Murtagh relishes Soldier Of Fortune role in Arc

The trial of Kieren Fallon, the jury for which will finally be sworn in today, has already had a tortuous prologue. Fallon – who denies allegations of race-fixing, in common with five others – has not been permitted to ride in Britain since being charged, 15 months ago. It will perhaps strike him as ironic that the man who has gained most from his travails, lawyers apart, should be Johnny Murtagh.

Back in 2000, when Fallon suffered a career-threatening shoulder injury at Royal Ascot, his employer at the time turned to Murtagh and together they shared a dazzling run of success. Murtagh ended up riding a dozen Group One winners that year, eight of them for Sir Michael Stoute. Now, during this fresh nadir in Fallon's career, Murtagh could yet surpass even that annus mirabilis.

Having been rather out in the cold at first, Murtagh has worked his way back to the top of the list of replacements whenever Aidan O'Brien has had runners in Britain. On Sunday, both Fallon (Dylan Thomas) and Murtagh (Soldier Of Fortune) ride for the Ballydoyle trainer in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe – one of the few great races still to elude O'Brien, but one each rider has won already.

On the equivalent afternoon in 2000, Murtagh crowned his season with three Group One winners: Petrushka, Namid and, in the Arc itself, Sinndar. But somehow that pinnacle was surrounded by fairly loose scree. There was an unfulfilled air to some of Murtagh's subsequent experiments: a stint in Britain, a brief sabbatical, dealing with weight problems, even a spell riding over hurdles.

"After a year like that, there's a danger you start taking things for granted," Murtagh admitted yesterday. "But it doesn't take long to be reminded that you can never do that in this game. I've had a few lean times since. Last year I didn't ride a single Group One winner. I had set out to establish myself back in Ireland. I just wanted to show everyone I was working hard, giving 110 per cent every day, and making myself available as much as possible."

There could be no anticipating the opportunities that Murtagh was finally granted, back in the spring. Again it began with Stoute, who was able to offer him Notnowcato in the Tattersalls Gold Cup only because Ryan Moore had broken an arm. "Then I was lucky enough to pick up the spare ride on Peeping Fawn in the [Irish] Oaks when Kieren got injured, and it has just snowballed," Murtagh reflected. "I've gone on to win three Group Ones on that filly, and that's what happens. I think I'm riding the same way I've always ridden. But when you're riding very nice horses, they give you confidence, and keep you in the public eye."

Only a jockey riding with such freedom would have attempted the sort of stunt Murtagh pulled off at Ascot on Saturday, creeping away from a huge field on Candidato Roy and coming home alone up the stands' rail. He also won his ninth Group One prize of the year on Listen, for O'Brien, but plays down the role of a stable weight regime in his resurgence. "The weight's always there, but everyone has to do it," he said. "It's part of the job, and I'm sure there are some who have to work at it even harder than me. It's a lot easier to put on a sweatsuit and run round the block when you've got Group One horses to ride."

Murtagh has won on both the Ballydoyle Arc runners, including when acquainting himself with Soldier Of Fortune in a rehearsal over the Arc course and distance last month, and leaves little doubt as to which will be best suited by the softer conditions expected at Longchamp.

"Dylan Thomas definitely wants faster ground," he said. "When I rode him at York, he just got bogged down when he hit a few patchy bits. Soldier Of Fortune will go on any ground, as he went over it well enough in the Prix Niel, but I feel he'll be a bit better with an ease. The Niel's always a nice prep. It has a good history, and there's a nice gap of time in between the two races.

"There will always be a couple of French-trained horses prepped for Arc day, but Authorized is the one we all have to beat. He sets the standard: the trainer's happy, and the jockey's very bullish. But the Ballydoyle team is in great form, and they're sending two very exciting horses."

Further Group One opportunities beckon Murtagh at Newmarket tomorrow, namely Elletelle in the Skybet Cheveley Park Stakes and Achilles Of Troy in the Shadwell Middle Park Stakes. Authorized's trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, had the likely favourite for the latter prize, but Winker Watson will now not run again this season following a setback.

As for Fallon, the trial finally gets underway on Monday, following a delay caused by burst waterpipes in the courtroom.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Dustoori

(Goodwood 4.40)

NB: Blackat Blackitten

(Newmarket 2.35)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss