Racing: Murtagh misses Derby ride after ban

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Johnny Murtagh was yesterday ruled out of the mount on Vodafone Derby favourite Motivator after picking up a three-day careless riding ban in the last race at Lingfield.

Johnny Murtagh was yesterday ruled out of the mount on Vodafone Derby favourite Motivator after picking up a three-day careless riding ban in the last race at Lingfield.

He was found to have caused interference in the early stages of the Lingfield Leisure Club Median Auction Maiden Stakes, which he eventually won on the James Fanshawe-trained Miss Brush. The jockey's dates of suspension are 4 June - Derby Day, plus the 5 and 6.

As if to get him in a regal state of mind, Motivator, the Derby favourite, was afforded the luxury of transport rather than his own horsepower to get on to the Newmarket gallops yesterday.

The Michael Bell-trained colt was given the sedan chair treatment, boxed across to the Al Bahathri gallop from Fitzroy House to protect his precious little feet. Motivator will not get such majestic treatment in the stampede of a Blue Riband a week on Saturday, but the signs remain that he will nevertheless be somewhere near the front of the pile.

The winner of the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last season and York's Dante Stakes this galloped pleasingly with two stable companions inMurtagh's hands. "He [Motivator] did a bit of work up the Al Bahathri gallop and went very nicely," Bell reported. "That's it now - we'll just keep him ticking over and hopefully get him to Epsom in one piece."

Also behind a pair of binoculars at Newmarket was Harry Herbert, racing manager to Motivator's owners, the Royal Ascot Racing Club. "It all went very, very well, a totally satisfactory piece of work," he added. "Motivator has definitely come on for the run in the Dante. He will possibly do one more piece of work before the race, maybe at the weekend or on Tuesday, but I will leave that up to Michael. "We did box him up to the gallop but it was purely precautionary. He is the favourite for the Derby and we didn't want to take any chances with him. It is very noisy up there with the Bury Road so near and lorries going by so we just wanted to look after the horse."

The Derby fog lifted further yesterday in the wake of Richard Quinn's decision to ride The Geezer for David Elsworth. The ride on one of the Scot's discards, Unfurled, remains vacant, but the seat has been filled on another colt trained by John Dunlop. Richard Hughes will be the partner for the Lingfield Derby Trial winner, Kong.

"It's very nice to get a good ride like this in the Derby," the jockey said. "I'm on a good run and it's easy to get a ride when you're on a roll. I rode Party Boss in the Lingfield Trial and they went no gallop whatsoever. I suppose Kong was probably one of the biggest horses in the field that day and he did well to win off a slow gallop.

"It was a good solid performance, he managed the track well. He would stay well and he showed that he had a bit of speed because they didn't go much of a gallop. Party Boss is quite a quick horse and I couldn't quicken up with him so it was quite a good performance."

Walk In The Park, Kong's immediate victim at Lingfield, was also fixed up yesterday and with a previous Blue Riband victor. Alan Munro, who partnered Generous to victory in 1991, takes the ride. The 38-year-old returned to the saddle only at the beginning of the season after a four-year sabbatical in the Far East, but he has quickly been back into the old routine with 19 winners.

"It is a big plus to have a rider who has not only won the race, but who is also riding in terrific form," John Hammond said. Walk In The Park's trainer will supervise a piece of work over the Epsom contours this morning. "The plan is for them to go around a mile and a quarter at a decent gallop," he added. "It will give our colt the chance to experience Epsom before Derby Day."