Oisin Murphy

Fresh from celebrating Classic glory aboard Kameko, Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy talks to Matt Chapman ahead of Royal Ascot 2020.

By Matt Chapman

Some things stick in racing. Jockey James Doyle, for instance, will always have to put up with people like me mentioning that he was close to becoming a plumber before he got career breaks which now see him considered one of the best jockeys on planet earth.

Oisin Murphy has a similar claim to fame, in that he was in a stewards' enquiry at Goodwood in which former number one Ryan Moore sniggered before telling the officials: "He's (Murphy) just not strong enough to keep him straight."

There is no doubt, though, that Murphy is strong enough now, and he goes into a behind-closed-doors Royal Ascot 2020, live on Sky Sports Racing, not only as the British champion but also as a Classic-winning hero, having banged in KAMEKO for his boss Sheikh Fahad and his mentor Andrew Balding in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Watch every race of Royal Ascot 2020 live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) from Tuesday 16th June to Saturday 20th June.

Oisin Murphy wins the 2000 Guineas
Murphy landed the 2000 Guineas aboard Kameko for Andrew Balding and Sheikh Fahad.

That's the past, however, and Murphy is now only concerned about the future.

"I've only ever had one Royal Ascot winner year on year since 2017 - it's very important to me that I ride a Royal Ascot winner every single year and once I get one on the board everything else is a bonus," a down to earth Murphy told me.

"I remember James Doyle rode four in a day once - that's just inspirational and I don't look at it as if it's possible for me to do that."

Murphy's Royal Ascot winners number Benbatl in the 2017 Hampton Court for Saeed bin Suroor, Signora Cabello for John Quinn in the 2018 Queen Mary and Dashing Willoughby for Balding in last term's Queen's Vase.

"If I only got one winner this year I wouldn't think that was a bad week," Murphy continues. "I just hope there are no hard luck stories and I give every horse a chance to win. Then, if they don't win, that's fine but as long as I have given them the best chance I am comfortable with that situation.

"Obviously it's going to be behind closed doors, but it's possible it's going to attract a bigger audience on television than has ever happened before. I don't want to make any mistakes.

"Royal Ascot is like Cheltenham in that everyone tees up their horses for the meeting. It's so important for owners and trainers and can make a trainer's season."

Murphy adds: "I have to say I am really delighted Royal Ascot is going ahead. I take my hat off to the people involved in making that possible.

"I like Ascot. I don't mind being drawn high on the round course as you have options. Many think you have to be low but if you are on the inside and you don't want to light one up and a load of horses come across you - well, you are in trouble."

Benbatl has touched the Murphy heart. "He was my first Royal Ascot winner and he's been so important for my career. I've won two Group 1s on him and I adore the horse. If he was human, he would be your best friend and he's such an easy ride and tries his best every time. He's going to make a great stallion there's no doubt."

It's hard to know with Murphy whether glory and fame is going to his head, but you can only judge a book by its cover, and he seems totally grounded. The ultimate professional. I am speaking to Murphy late into the evening after he has been to Haydock. He's had a winner from ten rides. But it's fair to say that was not enough.

"Today was terrible at Haydock," he says. "I got knocked down on one and Richard Kingscote got up my inside on another. Then I got stuck behind horses on another. I have had a bad day.

 "I got beat on three horses today that on a normal day I might have won on. I'm going for the jockeys' championship - I don't want to get beat on any horse. I'm doing my best - but today it just didn't happen."

It could have led Murphy to take to social media, a means of communication he has embraced.

Indeed, just the other day Murphy went through some mounts in detail. But don't expect that all the time.

"I put up some social media the other day - it was my choice and decision - about some youngsters I had ridden because a load of people on Twitter had questioned why I had not been more forceful," he told me.

"I wanted to try and explain they were going as fast as they could! I felt it was the only way to answer people without doing individual tweets. I think I had 40 tweets of abuse about two-year-olds first time out.

"The reason why I ride for more trainers than most people is that I don't lie. I just tell people what I think and if they don't like that fine."

Returning to Kameko is a happier topic. Murphy says: "The 2000 Guineas is a stallion-making race for Kameko, and it's a race every trainer and owner wants to win. The championship colts race over a mile for three-year-olds. It doesn't get any better really does it?" No it doesn't Oisin.

The success will sink in at some point for Murphy, but it hasn't yet. He adds: "I haven't thought about it much for me as I haven't had time to reflect on it, but for Sheikh Fahad, Qatar Racing and Andrew Balding and the whole of the Kingsclere team it's absolutely massive.

"He relaxes very well so he has every chance of staying the Derby trip. It will just depend on the day - on pedigree he's not certain to stay but I'm very hopeful."

Team Kameko
Team Kameko after capturing the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Despite Haydock, Murphy goes into Royal Ascot in top form with the likes of SHARING - a Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf heroine - in the Coronation, and juveniles in the shape of SHERIFF BIANCO (possibly Windsor Castle) who he "likes a lot" and THE LIR JET(Norfolk).

You will see every race live on Sky Sports Racing. Yes, people Royal Ascot is nearly here. And it will be even better with Britain's champion jockey being part of it.

Oisin Murphy

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