Whip rule: Murtagh follows Walsh example
Johnny Murtagh yesterday became the latest high-profile Irish jockey to announce that he will ride less frequently in Britain as a result of the controversial new whip rules.
On the day that Ruby Walsh lodged a formal appeal against the five-day ban that he incurred at Aintree last Saturday — which rules him out of the Grade One JNwine.com Champion Chase at the Down Royal Festival next weekend — Murtagh said his boss John Oxx has advised against him competing at “ordinary meetings” in Britain.
“These are bad rules introduced for the wrong reasons,” an irate Murtagh said.
“I cannot risk these bans when I go over to Britain. You won't see me in the lead up to major meetings like Royal Ascot and races like the Derby any more.
“I'll probably draw a line at Group races only. It's too risky. I can't be picking up five-day bans or worse for committing minor riding offences.”
Murtagh's decision to condemn the new rules and sanctions follows Walsh's declaration that he will be more selective about which UK meetings he attends in his role as Paul Nicholls' stable jockey.
With former champion jump jockeys Paul Carberry and Barry Geraghty having expressed similar concerns in recent days, pressure will continue to mount on the British Horseracing Authority if so many of the game's top riders feel compelled to boycott the day-to-day racing.
The threat of a jockeys' strike remains a distinct possibility, with the severity of the sanctions and the limit of eight strikes that are permitted in jumps races, two of the main points of protest.
Walsh, who skipped Chepstow yesterday and has also ruled himself out of Wetherby on Friday, went over the limit by one when getting Edgardo Sol home by a nose at Aintree and a repeat offence would trigger a 10-day exclusion.
Meanwhile, Midnight Chase — trained in Devon by Glenavy-born Neil Mulholland — is expected to skip Saturday's Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby to run in Down Royal’s JNwine.com Champion Chase.
Mulholland said: “He'll probably go to Ireland for the Champion Chase at Down Royal.
“It's a good race and I feel he'd like the track better (than Wetherby) — it's a real front-runners' track.”
Noble Mission looks certain to uphold family honour to some degree after making a highly encouraging debut in defeat at Yarmouth yesterday.
Rarely has a juvenile maiden been so highly anticipated, with the name Noble Mission having been on the lips of racing aficionados for months.
The reason, of course, is that Sir Henry Cecil's juvenile is a full brother to stable companion and the world's highest-rated Flat horse, Frankel.
The son of Galileo is clearly not going to sweep all before him as his sibling has done in his nine starts to date, but there was enough promise in his excellent second in division one of the British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Maiden to suggest winning races is not going to a problem.
The race was won by 7-2 favourite Swedish Sailor.