Murphy in pole position for top Ascot rider after day full of ups and downs
The champion jockey had every reason to be at rock bottom after losing the Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room, having finished first past the post on the Archie Watson-trained Dragon Symbol.
However, there was no time to dwell on what might have been in what was the first of two Group One races on the card.
The six-furlong showpiece was awarded to Campanelle, ridden by racing’s number one superstar, Frankie Dettori, and trained in America by Wesley Ward, who loves coming to England, especially for the Royal meeting.
But Murphy showed why he is at the top of his profession by putting that reverse to the back of his mind and turning his attention to the next Group One straight afterwards.
Nothing was going to stop him giving the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free the perfect ride in the Coronation Stakes. Not even the officials could take that triumph away from him.
“Welcome to horse racing and I suppose that’s what makes it so exciting,” said Murphy when asked about the turbulent hour he had just gone through.
“I didn’t give the inquiry much thought. I went into the stewards’ room knowing I was on the best horse, but it didn’t go my way.
“I’m very disappointed for the connections of Dragon Symbol. I hope he’ll have his day in the sun. Sorry to the Japanese fans and to Archie Watson’s team, and well done to Wesley Ward. The horse finished the race in front, but it wasn’t meant to be. Thankfully we were able to make amends.
“I said to my valet when he put his hand around me ‘there’s no place for tears in here. There are far worse things going on in the world, we’re in the entertainment industry, and I’m steering these marvellous animals and keep looking forward to the next one’.
“It’s great for Andrew Balding and Park House Stables. It’s three Oscar winners for them this week. I’m over the moon for them.”
The weather played a part in Alcohol Free’s win as the heavy rain that jeopardised the meeting taking place resulted in the stalls being moved to the far side of the round course, making a seemingly disadvantageous draw in 10 a favourable one.
“I didn’t get a chance to stress ahead of Alcohol Free – Andrew is very good to me. He never ties me down to instructions. I felt if he relaxed she’d win. She had a good trip and it was fantastic.
“I had a plan and I don’t know if he agreed with me, but he filled my with confidence when I told him what I was going to do and it paid off.”
“She jumped normal and what worried me was the clerk of the course decided to put the stalls on the far rail. That was fine, but then everyone wants to get to that rail, so it is congested and I was worried it was going to get congested.
“Alcohol Free relaxed, I stayed on the bit for as long as I could and given her pedigree, she was always going to handle the ground.”
Murphy had been part of the delegation that inspected the course at lunchtime before the day’s card got the go-ahead.
And he had to pick himself up off the floor a second time as an excitable Alcohol Free threw him on to the muddy Ascot turf on pulling up after the winning line.
Even that did not affect his opinion of the inquiry, where he was handed a four-day ban for careless riding on Dragon Symbol (July 2, 4, 5, 6).
“It doesn’t matter what I felt about the stewards’ decision earlier. The stewards felt Campanelle deserved the race and well done to Wesley Ward,” he said.
The 25-year-old’s day got better. With his confidence sky high he completed a double with a supreme ride on Quickthorn for trainer Hughie Morrison in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap.
Murphy goes into the final day of the five-day festival as the leading rider with four winners so far and odds-on to take the crown from Dettori.
“This armband normally belongs to Frankie. He’s usually top dog,” he said.
“Me, wearing this armband at Ascot, the top meeting of the year – as James Doyle says, it’s the Olympics of our sport.”