herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Doncaster target for murtagh

Melbourne Cup still on agenda for Mutual Regard

Johnny Murtagh is still well and truly targeting the Emirates Melbourne Cup with Ebor winner Mutual Regard despite not declaring the five-year-old for an engagement at Kempton tomorrow afternoon.

Murtagh had included the Ebor winner in the Group Three September Stakes at Kempton tomorrow, in an attempt to assure himself a run in the Melbourne Cup on the opening Tuesday of November, but the trainer opted against the quick reappearance and will now eye the Doncaster Cup this day week.

"I think Saturday was just coming a bit too soon for him after York," Murtagh told The Herald yesterday.

"I have entered him in the Doncaster Cup now which takes place next Friday and we'll have a look at that for him."

Murtagh was responsible for two of the 148 entries released for the Melbourne Cup earlier in the week with Royal Diamond joining Mutual Regard and Melbourne is still the target for the fast improving gelding.

"Very much so, Melbourne is top of the agenda for Mutual Regard and hopefully we'll get in.

"Rating wise, he should get in, but there is a preference for horses that have been Group placed and he hasn't been Group placed yet so that's why we will look at Doncaster and that could be a nice stepping stone."

Reflecting on his big win at York, the former champion jockey said: "He ran a good race and put a lot of effort into winning it and I think Saturday probably would have just come a shade too soon for him.

"He is a horse that goes well fresh so I just thought it would be better to leave him for another week and look at the bigger picture with Doncaster and hopefully Melbourne."

focus

Royal Diamond's main focus remains the Irish St Leger and Murtagh reported him to be well ahead of a return to that race after finishing second in the St Leger Trial at the Curragh.

"Royal Diamond seems to have come out of his race very well and it is all systems for the Irish St Leger on Champions Weekend for him.

"I wouldn't rule out Melbourne for him as we thought about it last year and he still has loads of enthusiasm but we'll just see how we go in the St Leger first."

Looking at the potential prospect of having a runner in 'the race that stops a nation', Murtagh added: "I would really love to have a horse to bring down there.

"I was down there as a jockey and it's a great place and they look after you so well and, hopefully, we'll have one down there."

Meanwhile, watering is continuing at Doncaster ahead of their St Leger meeting with the ground still described as good, good to firm in places.

"The forecast is for dry conditions today and tomorrow.

"There is a chance of some light rain on Saturday.

"The forecast has changed today and currently no rain is predicted for next week. We will assess the situation again tomorrow and make a decision regarding further watering," said Clerk Of The Course Roderick Duncan.

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