Turf Talk with Patrick Grace - No joy for Murtagh

25-07-2012'Johnny Murtagh after riding Roter Baron in the Brady Family Real Ham supporting Naas Hurling maiden of �10,000 at Naas races.'Photo: Adrian Melia
25-07-2012'Johnny Murtagh after riding Roter Baron in the Brady Family Real Ham supporting Naas Hurling maiden of �10,000 at Naas races.'Photo: Adrian Melia

Johnny Murtagh was out of luck on his comeback ride from injury at Gowran Park.

The multiple Irish champion jockey finished fourth on Sherzam for owner Andrew Tinkler and trainer Tommy Carmody in the Rooftop Restaurant at Gowran Park Nursery.

Murtagh got Sherzam into a challenging position despite the filly’s wide draw and moved into second place briefly in the straight. But the 3-1 joint-favourite was unable to go through with her effort in the closing stages as market rival Horizon Sky took the spoils for trainer David Wachman and jockey Wayne Lordan.

It was Murtagh’s only ride of the day and his first since the news last week that his contract with owner and breeder the Aga Khan had been terminated with immediate effect. Murtagh suffered facial injuries when unshipped from Lottie Dod prior to the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh on August 12.

Trainer John Oxx confirmed on Monday he would continue to use Murtagh on his horses not under the ownership of the Aga Khan.

Trio vie for Ces favouritism

Sponsors Betfred are finding it hard to pick a Cesarewitch favourite after the weights for the October 13 contest at Newmarket were unveiled.

The firm make the Aidan O’Brien-trained I Have A Dream (8st 4lb), Dermot Weld’s Olympiad (8st 10lb) and Motivado (9st 3lb) from the Sir Mark Prescott yard the 10-1 co-favourites. Motivado was a beaten favourite when fourth in the Ebor last time, while I Have A Dream is one of the Ballydoyle lesser lights having just a maiden and a handicap win to his credit.

Olympiad has obvious claims for Weld having won a two-mile handicap at York but Barry Simpson, racing manager to owner Sir Robert Ogden, would advise his would-be supporters to hang fire on backing the four-year-old.

He said: “It’s nothing more than an entry at the moment as Olympiad does have the choice of a Listed race in Ireland which we will give consideration to as well. He will only have one more run this season so it’s just a question of where we really want to go with him but he is a possible for the Betfred Cesarewitch.

“He has been in great form since his win at York and we have been very happy with him. He is a big horse and he has taken his time getting there but he has refined down into a lovely individual.

“It’s interesting on pedigree because he is related to an Irish 1,000 Guineas winner so you wouldn’t think two miles will be his trip. I wasn’t surprised by how well he did it at York because we knew he was a horse with talent, but it’s like all these things, having talent at home and doing it on the racecourse are two different things.

“I think he will get the two and a quarter miles at Newmarket as once you have won at two miles and are running over those sort of trips, stamina isn’t normally a problem. I don’t think ground is an issue with him. He probably wouldn’t want to run on extremes but he won on fast ground at York and ran well on very soft ground at Galway under a big weight.”

Other leading entries include David Simcock’s Ascot handicap scorer Montaser (7st 11lb) and David Lanigan’s Melrose Handicap runner-up Biographer, who has been allotted 8st 1lb.

Ed Dunlop’s talented four-year-old Romeo Montague (8st 7lb) was a winner at Ascot over two miles in July before slipping up in the Goodwood Stakes, which was won by Mark Johnston’s Hurricane Higgins (8st 13lb).

Godolphin’s Whispering Gallery will carry top weight of 9st 10lb, while last year’s winner Never Can Tell has been given 8st 11lb, the same weight she carried to victory 12 months ago.

Commander enjoys Irish preparation

Imperial Commander’s pre-training in Ireland has gone smoothly and connections are now looking to get him back into full work.

The 11-year-old is set for an imminent return to training with Nigel Twiston-Davies ahead of a likely tilt at the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.

The 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero won the Betfair Chase the following season, but was pulled up lame when defending his crown in the Prestbury Park blue riband in March of last year. The leg injury he sustained at Cheltenham has since kept him out of action.

Part-owner Hugh Doubtfire said: “Imperial Commander is still in Ireland and he has done plenty of roadwork and cantering. He’s recently been scanned again and all is well, so I think he will be returning to Nigel’s in the next week or so. Everything has gone well up to now.

“We’re obviously taking it day by day with him, not because anything is wrong, but obviously it is quite a big ask for the horse after 18 months off to go straight into a Grade One. The Betfair Chase is the aim at the moment, and we’ll see as we go along with him.

“He has done his pre-training and that will be stepped up when he gets back to Nigel’s.”

Geraghty leads Oaksey tributes

Barry Geraghty has paid tribute to John Oaksey, who has died at the age of 83.

The jockey tweeted: “Very sad to hear of Lord Oaksey’s passing. A true gent who racing owes a great debt to. RIP.”

Brough Scott worked with Oaksey for many years on television and is chairman of trustees for the IJF.

He tweeted: “Sad, bad, but ‘blessed release’ news on John. He was my and our greatest friend, a high achiever who thought of others. May he inspire.”

Retired trainer Jack Berry worked alongside Lord Oaksey in his role as vice president of the IJF.

Berry told At The Races: “It’s a very sad day. He was a star man in every respect. He worked tirelessly for the IJF from its outset in 1964 when Paddy Farrell had his accident in a fall from Border Flight in the Grand National. At trustee meetings, he would stand his corner for the beneficiaries and would give 100%. I can’t speak highly enough of him. My thoughts are to his wife Chicky and daughter Sara at this very moment.”

Perennial National Hunt champion jockey Tony McCoy is a vice patron of IJF and he tweeted: “Very sad to hear that Lord John Oaksey former jockey and founder of the Injured Jockeys Fund has died. A truly great gentleman. RIP.”

Moscow to join hurdling ranks

Moscow Mannon, last seen finishing fourth in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, is to embark upon a hurdling career.

The Brian Hamilton-trained six-year-old got to within five and a half lengths of Champagne Fever, having previously won three races on the spin. His first assignment over hurdles is likely to be at Down Royal in November.

“He’s tipping away and we’ll try to have him ready for Down Royal,” said Hamilton.

“We thought about running him over fences, but it’s a bit unfair as he hasn’t run in point-to-points or anything.

“He’ll start over hurdles and we’ll see what way he goes afterwards.”