With just over a week to go until the 2021 Champion Jockey is crowned, defending title-holder Oisin Murphy has made a mistake which could yet come back to haunt him.
The Irishman was forced to sit out Friday’s meeting at Newmarket after failing a breath test, which saw him record an alcohol level above the legal maximum for jockeys.
The 26-year-old therefore had to take a watching brief and stand down from his four booked rides, and he will have noted that William Buick – his closest challenger for honours – took victory in the 3pm race aboard Al Suhail.
That meant that Murphy’s lead was cut to ten winners, with Buick still having two more rides at Newmarket at the time of writing, and with just a week to go of the season the championship could go right down to the wire – Champions Day at Ascot on October 16 is the last day of the flat campaign.
A statement released by the stewards of Newmarket read:
“An enquiry was held following a report from the Equine Welfare Integrity/Collection Officer that Oisin Murphy, who was declared to ride Fiorina, had failed a breathalyser test prior to the race.
“Murphy, the Equine Welfare Integrity/Collection Officer and Raceday Assistant were interviewed. Having heard their evidence, the matter was referred to the Head Office of the British Horseracing Authority for further consideration, and Murphy was stood down for the remainder of the day.”
The two-time champion jockey took to Twitter to voice his apology, writing:
“I was requested to take a breath test at Newmarket today. I blew under the drink drive limit but over the riding limit. I’m sorry to all the people I’ve let down today. I take full responsibility. I will be riding tomorrow.”
I was requested to take a breath test at Newmarket today. I blew under the drink drive limit but over the riding limit. I’m sorry to all the people I’ve let down today. I take full responsibility. I will be riding tomorrow.
— Oisín Murphy (@oismurphy) October 8, 2021
Another Black Mark
Whether he goes on to win the Champion Jockey title or not, the episode is another in the increasing file of misdemeanours that Murphy has carried out.
He was banned for a day’s racing back in June 2019 for another failed breath test, and that again came at a time when he was fighting hard for the Champion Jockey’s crown, which he would go on to win.
He was banned for three months in the second half of 2020 after a random drugs test found metabolites of cocaine in his urine. Protesting his innocence, the 26-year-old produced his own test results which showed he hadn’t taken the drug, and French racing authorities – where the ‘offence’ took place – accepted his explanation of ‘environmental contamination’ after he spent the night with a cocaine user.
In August, Murphy was banned for two days for over-use of the whip at Glorious Goodwood. He admitted striking his mount Scampi nine times in the closing stages of a handicap race at the festival.
But it’s the misadventures with alcohol that will displease his backers the most – not least Qatar Racing, with whom he is a retained jockey.