Murphy to wait for May return

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Declan Murphy's campaign to secure an early return to the saddle ended yesterday. The 27-year-old Irishman, who nearly died following a fall at Haydock in May, will have to wait until the anniversary of the accident before an application for a rid ing licence is entertained.

Murphy announced that his plan to ride Bradbury Star in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day had been abandoned after a discussion with Dr Michael Turner, the Jockey Club's chief medical adviser.

"All the reports are perfect but they all say there is a 10 per cent risk the surface of the brain may not have settled," the rider said. "I cannot remove statistics and the doctor cannot bow to individual circumstances. It is one of the drawbacks of being a pioneer, but I have not lost sight of the fact that I'm lucky to be alive."

Murphy's abiding sensation yesterday was not disappointment, however, but relief. "I'm delighted that there is nothing there and the doctors weren't hiding anything from me," he said after studying an independent neurologist's report. "At least I now know exactly why I'm not allowed to ride and I know exactly when I'll be back."

The months of slow recuperation have afforded Murphy much thinking time and when he does return to action he will be a far more grateful protagonist than he ever was before. "As jockeys we're in privileged positions, you know," he said. "I now realise how much race-riding means to me and how much I took it for granted. You only really miss something when it's not there any more, and right now it means more to me than it ever did."

In the immediate term, Murphy will be swapping the seat of a saddle for a deckchair as he winds down. "First of all I'll be having a holiday because I just need time to gather my thoughts," he said. "It hasn't been easy getting through what I've come through."

Carl Llewellyn may not have as much thinking time as he once thought likely following the news that his back injury is not as serious as first thought. The jockey, who fractured a vertebra when buried by Percy Thrower at Cheltenham last week, now expectsto make his original deadline of the Grand National with ease.

"The scan showed the area around the bone - the tendons, muscles and whatever else - is very stable, strong and undamaged," he said yesterday. "So rather than pin the bones together, the idea is to let it fuse naturally. I'm going to have a spinal jacketfitted on Monday."

Adrian Maguire, who, like most National Hunt jockeys, appears to have been manufactured in a Dunlop factory, has quickly recovered from his most recent injury and rides at Ascot this afternoon.

The Irishman missed a full book of rides at Market Rasen yesterday following a fall the previous day at Towcester which left him with a bruised ribcage and a leg injury. X-rays have shown nothing was broken, not least Maguire's resolve to partner qualityhorses in Berkshire today.

As well as Martin's Lamp and Hebridean, Maguire will have the assistance of Relkeel and Dubacilla as he attempts to chip away at Richard Dunwoody's lead in the jockeys' title (the champion leads 87-81).

Relkeel, who contests the Knights Royal Hurdle, won in such facile manner at Sandown last time that his jockey expended fewer calories than he would in a game of draughts. "It was good to see him win so easily," Maguire said yesterday. "He wouldn't have galloped 20 lengths clear of the rest of them because he doesn't do very much in front, but there was plenty left in the tank. There was no point bursting him up that hill at Sandown."

Dubacilla, on the other hand, is coming off a defeat, a dribbling performance in the Hennessy Gold Cup. "She didn't go to the start right that day and she didn't feel right at any stage," her partner said. "I was flat out even going to the first. I couldn't hold my position at any point and when she made a bad mistake down the back that was it."

The ante-post Betterware Cup money for David Nicholson's mare this week suggests that many are happy to treat that run as a singular aberration. The jockey does. "She seems to be in great form," Maguire said. "Hopefully she'll run a different sort of race this time."