Oisin Murphy v William Buick: title challenger faces difficult task on final day
With the gap between Oisin Murphy and William Buick now sitting at threeafterthe action at Haydock on Friday, the race to be crowned British Flat jockeys' champion draws to a closeat Ascot on Saturday.
Both jockeys ride their two best horses of the year– Alcohol Free for Murphy in the QEII and Derby winner Adayar for Buick in the Champion Stakes– alongside a host of other top-class mounts, although Buick has five rides to Murphy's four.
Form (last 14 days)Wins:20Rides:85(24 per cent)
Odds 1-40 (Paddy Power)
The reigning champion begins his afternoon with a great chance of claiming a fourth Group 1 of the season on Dragon Symbol in the Champions Sprint (2.00). Murphy suffered the agony of having the Commonwealth Cup taken away from Dragon Symbol in the stewards' room and he has continued to run well in the top sprints since then.
If Murphy is to get a winner in the next he will have to overcome the challenge of dominant Oaks winner and strong favourite Snowfall in the Fillies & Mares Stakes (2.35),in whichhe rides Park Hill fifth Tribal Craft for Andrew Balding and Jeff Smith.
He is then reunited with Sussex Stakes and Coronation Stakes winner Alcohol Free in the QEII (3.10). Her stamina was stretched in the Juddmonte International last time out, but a return to a mile is sure to suit the three-year-old filly.
Murphy partners topweight Sir Busker in the Balmoral Handicap (4.30), after which he couldlift a third straight jockeys' title.
Form (last 14 days)Wins:13Rides:70(19 per cent)
Odds10-1 (Paddy Power)
Buick has one extra ride on the card than his rival, but he may find it difficult to make that advantage count when he opens the afternoon on Roberto Escobarr in the Long Distance Cup (1.25). The William Haggas-trained four-year-old will likely need to post a career-best effort to threaten Trueshan and Stradivarius.
A better opportunity may lie in theChampions Sprint (2.00)in which Buick partners Group 3 winner Creative Force, who has gone close in a series of Britain's top sprints since racking up a four-timer in the spring.
After a break during the Fillies & Mares Stakes, Buick is back in action on 2,000 Guineas runner-up Master Of The Seas against heavyweight milers Palace Pier and Baaeed in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes(3.10).
He remains in the Godolphin blue for his star ride of the day on Derby and King George hero Adayar in the Champion Stakes(3.50).
Buick's last chance of the season comes on the Ed Walker-trained Matthew Flinders in the Balmoral Handicap (4.30), after whichboth jockeys will surely breath a sigh of relief at the conclusion of a manic and breathless title race.
Spotlight comments:final-dayclashes at Ascot
Having a solid season (2m latest) but this demands far more of him; headgear first time
Murphy: no ride
Won 7f Jersey here in June; strong-finishing 5th in the July Cup; interesting back here
Very reliable in Group company at 6f, including when demoted tosecond over C&D in June
Buick: no ride
1m6f and soft ground would suit; even then she has her work cut out at this level
Buick:Masters Of The Seas
Went close in 2,000 Guineas; third to Benbatl last time; still open to further progress
Successful in this year's Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes; possibilities back over 1m
Derby and King George winner; Arc didn't go his way; leading claims if at his best
Murphy: no ride
Quite tempting odds, as he was 7-1 second favourite for the Hunt Cup on sole C&D run
Record of 1433 over this C&D, including Group 1 efforts; frame possibilities back here
What the bookies say about Saturday's action
Paddy Power: Oisin Murphy 1-40, William Buick 10-1
Paul Binfield said: "It's been a truly valiant fight by William, but realistically he had to close the gapon Fridayand while he does go into the final day mathematically still able to topple Oisin, it'll take more than a bit of doing."
Saturday's race previews:
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