Murphy strikes Highland gold with Ayr Fantastic Four

Apprentice sensation rides 9,260-1 sequence while veteran trainer Easterby bows out

The Fantastic Four evidently falls short of the Magnificent Seven, but apprentice Oisin Murphy’s feat in riding four winners from four mounts at Ayr on Saturday, at accumulative odds of 9,260-1 and starting with the small matter of Scotland’s premier Flat race of the year, the 26-runner Ayr Gold Cup, deserves to enter folklore somewhere alongside Dettori (L).

After Highland Colori ploughed the same stands rail furrow to win the Gold Cup at 20-1 as Ancient Cross had done two races earlier to take the Silver pot, Murphy partnered the remaining victors on the card, Levitate (5-1), Silver Rime (20-1) and Cockney Sparrow  (5-2), all in double-figure fields.

Murphy, apprenticed to Andrew Balding, the trainer of Highland Colori and whose family contributed Lochangel to the Magnificent Seven (not to mention winning the Ayr Gold Cup in 1992 with her half-sister, Lochsong, who went on to become a  champion sprinter)  was understated about his afternoon’s work. “I came over here in October last year and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have gone. I model myself on David Probert and William Buick, you could not have two better role models,” Murphy said, in reference to two former Balding apprentices. “Mr Balding took me into the office yesterday morning and drew a diagram of what I should do in the race – go straight for three furlongs and then edge over to the rails for the last quarter-mile, and it all worked out.”

Ancient Cross defied top weight to win the Silver Cup for the veteran trainer Mick Easterby, who used the occasion to announce his intention to hand the reins over to his son David at the end of the season.

Easterby, 82, who has trained in Yorkshire since 1961, is best known for the exploits of Mrs McArdy, the 1978 1,000 Guineas winner, and the champion sprinter of 1976, Lochnager, whose career embodies Easterby’s canny approach. A 600gns purchase, Lochnager won under top weight at Catterick in the summer of 1975, then scored again next time out when propping up the handicap at Ascot’s Heath meeting, a good thing that day. He became the sire of Peckitt’s Well, the dam of Lochsong and Lochangel.

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