Oisin Murphy demoted then wins but is unseated on eventful Royal Ascot day

Oisin Murphy demoted then wins but is unseated on eventful Royal Ascot day

There are ups and downs in any jockey’s life, but few have squeezed as many into one hour as Oisin Murphy at Royal Ascot on Friday. He was first across the line in the Commonwealth Cup only to have the Group One win snatched away in the stewards’ room, then bounced back to win the Coronation Stakes, another Group One, on Alcohol Free. Moments later, though, he went head-first into the Ascot turf, after being unseated from the filly before pulling up to return to the winner’s enclosure.

The only injury in the incident was to Murphy’s pride, and any embarrassment was overwhelmed by his delight at getting a first Group One winner at Royal Ascot on the board so soon after his bitter disappointment in the Commonwealth Cup.

Murphy, on Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol, was the only rider who could get within striking distance of Campanelle and Frankie Dettori, after Wesley Ward’s filly set out to repeat her all-the-way win in the Queen Mary Stakes last year. The two horses drew five lengths clear of the remaining runners as Murphy and Dettori battled for the line, but Dragon Symbol carried Campanelle a long way across the track while also getting himself a head in front at the post.

If an inquiry was inevitable, the outcome was not, and there was brisk two-way trade in the Betfair market before the announcement that the placings had been reversed, which came 15 minutes after the two horses had flashed across the line.

Murphy seemed to suggest to ITV Racing shortly after his win on Alcohol Free that he “was on the best horse [in the Commonwealth Cup], even Frankie said that to me, but the stewards gave it to her”.

Later, he added: “I’m disappointed for the connections of Dragon Symbol. There was a massive Japanese interest [in Yoshiro Kubota’s colt], he finished the race in front, but it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t give it much thought, I went into the stewards’ room, I told them I was on the best horse, Frankie said I was on the best horse, but it didn’t go my way. Sorry to the Japanese fans and to Archie Watson’s team and well done to Wesley Ward.”

Dettori, though, declined to confirm that he had made any comment about the outcome to his opponent, and paid tribute to Ward and above all Campanelle.

“It’s never nice to win it in the stewards’ room,” Dettori said, “But it was plain obvious that I was carried off my line for quite a long way and the margin in the end was a head.

“I felt like I was the unlucky loser and the stewards saw it the same way. I’m good friends with Oisin, so I know what he feels like and I’m pleased he bounced back and won a Group One.

“It’s one of those things. I’m very pleased with the way my filly ran, it’s unfortunate that I got it in the stewards’ room, but it was a good run and well done to the connections.

“Campanelle won the Queen Mary, she won the Prix Morny, now she’s won the Commonwealth. They keep on bringing horses here and I’m always delighted to ride winners for Wesley. It leaves a little bit of a sour taste in the mouth because we didn’t win it outright, but we were interfered with, and the stewards saw it the same way.”

The demotion was the first time a first-placed finisher in a Group One race at Royal Ascot had been denied victory since Royal Gait’s hugely controversial disqualification in the Gold Cup in 1988, after crossing the line five lengths in front of Sadeem. Kooyonga was also dropped to third in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in 1992, before the race was promoted to its current Group One status.

Campanelle was Dettori’s 76th Royal Ascot winner and his third of the week, putting him in a useful position to finish the meeting as the leading rider for the third year running. Murphy, though, also moved on to three victories this week with his win on Alcohol Free and took the outright lead when Quickthorn, the 7-2 favourite, came with a strong run to land the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap later on the card.

“We were a bit concerned when all the rain came, because her stamina wasn’t guaranteed,” Andrew Balding, Alcohol Free’s trainer, said, “but full credit to Oisin. It’s a tough job to come out straight after having lost a race as big as the race before and give her such a cool, confident ride.

“We have worked her at home plenty of times on soft ground, it doesn’t inconvenience her and she travels very strongly. It was just whether she would see out the final furlong, and I was very grateful that she really powered home.”