It’s fair to say that Oisin Murphy has been in the news a lot of late….and not always for the right reasons.
The Irishman, who won the Jockeys’ Championship crown in 2019 and 2020 on the flat, was banned for a day’s racing earlier in October after failing a breathalyser test.
His nearest rival in this year’s champion jockey standings, William Buick, took full advantage at that Newmarket meeting, and since then he has closed the deficit from 12 winners to just two.
They head to Chelmsford tonight for an evening meeting that could have severe implications for the destination of the trophy – Murphy is booked in for six rides, with Buick getting seven.
|Race||Oisin Murphy||William Buick|
|17:30||Single Minded||Alpine Lady|
|19:30||Golden Owl||Lord Lovelace|
|20:00||Dubai Icon||Far Hope|
There is very much the possibility that the title will be decided at the British Champions Day on Saturday at Ascot, which would be a fitting finale for an extraordinary tussle.
There’s so little to choose between the pair that in places you can pick up odds of 5/6 on either man in the Jockeys’ Championship market with different forms, which suggests that even the bookies are in the dark as to who will finish the campaign with the most winners.
The spokesperson for Coral, David Stevens, said:
“Although time is running out for William Buick, he continues to narrow the gap on Oisin Murphy, and as a result is now evens – the shortest odds he’s ever been – to win a first championship.”
Hitting Their Stride
If form and momentum counts for anything, then Buick could well be the man to beat.
He has closed Murphy’s comfortable lead in the blink of an eye, and has even done so despite a bizarre Monday in which three of his booked rides were all declared non-runners at Wolverhampton.
Buick’s connection with the Godolphin yard ensures he will get the quality and quantity of rides needed to usurp Murphy in the coming days, although how they fare at Chelmsford tonight will have a significant bearing on who is crowned champion on Saturday.
Wednesday’s action at Nottingham also went the way of Buick, who signed off at the meeting by winning two of the last three renewals to take him to 148 winners for the season so far. Murphy came up empty-handed in the East Midlands to remain on 150 victories.
According to the formbook, Murphy has enjoyed a 14% strike rate in the past fortnight, with ten winners coming from his 69 rides. But Buick, who has the busier of the two with 81 rides – assisted by Murphy’s day on the sofa at Newmarket, has picked up 18 winners….a success rate of 22%.
Crucially, Buick will saddle three of the favourites in Thursday night’s seven-race card, although Murphy – in an ironic twist – will have a couple of useful looking Godolphin horses to pilot.
Paddy Power’s Paul Binfield just about makes Buick the favourite.
“This reminds me so much of the titanic struggle between Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes in 2010,” he said.
“Punters continue to want William, who well and truly possesses the momentum at present.”