel he can compete at the very highest level. He’s a proper horse.
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