Murtagh leads rivals merry dance on Rain for Oaks triumph

To his victim, it must have felt as though Johnny Murtagh had trailed the nightmares that would stalk him through the hot, brief night ahead.

The man booked to fill the vacancy left by Kieren Fallon in the Investec Derby yesterday gave him a vivid sample of how it might feel to be beaten in a drive to the line, with an Epsom Classic at stake. In fact, if the Investec Oaks were shown to the judge deliberating over Fallon's eligibility to ride, he might well conclude that the aggrieved owners of Native Khan have ended up with the best of the deal, anyway.

Murtagh, like Fallon, has won the Derby three times but the 20-1 success of Dancing Rain represented his first in the fillies' version. And what a ride it was, albeit most of his rivals were absurdly complaisant in allowing him such a leisurely lead. Fallon, in fairness, was always shadowing Dancing Rain closest on Wonder Of Wonders. But he could never quite wind up sufficient momentum to run the leader down, not least as he felt his mount falter on the camber. There was still three-quarters of a length in it at the post, the pair four lengths clear.

Whatever the plaudits due to Murtagh, they must be shared with William Haggas, whose acuity in judging the proper grade for all his horses now leaves him with a record of two wins from two runners in Classics here. Since saddling Shaamit to win the 1996 Derby, he has waited – no doubt with varying degrees of patience – for someone to send him a horse of Epsom calibre. Dancing Rain, he freely admits, bore no resemblance to one this time last year. But she has bloomed steadily since, and on the eve of the race Haggas had made a cogent case in this newspaper for expecting another leap forward.

He stressed that she might have won her trial, where she was narrowly foiled by Izzi Top, had more use been made of her. So Murtagh required no second invitation when the other jockeys offered him the lead on a silver platter. In their midst, Frankie Dettori was having an especially unhappy time on Blue Bunting, favourite after her success in the 1,000 Guineas. Clearly uncomfortable on the hill, she lurched into Havant to launch her run, and never threatened to reach the front pair. Dettori then compounded his woes by dropping his hands well short of the line, only to be collared for third by Izzi Top. This earned him a 10-day suspension, starting on the Friday of Royal Ascot.

Haggas hoarsely played down his immaculate record. "It's just a case of getting the right horse and, on this occasion, the right jockey," the Newmarket trainer said. "She's a big, long-striding filly and it would have been pointless to hold on to her. And we got lucky. They left her alone and Johnny said when he gave her a squeeze six out, he could tell she was up for it, so he popped her back to sleep and bided his time."

For his wife, Maureen, Dancing Rain has now paid off a painful debt. She had ridden the filly every morning until they shared a stalls accident a month ago, which left her hobbling around with a broken fibula. Murtagh, meanwhile, was hardly short of incentives. He has already replaced Fallon once, after all, for a successful, three-year stint as Ballydoyle stable jockey. He resigned that post at the end of last season, however – which is precisely why Fallon had been approached to ride Wonder Of Wonders and, of course, Recital in the Derby. As the familiar silks loomed alongside, Murtagh seemed determined to show his former employers just what they were missing. "I knew Group Ones were going to be hard to come by this year," he said. "But you get a name as a go-to man and, thankfully, William rang me for the ride."

Ryan Moore will remain on top of that "go-to" list for Ballydoyle, having earlier pulled the Investec Coronation Cup out of the fire on the rejuvenated St Nicholas Abbey. Midday had seemed to strike decisively for home as Moore struggled to get his mount balanced, but was gradually worn down. St Nicholas Abbey won by a length, going away, to set up a probable crack at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Martin Taylor, who owns Dancing Rain with his brother, Lee, neatly condensed all the issues of the day. A lawyer himself, he said: "A lot of this game is down to luck. But you can increase your chances by surrounding yourself with the right people."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?