Racing: Inside knowledge gives Murphy edge: Keeping off the beaten track is the key to Leopardstown's lottery

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The Independent Online
'WE WOULD have won, if only . . . ' The phrase will be repeated in a dozen accents tomorrow afternoon, when The Ladbroke handicap hurdle will propel more than 20 runners around Leopardstown's tight inside track. If the commentator cannot list all the names at the final flight, it would be appropriate to resort to numbers. This is equine bingo.

The reason is the Leopardstown circuit, which year after year ensures that a few lengths cover the entire field as they turn for home. 'If we raced on the outside track the rubbish would start to get sorted out down the far side,' Declan Murphy, who rides Gaelic Myth for Tommy Stack, said yesterday. 'But the inside track is a very fast two miles, therefore every horse, regardless of how good they are, has enough to stay in the race until they swing round that turn.' The long uphill run-in adds to the turmoil. 'Horses which had nowhere to go two out suddenly get running from a long way back, and they can go right past you.'

The sponsors' betting, which has Gaelic Myth at 8-1 joint-third favourite, suggests Murphy has a better chance than most of doing the overtaking - with luck. 'It's a lottery to ride in,' he said, 'you jump off in a positive position and just hope you can make ground when you want to.'

Nor will his fellow jockeys wave anyone through if their own mount starts to falter. 'The Irish boys don't do much for you, you never want to ride in a race expecting room, whereas in England it's easier to anticipate what the other riders are going to do. In Ireland it's possible that some would go out of their way to block you. You can't blame them in a way, because they feel threatened by English- based jockeys going there and taking their rides.'

Murphy is at least confident that whatever else may impede Gaelic Myth, it will not be his weight. 'He's one of the two or three horses that are handicapped to win,' he said. 'The others are Time For A Run, most certainly, and Kilcash, possibly.'

Kilcash suffered the most obvious misfortune in last year's race, when a bad jump at the final flight probably cost him victory. He was the best-backed British trained horse then and is expected to be so again, but this is a difficult race for raiders. Barnbrook Again, in 1987, was the last British-trained winner.

Time For A Run, trained in Tipperary by Eddie O'Grady, has also found strong support, but according to Paul Austin, Ladbrokes' spokesman, it is 'more individual than popular'. What he means is that Time For A Run's owner is J P McManus, whose bets are weighed rather than counted. But as befits one of the season's most competitive contests, McManus is not the only high-roller who has been at work. The Illiad, who landed some titanic bets for Noel Furlong in the race three years ago, is an 8-1 chance despite his advancing years (he is now 13).

Both horses have reportedly been backed to win over pounds 100,000. Poorer punters can reflect that one owner, at least, will be tearing up his ticket.

THE LADBROKE (two mile handicap hurdle, Leopardstown tomorrow): Ladbroke's odds: 7-1 Time For A Run & Kilcash (from 8-1), 8-1 The Illiad & Gaelic Myth, 10-1 Judicial Field (from 12-1), Satin Lover, 12-1 Atone (from 16-1), 16-1 Arcot (from 20-1), Life Saver & Land Afar, 25-1 others.

Coral: 6-1 Time for A Run, 8-1 Kilcash & The Illiad, 9-1 Gaelic Myth, 10-1 Judicial Field & Satin Lover, 14-1 Atone & Life Saver, 16-1 Arcot, Cockney Lad & Land Afar, 20-1 Aiyback, Derrymoyle & Glencloud, 25-1 others.

(Photograph omitted)