Racing: Double for Murphy as title betting resumes

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The Independent Online

Timmy Murphy achieved a brilliant double at Newton Abbot yesterday on the day that bookmakers reopened betting on the jockeys' title race.

Timmy Murphy achieved a brilliant double at Newton Abbot yesterday on the day that bookmakers reopened betting on the jockeys' title race.

Murphy was quoted at 7-1 by Ladbrokes to lift the crown from Tony McCoy, who had a wretched afternoon at the Devon track - being forced to pull up his main hope of the day, Pure Platinum, the 5-4 favourite in the Christmas Party Chase.

Betting for the championship had been abandoned after McCoy, who has held the title for the past nine years, built what appeared to be an unassailable lead. McCoy (whose odds are 1-7) remains miles clear with 116 wins to Murphy's 69, but the momentum of recent weeks has swung wildly in favour of Murphy. Richard Johnson, who has 72 wins, is a 10-1 shot.

Martin Pipe, Murphy's main employer, is in scintillating form, while Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaws Castle stable, McCoy's chief yard, has struggled since early autumn to hit a successful streak.

Ladbrokes' 7-1 is hardly tempting, even though the season stretches until the end of April. "We previously thought it was pointless offering odds on this market but punters have been insistent in wanting to back Murphy to bring McCoy's reign to an end," a spokesman for the bookmaking firm said.

At Newton Abbot, Murphy twice organised an astonishing turnaround. In the first race, on the Pipe-trained Made In Japan, the Irishman looked well beaten approaching the final fence. But he coaxed a late rally from his tired mount, catching the Ruby Walsh-ridden Emanic near the post. In the fourth race, Murphy was on the unfancied 12-1 shot Mioche D'Estruval. In a strongly-run contest, the black gelding was well at the rear until flying home in the straight to win by three-quarters of a length.

All the main bookmakers reported a big gamble yesterday on the Pipe-trained Manx Royal for Saturday's William Hill Handicap Hurdle.

Ladbrokes said they laid a bet of £3,000 each-way at 7-1 on Manx Royal, who is unbeaten in two runs this season - winning by 13 lengths in a maiden hurdle at Newton Abbot and by 11 lengths in a novice hurdle at Uttoxeter. He is now 9-2.

Totesport may have collected bigger liabilities. Damian Walker, a Totesport spokesman, said: "We were top-priced at 11-1 and started laying the horse as soon as the phonelines opened at 9.30am. We held the price until 10.40 in the shops and on the phonelines but then cut him to 7-1 clear favourite. Punters still kept coming, including bets of £2,000 each-way, so we went 11-2 at 11.20am. It seemed whatever price we put up was taken and we are now just 9-2."

Walker added: "This is right up there with the gamble on Joly Bey [eventually a non-runner] for the Hennessy but we might not be so lucky this time." The bookies will also be hoping Murphy is not on board.

William Hill Handicap Hurdle (2 miles and half a furlong; Sandown, Saturday) Sponsors' latest odds: 9-2 Manx Royal, 8-1 Goblet of Fire, King Eider, 10-1 Kingston Town, 11-1 Atahuelpa, Shuhood, The Rising Moon, 12-1 Desert Air, Green Tango, Monte Cinto, Selvas, 14-1 Calatagan, Cloudy Grey, Crazy Horse, Dalaram, Greenhope, Rising Generation, 16-1 Chivalry, Full Irish, Kadara, McBain, 20-1 Barton Nic, Forever Dream, Hawadeth, Idole First, Totally Scottish, 25-1 others.