A dream comes true for champion Murphy as Kameko lands the ghost town Guineas
Odds-on favourite and leading juvenile Pinatubo only third in Newmarket clash
There was almost nobody there to see it happen, yet by wearing the colours of his boss, Sheikh Fahad, and riding a horse trained by Andrew Balding, the man who did so much to launch his career, Oisin Murphy enjoyed a practically perfect first Classic success when guiding Kameko to Qipco 2,000 Guineas glory.
In late November, Murphy, by then already crowned Britain's champion jockey, landed the Japan Cup in front of 80,826 frenzied fans.
There were no fans at all on the Rowley Mile, just a smattering of essential professionals, but as Kameko galloped past the winning post in front, the 24-year-old let out a roar to rival the noise made in the huge Tokyo grandstands on that autumn afternoon.
If that was a memorable triumph for Murphy, this one was unforgettable, for it was achieved in the most weirdly unique circumstances on a racecourse that resembled a ghost town and in a race staged five weeks late, on what should have been Derby day.
Now, however, Kameko – who cost just $90,000 when bought by David Redvers for the Sheikh Fahad-fronted Qatar Racing – is favourite at between 3-1 and 4-1 for the world's most famous Flat race, which Balding's father, Ian, claimed with turf icon Mill Reef 49 years ago.
Mill Reef found Brigadier Gerard too strong in the Guineas, but there was none too good for last season's Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Kameko, who delivered a challenge towards the centre of the track before overhauling the Frankie Dettori-ridden Ballydoyle raider Wichita.
A neck separated first and second, with a length back to last season's outstanding champion juvenile Pinatubo, who held every chance but was beaten fair and square as 5-6 market leader. The winning time of 1m 34.72s was a record for the 2,000 Guineas.
"This is the stuff of dreams," said Murphy.
"There isn't the same atmosphere – in fact there's no atmosphere – but it means just as much to me.
"The only two people shouting were Frankie and I. He was shouting at me and I don't know what I was shouting at. It was absolutely fine, though. When I look back on this race in a few years' time, I won't remember there was no crowd. I'll just remember Kameko gave me my first win in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas."
Describing his path to success, Murphy added: "At halfway, before we started going downhill, he got a little bit lost. I don't know if that's the track, the ground, or just that he's not used to racing at such high intensity, but he came home really well and he's got loads of guts.
"I did waste ground by coming to the outside, but I was playing it safe, rather than taking the more direct route. Really and truly, Kameko is a very good horse."
He is a very good horse always viewed by connections as likely to be at his best over ten furlongs. Even so, a trip to Epsom surely beckons on July 4.
"There's only one Derby and I'd be very keen to go that way," said Balding. "He's probably the best three-year-old around. There would be a slight stamina doubt but there's only one way to find out. His optimum trip would probably be a mile and a quarter but I think for one day only he might be able to stay a mile and a half.
"This is a massive thrill. It's a bizarre experience, but I promise you I didn't feel any less elation than if there had been 500,000 people here.
"We've obviously been looking forward to the race for a long time and it's fantastic they could get it on. We've been thinking about this since November. The Guineas is the Guineas whenever it's run – and Dad always wanted to win the Guineas, so he'll be absolutely over the moon."
Certainly over the moon was Sheikh Fahad, whose family also sponsored the race through Qipco.
After watching it unfold from his Newmarket home, he said: "To be able to win the Qipco 2,000 Guineas in our tenth year of sponsorship is just incredible and for it to be the fastest Guineas in history makes it even more special.
"I remember watching Frankel win in our first year of sponsorship. I would like to thank my amazing team and especially Oisin for giving Kameko such a sensational ride. This gives me and my family a huge amount of pleasure and pride."
When asked to talk about each other, Balding and Murphy expressed pleasure and pride in abundance.
"Oisin has been an amazing asset to racing, not just to Kingsclere, so for us to give him his first Classic winner is special," said Balding. "He does an exceptional amount for the sport. He can talk the talk and walk the walk. Long may that continue."
Balding may not have been so generous had his jockey given in to his inner urges, for Murphy revealed: "I wanted to carry Andrew on my shoulders, swing him around and make him dizzy, but first of all I'm not big or strong enough to do that and, secondly, there would have been a lot of bad press in the morning."
Fortunately, there is only the very best sort of press. At long last in this surreal year we have a 2,000 Guineas winner. Thanks to the horse and his humans, Kameko is one well worth celebrating.
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