Oisin Murphy: Your questions
Find out Oisin Murphy's thoughts on QIPCO British Champions Day, 2016, the jockeys' title, and the two-year-old who can't be named! The British Champions Series ambassador answered your questions in an exclusive chat with Sportinglife.com.
Lightning Spear scores under Oisin Murphy – but can the rider strike on the same horse on British Champions Day?
Pete: It must have been a huge relief for all concerned when Simple Verse got back on track with victory at Doncaster and the form book tells us that Ascot also holds no fears. It must be tempting to have a crack at the top stayers' prize on Saturday after her recent last-gasp success but am I right in thinking Pretty Perfect had quite an easy lead in front that day and it was more Simple Verse's abundant class that saw her home, rather than out-and-out stamina? If she were mine, I'd certainly be heading back for the Fillies and Mares.
Oisin: A good question to start with. The decision as to which race she goes for is up to Sheikh Fahad and Ralph Beckett, and I don't think they have made their minds up yet, but she's by Duke of Marmalade and she saw a mile and six furlong out very well last season, both when she won the Leger and at Goodwood. We always viewed her as a staying type and, personally, I think she's probably crying out for two miles. As for Doncaster, although it might have looked that Pretty Perfect had an easy lead, we went very fast – Simple Verse has a very high cruising speed, but we were kind of in top gear all the way, and I was hopeful that we'd get there. I'd say the runner-up must be a good filly though.
Jackie: How have you found riding Pallasator this season Oisin? Even by Sir Mark Prescott's own admission he's a real character and I wondered whether you actually know what to expect from him when you get down to the start, or is it more a case of feeling your way through a race and hoping for the best?
Oisin: I've really enjoyed it. He's a character and I find him quite amusing really. When you get on his back, you've just to keep your feet out of the irons and just hang off him, which I've managed to do successfully so far. Once you're in the race he's not so much trouble – it's just not coming off him beforehand that poses the problem. He's so big, I wouldn't want to come off as it would be a long way down!
Dan Bamber: How do you rate Lightning Spear's chances on Champions Day? It looks a pretty warm QEII but your lad obviously beat a thriving, improving horse in Zonderland at Goodwood and it looks like he'll get his ground again on Saturday. Did he feel as good as ever last time, and what are the vibes coming from David Simcock ahead of this latest challenge?
Oisin: With Belardo being out of the race, it's slowly starting to cut up a little bit and I think we've got a real chance. Ribchester looks a worthy favourite and he's obviously going to give us something to beat. I think Galileo Gold has had a long season now and although Hugo Palmer will have tried to freshen him up, it's hard to keep going with a horse like him all year. Lightning Spear is still in super order and good ground will really suit him – he might just give the rest something to think about. I went in to ride him at the start of the year at David Simcock's, but David's got his routine for the horse and I don't usually interfere once we get going. Tactically, he's pretty straightforward. He likes to drop back and run on again. It will be interesting to see how the draw comes out and once we know that we'll have a better idea of which horses we might want to be tracking.
Darren: What's the key to riding at Ascot? I'm always amazed at how sharp the turn into the straight is when I go there and see it all unfold live. Do you all just follow Frankie?!
Oisin: It is quite sharp, but it all depends upon where the rail is positioned as to how much difference it makes. On the round course, unless they have gone very hard, you tend to want to be fairly prominent, but there's not always a lot you can do about it – once you get your position coming out of the stalls, you just have to sit and suffer and hope you're in the right place. It's always a special place to ride though and there's a good atmosphere, even on the non-championship days.
TD: What are you likely to be riding on Champions Day other than Simple Verse and Lightning Spear?
Oisin: I suspect Pallasator won't run in the Long Distance Cup, but we'll have to see. I have a couple of possible options in the Balmoral Handicap and it will depend upon what gets in, but I could be on Here Comes When or Dinkum Diamond.
Nick Severn: What are your thoughts on the jockeys' championship – is it something you're aiming for? Or do you have a similar view to Ryan Moore ie having a retainer and concentrating on the big race days?
Marcus Naylor, Newhaven: You have done remarkably well to be in the top five in the jockeys' title this year. Will you be a contender to be champion jockey next season?
Oisin: The jockeys' championship is something that I have been going for all year. The only difference is that I didn't outline my plan with a piece in the Racing Post – perhaps it's something I should do next year as everything seemed to fall into place for Jim [Crowley] afterwards!
I think it's a bit of a misconception that most jockeys aren't interested in the championship. Sure, there are one or two that aren't worried, but I have been going to every meeting I can this year and riding every horse my agent has been able to get me on – and that's the same for almost everyone else in the weighing room. Jockeys aren't lazy, they want to ride winners.
