Johnny Murtagh has made the trip out to Australia for the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) twice, but never before as a trainer.
As a jockey, Murtagh rode in the $6.2 million feature race twice during his illustrious career, the last of which was back in 2008 when he saddled the Aidan O’Brian-trained trained Septimus to a disappointing 18th.
However he’s more excited about returning to Flemington as a trainer, noting a victory in the 2014 Melbourne Cup on Tuesday would be one of the greatest achievements of his racing career.
Considering his record as a jockey, which includes being awarded the leading rider at the Royal Ascot carnival five times, winning the Epsom Derby three times, and counting the Arc de Triomphe among his 100+ Group One victories, this is quite a bold statement.
The now-trainer noted he has always been an avid enthusiast of the Melbourne Cup and hopes to continue the winning tradition for Ireland.
“Through the years I’ve always got up in the middle of the night to watch the Melbourne Cup and of course the Irish have a good record in the race with Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle so I hope I can keep it going,” he told Racing Victoria.
Murtagh only retired from riding back in February, yet he already finds himself with two runners in the ‘race that stops the nation’ – Mutual Regard and Royal Diamond.
Mutual Regard is a $13 in the Melbourne Cup betting market at Ladbrokes.com.au while Royal Diamond has seen his price drift out from $51 to $61.
Mutual Regard is the clearly favoured of the two, having won the Ebor Handicap (2800m) his last time out. The gelding has finished top three in 14 of his 17 career starts and has plenty of experience over the distance of the Melbourne Cup. He won the Rating 100 in Ireland back in June, taking his total to two wins and two second placings from five starts over 3200 metres.
He’s drawn well in midfield, getting a start from barrier 12 but it’s interesting to note no winner has come from gate 12 to win since Foxami back in 1949 – the largest spell of any of the barrier.
Royal Diamond meanwhile finished second in the Group 3 St Leger Trial (2800m) which earned him a place in the field for the Group 1 Irish St Leger (2800m). However he was never a contender, finishing 12½ lengths off winner Brown Panther in sixth place.
He will start closer in from barrier six, which has brought home a respectable five winners but none since Light Fingers in 1965.
Murtagh conceded Mutual Regard was his top horse in the 2014 Melbourne Cup, but noted that Royal Diamond has thrived since arriving in Australia.
“Mutual Regard is probably our number one runner but Royal Diamond has settled in very well,” Murtagh said.
“He went to Dubai and he did well in Dubai, he likes travelling, he travels well and he likes a bit of heat on his back.”
With double the chance of winning the 2014 Melbourne Cup, can Murtagh claim his first victory? Back him at Ladbrokes.com.au if you think he’s in with a chance.
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