Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Murtagh back in saddle on Sherzam

A week after learning of his dismissal from his position as the Aga Khan's retained rider in Ireland, Johnny Murtagh returns to action with one ride for Tommy Carmody at Gowran Park today.

The reigning champion jockey has not ridden since suffering a facial injury at the Curragh on August 12 but returns to take the mount on Sherzam in the nursery for the burgeoning stable, with whom his close association is believed to have been the catalyst for his shock sacking.

Having finished a fine second on its handicap bow in testing going at the Curragh recently, the Andrew Tinkler-owned filly is fancied to see him return on a positive note.

Earlier, John Oxx — who has stated that he will continue to support Murtagh over the coming months via non-Aga Khan owned horses — might take the juvenile maiden with the Swiss-born prince's Akdam.

Oxx has a decent bunch of two-year-olds this term, and this Dubai Destination half-brother to the useful Aklan should be thereabouts under Niall McCullagh.

Impressive apprentice Conor Hoban boasts a seven-strong book of rides tonight, with Coach Bombay surely the pick of the lot after an emphatic seven-and-a-half-length rout under Shane ‘Dusty’ Foley at Dundalk last Sunday.

He re-appears now over the same 12-furlong trip in division one of the Goresbridge Handicap, and Mick Halford has opted to negate a compulsory 5lb penalty by booking 19-year-old Hoban.

Given the manner of Sunday's triumph, you'd struggle to make a case against Coach Bombay on ground that should be pretty close to good by the time racing gets under way.

Meanwhile, Trainer Ed Dunlop expects Frankie Dettori to partner Snow Fairy if the star mare takes her chance in Saturday's Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

The incredible five-year-old made a superb return from injury when landing the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville last month, her sixth Group One victory when ridden by the injured Ryan Moore.

Dettori partnered Snow Fairy on three occasions last season — finishing second in the Irish Champion Stakes and the Nassau Stakes, and taking third spot in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Although the Italian could be required to ride Soul for Godolphin in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock earlier on Saturday, he is set to hotfoot it to the Irish Champion Stakes by helicopter.

Dettori is likely to be joined on his journey across the Irish Sea by William Buick, who will partner Ortensia in the Haydock feature and Snow Fairy's major rival, Nathaniel, at Leopardstown.