Oisin Murphy, the champion jockey in 2019 and 2020 and clear leader in this year’s title race, was stood down for the day before racing at Newmarket on Friday and referred to the British Horseracing Authority’s disciplinary panel in London after failing a pre-race breath test for alcohol.
Murphy started the day 11 winners clear of William Buick in the championship race and his title defence is unlikely to be affected by his failed breath test, as a hearing will not be convened until after the championship concludes at Ascot on Saturday 16 October.
His latest positive for alcohol also counts as a first offence for disciplinary purposes, as it comes just over two years after he failed a breath test at Salisbury in 2019. It is still an embarrassing setback for the champion jockey, however, not least as he served a three-month ban this year after testing positive for cocaine while racing at Chantilly in July 2020.
Murphy avoided the standard six-month ban for a first cocaine positive, which would have almost certainly ended his title hopes, after successfully persuading France Galop’s disciplinary panel that the test result was due to “environmental contamination” during sexual contact with a user of the drug.
Murphy said on Twitter on Friday afternoon that his test result had been “under the drink-drive limit but over the riding limit”, adding: “I’m sorry to all the people I’ve let down today. I take full responsibility. I will be riding tomorrow.”
Murphy’s booked rides on Friday included Mise En Scene, the second-favourite for the Group One Fillies’ Mile, but James Ferguson’s filly could only run on late to finish fourth under her new rider, Cieren Fallon, behind the odds-on winner, Inspiral.
Frankie Dettori completed an unbeaten four-race juvenile season for John Gosden’s filly by two and a half lengths, having eased into the lead over a furlong out. Inspiral is now top-priced at 7-2 (from around 6-1) for the 1,000 Guineas over the same course and distance next spring.
“She doesn’t stop surprising me,” Dettori said. “She’s a beauty and has still got plenty to fill up in the winter. I sat wide and then coming out of the dip [just over a furlong out] I asked her to quicken and she came out of it pretty well. Obviously she’s very good, I don’t have to say that, she’s won everything. I knew I had it won a long way out.”
Inspiral is also a clear favourite for the Oaks at Epsom in June, although Gosden is not certain about her stamina for the 12-furlong trip next year. “I think she will get a mile and a quarter no problem in time, but a mile and a half? I don’t know,” the trainer said. “You want to know if they will handle the dip. If it was fast ground, it might be different, but she handled it well today. You either go straight to the Guineas, go for a trial or a racecourse gallop, but it is a long way off.”
None of Murphy’s booked mounts on the card were winners but Buick did claw back two victories, aboard Al Suhail in the Challenge Stakes and Siskany in the Old Rowley Cup. He is now nine wins adrift of the champion with eight days of racing left.