The particular injustice is that Hide has already suffered this examination once, and passed with distinction. Murphy's near-fatal fall at Haydock in May forced Josh Gifford to find a replacement for his stable jockey on Bradbury Star in November's Mack e son Gold Cup, but instead of choosing an experienced senior rider, he put his faith in Hide, the yard's conditional.
With a coolness which belied his 3lb claim, Hide switched off Bradbury Star on the first circuit, timed his run to take it up at the last and then kept the top-weight going as he started to idle in front. In the circumstances, it was a remarkably accomplished performance.
Yet most punters are hopelessly sentimental and even in Hide's moment of triumph, many thoughts turned to the rider in the stands. It was pointed out - though without malice - that Murphy had talked Hide through the former's winning ride in the race a year previously.
After spending days in a coma and many weeks on crutches, Murphy regained his health and had marked down the King George as his long-range target. In last year's race, one of the finest in its history, Murphy drove Bradbury Star to Barton Bank's shoulde r s, but no further. His chance of a glorious return to the big time seemed obvious.
But the Jockey Club's medical team intervened, and Murphy has now accepted that he will not return to the saddle for several months.
The responsibility, and attention, will revert to Hide, but he has, at least, been there before. "I think there'll be far less pressure on me than there was at Cheltenham," he said yesterday. "With Declan winning the Mackeson on the horse the year beforein a semi-conscious state, the only outcome for me was the winning result, and if I'd been beaten a short-head it would have been against me in a big way. Now that I've won on the horse I'll just be out there to do the best I can."
The punters expect his best to be going one better than Murphy last year, a fact which causes Hide mild surprise. "I wouldn't have thought 5-2 was very generous, put it that way," he said, "though obviously he deserves to be thereabouts. I don't think he's ever been better and he goes there with every chance."
At least Hide knows that his mount can produce his best form at Kempton - before last year's race, many believed he could reach his peak only at Cheltenham, whose contours are the complete opposite of the flat, right-handed circuit at Sunbury. It seems that while Bradbury Star always travels superbly down the hill at Cheltenham, the long straight at Kempton also suits.
"He needs to be brought with one long late run, and this track is ideal for that. I'll probably ride him in the same way as the Mackeson, though, hopefully, I'll leave it a little later."
Heaven forbid that he should leave it too late, and face the wrath of Kempton's well-oiled Boxing Day crowd. It seems, though, that Hide is mercifully short of big-race nerves, and there will certainly be no loss of appetite the previous afternoon. "I'v e had to watch my weight the last two years," he said. "We've got one in the handicap hurdle, but I think the weights will go up, so this time I'll be able to have a bit of turkey."
The calm confidence is reminiscent of Declan Murphy, but if Hide can succeed at Kempton on Monday, the acclaim should be his alone.Reuse content