'It's something I can't explain' - Murtagh delighted after Group 1 Matron strike

A chuffed Johnny Murtagh with Champers Elysees
A chuffed Johnny Murtagh with Champers ElyseesCredit: Patrick McCann (

Johnny Murtagh, who won the world's best races as a jockey, recorded the biggest success of his training career when Champers Elysees landed Leopardstown's Matron Stakes on Saturday.

The 9-2 winner was ridden by Colin Keane and beat Peaceful with Fancy Blue third.

Among Ireland's greatest Flat jockeys, Murtagh was recognised with championship riding honours five times, won a brace of 2,000 Guineas, the Derby three times and has a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victory on his CV.

He quit the saddle in 2013 and started training, steadily making a success of his second vocation.

This year has been by far his best with a licence and Champers Elysees, a three-year-old who won a Curragh handicap off a mark of 86 in June, underlined that when producing a fine late run in the Group 1 Matron.

She has been a star this term for Murtagh, winning a Listed race at Galway and then a Group 3 at Gowran Park last time.

A strong field awaited, but she had too much for Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Peaceful and Fancy Blue, who earned top-level honours in the Prix de Diane and Nassau.

A delighted Murtagh, who also saddled Know It All to finish fourth, said: "People ask how you can compare training with riding, but you buy them at the sales or get sent them as yearlings. You break them in, set out a plan, and some hit the targets and some fall short, but these two fillies have progressed all year.

"The satisfaction as a trainer is something I can't explain; this is unbelievable.

"We've had a brilliant season and the good horses just seem to bring each other on. We had a good spring and managed Covid well, while I've very good staff and team – my wife and family – around me. This is not Johnny Murtagh, but the whole team."

Things might have been different with Champers Elysees, however.

"It just shows you need a bit of luck in this game," Murtagh explained. "She was sold twice and passed all the scans and x-rays, but is a bad trotter. Thankfully it's not a trotting race – you have to gallop and she is well able to gallop.

"There was a good pace on all the way and I thought Colin was in a good position. I saw Fancy Blue in front and thought would we get by, but she picked up well.

"She's got a very good turn of foot. People say she likes soft ground, but I think she can go on most ground and those horses with a turn of foot usually like better ground.

"She's got a great heart and wants to win. You can't see inside them, but when they have that, they're hard to beat."

Wichita (Frankie Dettori) beats One Master (Tom Marquand) in the bet365 Park StakesDoncaster 12.8.20 Pic: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Wichita (purple) just holds off One MasterCredit: Edward Whitaker

Dettori prevails - just

Frankie Dettori and Aidan O'Brien teamed up with Wichita to win the Group 2 Park Stakes on Doncaster's card, but it was a close-run thing with the 2,000 Guineas second only just holding on from the fast-finishing One Master.

"I'm glad he's got a big head," joked a relieved Dettori after the photo-finish was announced in his favour.

"I wasn't sure. He was just a bit lazy, but luckily the line came in time. I was confident I'd won. It's very hard to tell when it's that close, but he's a lovely horse and deserved it."

Wichita was cut to 10-1 (from 25) by Paddy Power for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Prix de la Foret & Breeders' Cup Mile.

Chindit (Pat Dobbs) beats Albasheer (Jim Crowley) in the bet365 Champagne StakesDoncaster 12.8.20 Pic: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Chindit (stripes) streaks past Albasheer (blue) and State of RestCredit: Edward Whitaker

More Champagne for Hannon

The Richard Hannon-trained Chindit earned a quote of 8-1 (from 12) with Betfair for next year's Qipco 2,ooo Guineas after winning the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

"He's very good and has got a really good head on his shoulders - everything you want in a good horse," said jockey Pat Dobbs.

"He travels and has got a good turn of foot when you need it."

Hannon was winning the race for the third time - the same total as his father Richard snr.

Cadillac motors home

There were also Classic quotes for Cadillac, who won the Group 2 Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown and is 12-1 (from 33) with Paddy Power and Betfair for the 2,000 Guineas.

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Lambourn correspondent

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