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Murtagh happy with luck of draw

Johnny Murtagh has never been known as a shy and retiring type and his transition from being a world-class jockey to a fledging trainer certainly hasn't mellowed him.

Murtagh's character is a breath of fresh air anywhere he goes as he'll immediately light up any room with that distinctive, well-travelled, Meath twang and since he touched down in Australia last Thursday not even the jet-lag has held him back.

As a jockey, Murtagh bowed out at the top of his game. Now, as a trainer, he is in Melbourne with two of his string, both of whom are in the Melbourne Cup and one of them seems to have a great chance of winning it.


The race may have eluded Murtagh when he was riding but with a good draw for both of his horses in the 24-runner field, he is hopeful of a bold showing in a renewal that has been described by many down here as one of the most wide open in many years.

"Mutual Regard has been running better than Royal Diamond this season and I think he has a good profile for the race," Murtagh said from Werribee Racecourse that has been home to the international horses since their arrival.

"He won a very strong Ebor very easily when the ground was fast and it was a good time and a lot of things seem to suggest that he would have a chance in a race like this."

Royal Diamond seemed to be taking his training extremely well at Werribee. While he is one of the outsiders in the race, Murtagh did acknowledge that he appears to come into his best form in the latter half of the year.

Murtagh said: "Royal Diamond really seems to be loving it here and he did the same when he went to Dubai and got a bit of sun on his back.

"He thrived down there and I think he is a horse that likes a bit of heat and sulks a bit at home when it is cold! He is moving well and he is a good strong stayer and the hardest thing is to get into this race and he's in it and he has a good chance."

Reflecting on Mutual Regard drawing stall 12 and Royal Diamond being in six, Murtagh was very pleased.

"It looks good and both of them are in the middle. Sometimes people underestimate the draw but the draw means a lot and the start of a race like this means a lot. Where you are after two furlongs is where you are going to be for a long time. Especially here."

The Curragh-based trainer has opted to go local with his jockeys and after Damien Oliver enjoyed a Group One double at Flemington on Derby Day last Saturday the trainer joked: "I told him not to waste all his luck and he said 'No, I'll be hanging on to a bit for Tuesday!" but he's in great form and I think Steven Arnold will really suit Royal Diamond too."

Mutual Regard hasn't run since winning Ebor but Murtagh is in little doubt that will prove to be an advantage.

"I think he is better fresh and I'm glad I didn't run him since the Ebor. A lot of people said to me that I should run him in Australia but, he is a horse that goes well fresh. He won first time out for us this year and he won the Ebor after a long break so I think that is the best thing for the horse.

"I don't know if Mutual Regard is ahead of the handicapper but I do hope he is still progressing. He looks very good and very fit looking so I don't think there is much more we can do with him," Murtagh concluded.

The race itself certainly looks wide open with 11 of the runners coming from overseas and it is the Japanese raider Admire Rakti who won the Caulfield Cup and Saturday's Lexus Stakes winner Signoff, who snuck into the race after that victory, that look set to battle it out for favouritism but there is no doubt that one of the greatest stories ever in Melbourne Cup history would be if Red Cadeaux could win the race at the fourth attempt.

The Ed Dunlop-trained nine-year-old has come extremely close in the past and the trainer admitted;"I came here last year saying that if he ran poorly we would retire him and here we are back here again 12-months on," after he finished second to Fiorente in last year's renewal.


Almost every international trainer has given the horse a favourable mention with Murtagh, Marco Botti, John Gosden, and Roger Varian all admitting that they'd love to see Red Cadeaux win if they weren't to be victorious themselves.

The bookies make it a shorter price that the Melbourne Cup will fly out of Australia rather than stay in it and lets hope it is getting comfortable on the Curragh later this week.