Stewards' verdict turns Arkle doubt into Murphy's day of joy

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The Independent Online

Timmy Murphy's life has seen too many falls, both on the course and off it, for him to fret too much about the occasional racing disappointment, even when it happens on the biggest stage of all. As the 30-year-old Irishman showed yesterday, one of racing's greatest joys is that despair can turn to joy in little more than half an hour.

Timmy Murphy's life has seen too many falls, both on the course and off it, for him to fret too much about the occasional racing disappointment, even when it happens on the biggest stage of all. As the 30-year-old Irishman showed yesterday, one of racing's greatest joys is that despair can turn to joy in little more than half an hour.

The Cheltenham Festival has not been the happiest hunting ground for Murphy, who had ridden only four winners at the meeting before yesterday. However, as the favoured jockey of David Johnson, National Hunt's most successful owner, Murphy would have had good reason to hope he could start this year's proceedings in style as Marcel, his ride in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, was sent out the 13-2 favourite.

The result? A resounding victory for the Howard Johnson-trained Arcalis, with Marcel 13th out of 20 and trainer and jockey at a loss to explain the disappointment.

And so to race two, the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy, with Murphy, Pipe and Johnson joining forces again, with the seven-year-old Contraband, on whom Murphy rode an excellent race to overtake Ashley Brook, who had made most of the running.

However, a stewards' inquiry was announced. Had Contraband crossed into the runner-up's path? Pipe asked Murphy: "Do you think we'll keep it? What happened?" Murphy, who can be a man of few words, replied: "I think so." Johnson added: "I haven't seen the replay. Did he pull his whip through?" The stewards' verdict took an agonising 15 minutes, but to Murphy's relief the race was his.

"It was important for him to get a big jump at the last," the jockey said. "We've been waiting for this ground. Up the hill he didn't stop. He's a funny old horse and has his quirks, and he changed his lead and went to his left, but I thought he had gone past the other horse." Pipe and Johnson gave credit to the jockey. "He gave it a good ride again, didn't he?" Johnson said. Pipe added: "It was a great ride by Timmy again. He jumped the last and the other one didn't."

The Champion Hurdle was next up, with Murphy on board John Queally's Al Eile. Starting at 25-1, the five-year-old ran a decent enough race, finishing seventh. Race four and another real chance of success. Murphy, back in partnership with Pipe and Johnson, rode the 11-2 favourite, Iris Bleu, in the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase. Once again, however, his mount was well beaten, finishing ninth of 15 finishers. Murphy was more succinct than ever. What happened? "Not much," came the withering reply.

Smarty was never in contention for Murphy in the Sporting Index Handicap Steeplechase and in the final race he finished fourth on Miss Academy, another Pipe-Johnson horse.

Pipe summed up Murphy's day. "Every race is a new challenge," he said. "If you get beaten, you have to just get on with the next race. And it's the same when you win. It's always that way in racing."

HYPERION'S TV TIPS

CHELTENHAM

2.00 - James Fanshawe has two chances - Reveillez (Tony McCoy) and POLE STAR (Robert Thornton). The former is unbeaten, but the latter - third in the 2003 Ascot Gold Cup - looks more the type to come storming up the hill.

2.35 - Cornish Rebel has loads of ability but often falters in a battle. L'ami seeks a follow-up to yesterday's success by François Doumen. But the best form credentials are held by TRABOLGAN . A repeat of his January short-head second to Ollie Magern should easily be enough. The downside is that Nicky Henderson's string is only now emerging from a barren spell.

3.15 - According to the betting, this concerns only AZERTYUIOP , Moscow Flyer and Well Chief . The last-named has recently had two hard races, while Ireland's main hope can make mistakes. So the first-named is selected to keep his unbeaten record on this track.

4.00 - If the going dries out further Unleash must be a threat. But COVENT GARDEN attracts at the sponsor's 25-1. He is another who loves faster going and looked set to return to form when finishing 5th to Supreme Serenade at Sandown (good to soft) last time. Tony Dobbin's mount has a handy weight turnaround today.

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