Ahead of British Champions Day at Ascot earlier this month, the Champion Jockey accolade was still up in the air with William Buick desperately doing all he could to try and pip Oisin Murphy to the title. And, when the English rider won the Sprint Stakes aboard Creative Force, it was a real heart-in-the-mouth moment for all those who backed the Irish jockey to win the award in the horse racing tips.
However, when Buick later failed to win the Champion Stakes in the saddle of Adayar, who could fare no better than fifth in the Champions Day feature face, Murphy was able to wipe the sweat from his brow as he was crowned the Champion Jockey at Ascot, being presented with the award for the third successive season.
It has been an extremely tough year for the 26-year-old, who suffered a facial injury and failed a breathalyser at Newmarket all within the space of a couple of weeks towards the end of the season, but it has certainly had its highlights too — including a personal record of 42 winners in August. With that mind, read on as take a look back at some Murphy’s biggest wins from this season.
Coronation Stakes – Alcohol Free
Looking back at Murphy’s season, it is perhaps ironic that he won the Group 1 Coronation Stakes with Alcohol Free — a horse he rode to victory three times this season. Off the back of a fifth-place finish in the 1,000 Guineas, many questioned whether or not the three-year-old could stay a mile, but Murphy and trainer Andrew Balding kept faith and she duly delivered at Royal Ascot. Taking the lead inside the final furlong, Alcohol Free kept on well to win by a length and a half clear of Snow Lantern.
Sussex Stakes – Alcohol Free
The top-Group victories didn’t end there for Murphy and Alcohol Free either as they scooped the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in July. Third in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in between Ascot and Goodwood, Alcohol Free was ridden into the lead in the final furlong after being edged right by Murphy and went clear to win by almost two lengths clear of Poetic Flare. She couldn’t find similar success in the International Stakes at York or the Queen Elizabeth Stakes II, finishing towards the back of the field in both.
Prix Marcel Boussac – Zellie
European flat meetings don’t come much bigger than the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, and whilst Murphy could fare no better than seventh with Chrono Genesis in the Arc itself, he did manage a win on the card — landing the day’s opening race, the Prix Marcel Boussac. In the saddle of André Fabre’s Zellie, the 26-year-old waited patiently for the right time to attack and when 33/1 shot Times Square took the lead from Oscula on the home straight, Murphy guided Zellie through a gap along the rail and drove her home to win by almost two lengths.
“It’s brilliant to win a big race for Mr Fabre. I grew up watching him train winners all over the world and I was on the right horse today,” Murphy said.
The Irish jockey also won several Group 2 races, including the Duke of York Stakes with Starman, the Coventry Stakes with Berkshire Shadow, the Joel Stakes with Benbatl as well as the Cesarewitch Handicap with Buzz, bouncing back from that failed breathalyser the day before.