Oisin Murphy: Queen Anne win for Lightning Spear would mean that bit more
Any winner at Royal Ascot is special, but success for Lightning Spear in the Queen Anne Stakes would mean just that bit more, according to his rider Oisin Murphy, who is still on the hunt for his first Group 1 in the colours of his main employer Qatar Racing.
A dual Group 2 winner, Lightning Spear has become something of a nearly horse in the top grade, twice finishing second in the Lockinge – this season by a short head to Queen Anne favourite Rhododendron – while he was also third in last year's Sussex Stakes and filled the same slot in the 2016 Queen Anne and that season's QEII.
Murphy, however, has not lost faith in the David Simcock-trained seven-year-old, who is 8-1 to finally achieve his Group 1 strike in the Queen Anne a week on Tuesday.
"He's been placed in multiple Group 1s and there's no bigger event in British racing than Royal Ascot, so if he was to win the Queen Anne it would be massive for everyone involved with him," said the rider.
"He's got a very good pedigree and, were he to win a Group 1, you'd imagine a lucrative stallion career would await."
Conveying his affection for Lightning Spear, Murphy said: "He's very uncomplicated and his temperament is testament to him; I'm a big fan of his. Every big winner means a lot but this horse does add a little bit extra.
"On figures, his run in the Lockinge last time was very good. He's been managed well throughout his career and is in great shape, although he's getting older."
Murphy's sole Royal Ascot winner came in last year's Hampton Court Stakes on Benbatl, who is among Lightning Spear's possible rivals in the opening race of the royal meeting.
"I know most of the horses in the reckoning," he said. "Benbatl won very well in Dubai and if he goes to Ascot in the same form he'll run a very big race.
"I'd imagine Rhododendron will line up, but whether things fall the same way for her as they did in the Lockinge, I don't know.
"I've seen Beat The Bank at home quite a bit and he's in very good order. It's a very competitive race, but Lightning Spear will go there as one of the favourites, as he should do."
Ascot is due to be mainly dry on Monday and Tuesday, with showers possible on Wednesday, but Murphy is not concerned about conditions for the son of Pivotal, whom he reckons is unlucky not to have won a Group 1 already.
Of a breakthrough at that level in Qatar Racing's familiar burgundy silks, he said: "It's on everyone's mind, but I don't over-think it. It would certainly be great to reward Sheikh Fahad.
"It's hard to win these races, as everyone realises, and it would be a great relief if I manage to do it. Every jockey's goal and dream is to ride big winners."
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