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Oisin’s 20 horses for 2020: Part One

8 May 2020

In Oisin Murphy’s Blog he reveals 20 horses that he’s looking forward to riding this year once racing is back under way.  We’ve listed the first 10, join us tomorrow for the rest!

Hi everyone I hope you’re all doing as well as can be at the moment.

As I said in last week’s opening Sporting Life column I’m very lucky in that I live in the countryside and am still able to go to work – to a few yards at least. I haven’t been able to get everywhere, I can’t wait to get back on the likes of Kameko and Telecaster for example, but I was riding out at John Gosden’s on Thursday morning which certainly whets the appetite for riding top-class horses at the races again.

We still don’t know when racing will return in the UK, but hopefully it won’t be long, under safe and strict social distancing conditions, of course.

Here are 20 horses I’m looking forward to riding when racing does resume.

Arctic Vega (3yo, Andrew Balding, PDR Properties)

He won first time out at Kempton when I was in Japan. He’s a beautiful grey horse who has quite a high knee action, so he’ll want to get his toe in a little bit. A son of Lope De Vega, he’s only had the one run but I think he can progress through the grades, through the handicaps and be a horse to follow for sure.

Benbatl (6yo, Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin)

Along with Roaring Lion he’s the highest-rated horse I’ve ever ridden and I love Benbatl, we’ve been on a journey together since 2017. He’s taken me all around the world, I’ve won two Group Ones on him, I was third in the Saudi Cup on him on Dirt, he’s just a fantastic horse. He’s got a heart of gold and if he was human he’d be your best friend, if there was ever a horse that you go to bed dreaming about every night it’s him. He’s got an incredibly high top speed that he can sustain for a long period of time, he’s so tough. He’s bred to be a champion being by Dubawi out of Nahrain, he’s a big boy and an absolute star. Hopefully there are more big days to come.

Darain (3yo, John Gosden, Qatar Racing)

He’s training very well. He’s galloped on the grass in the last couple of weeks and Kieran O’Neill rides him most days and he’s been happy with him. A full-brother to Too Darn Hot, he’s a different type to him, more of a staying type, and will probably be starting out over a mile and a quarter, while ultimately his best trip could be a mile and a half. But actually, on pedigree he’s bred to be that type of horse, Too Darn Hot was just a bit of a freak. Hopefully he stays sound now as we’re obviously all very excited about him and the world is his oyster at this stage.

Dashing Willoughby (4yo, Andrew Balding, Mick and Janice Mariscotti)

I’m a huge fan of Dashing Willoughby, he stays well, he’s very uncomplicated. At Ascot I kicked him out of the gate to get my position and then I was able to switch him off after going two furlongs and that’s really difficult as at Ascot you’re straight into the turn and then you’re going downhill. The horse clearly has a fantastic constitution, he danced every dance last year, ran in all the big races. I’d be quite hopeful he can compete at the top level dropping back to a mile and a half as well. He doesn’t have a fabulous turn of foot but he has a high cruising speed and he can sustain it for a long period of time. Like lots of Nathaniels, he likes to get his toe in, so he’ll be a fantastic horse for later on in the autumn. At the same time he does run well on fast ground as he’s quite light on his feet, he doesn’t carry lots of fat, and he’s a horse that can race often. He’s my staying horse to look forward to, the Cup races are worth an awful lot of money and I’m sure he’ll be targeted at those, but the option is there to come back and mix trips.

Deirdre (6yo, Mitsuru Hashida, Toji Morita)

She’s back in training in the UK and I saw her this morning. She looks really well and I absolutely love her. I don’t know what the plan is at the moment but she’ll be ready for whenever they get racing. It would be lovely to go back to Goodwood for the Nassau Stakes and on fast ground she’s an absolute star. I’d be very hopeful, now that she’s freshened up after Saudi Arabia, that she’s ready. She clearly under performed out in Saudi Arabia, she tanked through the race as she’s so much better than all of them, but it just wasn’t to be. Her big target is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but I’d be worried for her on slow ground, she wants top of the ground and the harder the better for her.

Enemy (3yo, John Gosden, Qatar Racing)

Enemy’s a lovely horse. He won over seven furlongs at Ascot first time out and he’s done well from two to three. He doesn’t carry loads of condition but he has strengthened up and he’s also got a little bit taller. He’s a horse with quite a lot of pace and I view him as a miler, I don’t think he’ll stay much further than that. I am quite excited about him, I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t above average although we’ve no idea how good he is yet. John doesn’t test them too hard on the gallops and he’s only had one race, but I really like him. He’s from a brilliant family, he’s out of Prudenzia which makes him a half-brother to proven Group One winners like Magic Wand and Chiquita.

English King (3yo, Ed Walker, Bjorn Nielsen)

Ed Walker was very good to me last year and he has a very nice horse called English King. I really like him, he’s a son of Camelot, and although I haven’t ridden him in a race yet I have ridden him in a gallop and he’s very exciting. He’s a proper staying type, typical Camelot, loads of energy and I think he’s quite a nice horse.

Heart Reef (3yo, Ralph Beckett, Qatar Racing)

She’s an Australia filly that won first time out at Haydock last September. She was beaten on her second start but she got a little bit hairy and it was late in the year, she possibly wasn’t at her best so I’d forgive her that. She hasn’t grown much over the winter, she’s a very similar type to what Ralph does incredibly well with, she’s going to be a mile and a half type filly and hopefully she’ll pick up black type.

Higher Kingdom (3yo, Archie Watson, Clipper Logistics)

He’s owned by Clipper Logistics so obviously Danny Tudhope and Kieran Shoemark have first call on him, but I love him. Archie’s done a great job training him and he’s in a great place at the moment. He’s a son of Kingman that just looks like he’s going to improve and improve. He’s not a flashy work horse, he just does enough in the mornings, but he’s in a great place mentally and physically at the moment.

Kameko (3yo, Andrew Balding, Qatar Racing)

I love this horse. I rode him a lot last year in his work and it’s always a good sign when you’re going into Andrew Balding’s once a week and he’s putting you on the same every time. He improved a lot with racing last year. He’s very Kitten’s Joy in that he carries quite a lot of weight all the time and he takes his gallops very well. I only got to sit on him twice this year before lockdown and I was pleased with him, he’s got very strong. He’s got a super temperament, he’s very relaxed, so he might not sparkle in his work on a day-to-day basis, but when he gets to the track or he gets on grass he’s a different horse. I’m really excited about him, please God he stays in one piece as I think he can have a big year. Trip-wise, I’d be very confident he will stay a mile and a quarter, whether he’ll truly stay a mile and a half I don’t know, he does have an awful lot of pace. If he does he’ll be an exceptional racehorse. He’s like Roaring Lion in several ways, including in his temperament, he never pulls and he’s super cool at the start.

Find out the next 10 horses tomorrow.