At Chelmsford, Oisin Murphy makes a flawless return to action.
Following his 14-month suspension for Covid violations and drinking alcohol, Oisin Murphy won at Chelmsford.
When partnering Jupiter Express in the second race on the card, the Winning Connections Networking Handicap, the three-time champion jockey only rode once.
He hadn’t ridden in public since November 2021, but he got on the scoresheet quickly by riding the 15-8 favourite smoothly on the inside and swinging into contention on the home bend.
From there, the four-year-old owned by The Horse Watchers was impossible to catch, and he was always holding second-place Thismydream, who won by half a length at the finish line.
“It’s fantastic (to be back),” Murphy told Racing TV after the race.
“It’s been a while, but it’s brilliant to be back on the racecourse and to also ride a winner as well.
“I’m quite fit and I really enjoyed that. Even the banter in the weighing room I really missed that.”
He added of Jupiter Express: “We felt like we could sit on the rail just behind the leaders and the horse was coming into the race in good form.
“It was a relatively easy job for me and great to get another winner for these connections who are quite shrewd with their purchases and they make effort to put them in the right races. So it was very pleasing to see me jocked up a few days ago for this horse.
“I hit the front plenty soon and I felt for this grade the pace was quite strong and we were always going to be vulnerable to a closer if hitting the front before the furlong pole, so sharpness-wise I’m going to have to keep thinking about racing all the time and hopefully that instinct will come back quickly. But I will be making every effort to make sure I’m riding as well as I can.”
Murphy will now travel to Qatar this weekend to ride Flaming Rib for Hugo Palmer. He has also planned trips to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain for the upcoming weeks, and he is hopeful that his match sharpness will soon return.
He continued: “I’ve been riding out throughout my suspension and it can’t replicate race-riding. That competitiveness and sharpness to make decisions it doesn’t really matter grade or what distance, that only comes from race-riding.
“It was quite a long time to find new jobs and tasks to get through the day. Obviously you ride out but that only kills a few hours a day and I got into a routine of focussing on my show jumpers and riding and training them outside of the mornings and I really enjoyed going to some big show jumping competitions and watching horses taking part.
“I also kept my eye in by going racing, I was at Royal Ascot and also Glorious Goodwood and my main trainer Andrew Balding had a terrific year last year and I remained part of that success I felt anyway.
“That was a brilliant motivation to go forward and a major factor in having this day as my focus for such a long period.”
Murphy failed two breathalyser tests at Chester and Newmarket, and the British Horseracing Authority said last week that he will be tested for more alcohol and drugs.
In September 2020, he visited the Greek island of Mykonos, which was on the Covid “red list” at the time, but attempted to convince officials he had been at Lake Como in Italy, as revealed at the conclusion of a hearing in February of last year.
Murphy, who revealed to BBC Sport in June of last year that he had experienced alcoholic blackouts during the time that ultimately resulted in his suspension, was eager to acknowledge the support he received from both his employer, Qatar Racing, and longtime ally Balding, while also expressing a desire to atone for his mistakes.
“Realistically (what I did) it was very silly and I made many, many errors that I wish I hadn’t done,” he added.
“I was given a period of time to think about that and come back with a different mindset. Hopefully over next year and the following years I can prove to be the person I hope to be.”
On his reception and welcome back, he said: “It’s been incredible, when you start naming people you leave people out, but from my family to the Baldings to the whole of the Qatar Racing team, I never felt left out.”
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