Johnny Murtagh’s spectacular summer continued at Ascot on Saturday as he guided German star Novellist to an astonishingly impressive triumph in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
When Murtagh was granted a trainer’s licence to take over from Curragh handler Tommy Carmody in May, it seemed one of the sport’s most successful jockeys was ready to wind down his fantastic career in the saddle.
However, the 43-year-old’s decision to bypass some of the lesser meetings to concentrate on the big prizes has seemingly given him a new lease of life – as he showed when top jockey at Royal Ascot with four winners.
Murtagh then partnered Roger Varian’s Ambivalent to victory in the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh before claiming Irish Oaks glory aboard wayward French-trained filly Chicquita.
The ride aboard Andreas Wohler’s Novellist only came about due to the unavailability of Ryan Moore and William Buick, but he certainly made the most of the opportunity with a typically well-judged ride on the big stage.
Murtagh settled the 13-2 chance in midfield for much of the mile-and-a-half journey, with Universal and Ektihaam ensuring a furious pace up front.
As that pair faltered, Novellist arrived on the scene still full of running before showing exhilarating acceleration to seal victory, powering clear to come home with five lengths in hand over Trading Leather in a course-record time.
Wohler’s charge unsurprisingly rocketed towards the head of the betting for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on 6 October and the Longchamp showpiece is very much on his agenda.
“I can’t describe it – it’s dreamland,” said Wohler. “I was confident as I knew he had improved since his last race but I didn’t expect him to win by five lengths.”
The trainer confirmed yesterday the Grosser Preis Von Baden in early September was his likely next port of call.
A lack of race fitness was blamed for the defeat of favourite Cirrus Des Aigles, who came home well held in fifth. He could now head for the Juddmonte International at York next month.
Galician (33-1), who was on the verge of retirement just two months ago, justified the decision to keep her in training when lifting the Betfair- sponsored International at Ascot.
Mark Johnston’s charge could turn out quickly in the Betfred Mile at Glorious Goodwood. First-time blinkers won for Princess Noor as she stunned punters with a 25-1 success in the Princess Margaret Juddmonte Stakes.
The William Haggas-trained Mukhadram was the star turn in the Sky Bet York Stakes and did not let fans down on the Knavesmire.
The 4-9 favourite following fantastic placed efforts in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Coral-Eclipse, Paul Hanagan’s mount made the most of having his sights lowered, showing plenty of determination to repel the challenge of Grandeur by three-quarters of a length.
A return to York for the Juddmonte International on 21 August could now be on the agenda, with Haggas saying: “It is certainly a possibility.”
Elusive Kate completed back-to-back victories in the Prix Rothschild with a fluent success at Deauville yesterday. New Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby got a first win when Expressly won her debut in a fillies’ maiden at Ascot.