It's been a good year numerically and thanks for the kind words on finishing in the top five. The aim at the start of the year was to make the top 10, so it's been good. I hope I've done an okay job for Sheikh Fahad and for Andrew Balding and Ralph Beckett, who have been among my biggest supporters – they've all had good seasons.
As for next year, it's not something we've discussed yet but I very much hope I will continue to ride for Qatar Racing and keep enjoying the same opportunities. When I was originally first appointed as second jockey, David Redvers and Sheikh Fahad made it clear that they wanted to try and develop me as a jockey and as a human being and I'm still learning all the time.
Ray: You said on Channel 4 Racing last week that South Seas was the best two-year-old you had sat on in a race", from which I inferred there is potentially a better one at home on the gallops?
Oisin: You were listening carefully! We might indeed actually have a better one in the Qatar Racing team, but I'm sworn to secrecy and can't tell you what it's called. Sorry.
Sandy: Hi Oisin, I was at Newmarket last weekend and couldn't help but be impressed by the performance of Poet's Vanity, who seemed to take a bit of pulling up after the line. Just how good could this filly be? And, given she was beaten first time out at HQ in August, would you be suggesting that a prep-run for the Guineas might be a reasonable idea to sharpen her up next spring?
Oisin: I was impressed too. She already wants a mile. We've got some really good gallops at Kingsclere, a new all-weather gallop, as well as an array of turf gallops, so we can really get them ready at home. If there's one thing I would say about Andrew, it's that he prepares horses very well. The ones he tends to think would be better with a prep-run, he's usually right about, and the ones who is happy to go with first time rarely under-perform. At the beginning of next season, I'd be confident that he'd make the right decision.
Poet's Vanity had always worked like a decent filly but it was important she had a nice experience first time. For some horses, it's that initial day at the races that can make all of the difference between them fulfilling their potential or not.
Kevin Hall: Horse A is better than yours and the race is between you. A is known to be lazy and leads on the fence. Is it good tactics say 2f out to join and keep close alongside the leader enough to inhibit A's whip hand before pressing the button.
Oisin: It should make no difference, as jockey A ought to be able to pull his whip through and if he's lazy, giving him something to race against would help him. In some circumstances, the earlier you come to a horse like that, the more you play into their hands. Every race and horse is different, but I'd usually say the best way is to try and come with one surging run that doesn't give the other horse a chance to react, rather than just trying to get upsides.
Connor Layzell: My question is, how comes you always consistently win on big-priced horses? What's the secret?!
Oisin: I wish I knew, but sometimes I suppose it's the track. I do feel there are some I ride better than others. Chelmsford City and Lingfield are places where I feel like I read the races well, in comparison to places like Wolverhampton and Southwell and although I haven't checked, I'd bet that the percentages stack up. Like every rider, you have your own personal preferences and there's something about the way the pace maps out at Lingfield and Chelmsford that I just seem to be able to get right.
James Park: Did you suggest cheekpieces for Imperial Aviator at Newbury following his Great Voltigeur run? I'm still convinced there's another big one to be won with him – is he a horse to persevere with next season?
Oisin: Wearing Cheekpieces was Roger Charlton's idea, but I think you're right in the sense that he's one to keep faith with. He's a talented horse who unfortunately took a false step in the French Derby and hurt himself and that knocked him back a bit confidence wise. But he's working very well again and my friend Kieren Shoemark rides him out every day. In fact, there's a video on Youtube of him working with Ayrad and Makzeem a couple of days ago and I thought he looked to be moving very nicely indeed.
Derek Topper: You've ridden quite a lot for Stuart Williams over the past couple of years – are you able to shed any light on one or two of his potential 'dark horses' that might be worth following on the all-weather over the winter months?
Oisin: Stuart had an unbelievable season on the all-weather last year and I was grateful for his support. I don't ever go in there to ride work, so I can't really help out with any names, but I am sure his will be a yard worth following.
Jeremy Gallen: If you could give us one tip for Champions Day, what would it be?
Oisin: It's a phenomenal day of racing to be part of and we may well have the best horse in the world taking part in Almanzor, as well as some other brilliant clashes. We'll see Limato, Quiet Reflection and Shalaa in the Sprint, a clash between the best of the generations in the QEII and maybe even an Arc-placed horse in the Long Distance Cup, so you really can't knock the quality of the racing.
If I was to name one horse I'd say Shalaa in the British Champions Series Sprint. It's obviously a very tough race, but I thought he looked burly in the paddock before he won at Ascot the other day and yet he still managed to win nicely on his first start for more than a year. He's got winning form on soft ground but to me he looks like a real top-of-the-ground horse from his action and if it comes up good on the day, I'd fancy him to win.
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