Oisin Murphy relishing return of racing as new season starts at Newcastle

Champion jockey expects riders to cope well with new strict protocols

Oisin Murphy has three rides as racing in Britain resumes at Newcastle on Monday behind closed doors. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA Wire

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy is relishing the prospect of getting back to the business of riding winners when racing makes its eagerly-awaited return on Monday.

Crowned leading apprentice in 2014, Murphy, 24, – who is the nephew of Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning rider Jim Culloty – last year became the youngest jockey to take the senior title since Ryan Moore at the age of 23 in 2006.

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Like everyone else, Murphy – who has three rides on the opening day at Newcastle – has had to find ways to keep occupied since the coronavirus lockdown brought racing to a halt in Britain in mid-March, but with resumption just hours away, he is raring to go.

He said: “I’ve been about two months completely unemployed. I’ve been passing the time by walking and trying to keep on top of my fitness. I’ve been doing loads of cooking – I don’t think I’ve improved too much! Salmon and mashed potatoes are a staple diet at the moment.

“Netflix wore off after a few weeks. I suppose the first six weeks of lockdown I could hardly ride out, but the last fortnight or so I’ve been able to go into different stables and have a feel of some horses. That gives me a focus to my day, otherwise it’s very difficult to just roll out of bed and have nothing to do or work towards.

“I’ve tried cycling – Tom Marquand and a few of those boys go off for miles and miles, but I can’t keep up with them so I threw in the towel pretty quickly.”

Numerous strict protocols will be in place on racecourses, where the action will be behind closed doors, but Murphy fully expects riders and other personnel to cope well.

He said: “We’ve all been in regular contact with each other and our valets. We’re going to be split into different groups and all have our own area in the weighing room.

“There won’t actually be any need for us to get within two metres of each other. We are fully versed on the protocols and I feel comfortable that we can adhere to them correctly and we can go back racing and be good role models for other sports. I haven’t ridden behind closed doors, but it’s worked perfectly fine in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan over the last couple of months. It’s nice to have an atmosphere – Frankie [Dettori] will miss the crowds! But at the end of the day we’re looking forward to riding really good horses and buzzing off the thought of that.”

He added: “I’d like to be champion jockey again, of course I would, but the most important thing is I keep the people happy that I am riding for. ”

Like Murphy, who will ride Kameko in the Qipco 2000 Guineas on Saturday, Dettori has a big week in store. He starts off low-key with just one ride at Kempton on Tuesday but could renew his association with Stradivarius in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket on Friday.

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