Murphy to ride Sands Of Mali & Gronkowski
Top international jockey Oisin Murphy will ride two of Phoenix Thoroughbred’s biggest hopes on Dubai World Cup night when he takes over in the saddle on Sands Of Mali and Gronkowski.
The Irish rider is a regular pilot for the innovative investment fund in Europe and rode their first Royal Ascot winner last summer. He was also called up for the ride on Loving Gaby in the Group One Golden Slipper at Rosehill and now jets into Dubai for the pair of high profile rides.
Of the two, Murphy will be more familiar with Group One-winning sprinter Sands Of Mali having raced against him in England. The Richard Fahey trained runner, who will line-up in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, finished his last campaign by taking the prestigious Champions Sprint at Ascot finishing ahead of Murphy and his mount The Tin Man.
“I’m thrilled to get the ride, he’s a very good horse; I know him well from the last few years riding against him.” Explained Murphy “I think he could be a world-class sprinter this year, he was good as a two-year-old and did nothing wrong at three, but he’s progressing well.”
The new combination will come up against Blue Point, an impressive winner of his two starts this season in Dubai this season, and there is no doubt Murphy views the Godolphin owner speedster the one to beat.
“Let’s be under no illusions Blue Point is a very tough competitor, and he’s going to very hard to beat,” assessed Murphy without pause when asked about his likely rivals. “That said, I’m on a very good horse, and it’s a wonderful opportunity, and hopefully I can keep the association going through the year.”
Sands Of Mali caught the eye last season with a series of tough front running performances and does seem to produce his best work when allowed to lead. Although the 23-year-old jockey feels his mount can get to the front on World Cup night, he’s not convinced it’s vital.
“Meydan’s turf track has no real bias in my opinion, and I don’t think it will be an issue,” said Muphy assessing the suitability of the course for his ride. “This year doesn’t look like it’s going to be a huge field (in the Al Quoz) and if not hopefully I can get a bit of space to do my own thing. He likes to go forward, he likes to lead, but I don’ think he has to be in front and can take a tow in the race from something as well.“
Murphy will also get the leg-up on Belmont Stakes second Gronkowski for the first time when the “big horse”, as he’s affectionately known, goes in the Dubai World Cup. The horse, owned in part by New England Patriots wide-receiver Rob Gronkowski, for whom the Lonhro colt is named, showed connections a lot of encouragement when a running fifth in the Al Maktoum Challenge last time out. Now under the care of Salem bin Ghadayer, he is expected to improve and with luck play a significant part in the world’s richest race.