Johnny Murtagh is eyeing up a tilt at the St Leger
with Ottoman Emperor following the ever-improving colt’s statement victory in
the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, writes Paul Martin.
Murtagh was confident the three-year-old would relish the step up in trip and so it proved, as he nudged clear of the pack two furlongs out before holding off a late charge from Aidan O’Brien’s Sir Lucan to take the spoils.
Steering him home was Ben Coen, who ensured his first ever ride at Goodwood was one to remember, while this was Murtagh’s first victory at the prestigious track as a trainer after 26 in the saddle.
“There was a buzz coming here but to have a winner at Glorious Goodwood is the stuff of dreams,” Murtagh said.
“He did it the hard way. Ben said he was racing lazy all the way and he’s like that, he’s a little bit babyish.
“We don’t really know how good he is or how good he can be. He lost his balance a bit at the top of the hill but and then he really came strong.
“He got to the front a little bit too soon but when the other horses to to him, he put his head down.
“He’s very genuine, he’s tough, he stayed the distance well and we’d love to give him a shot at the St Leger next. It’s a very nice race and we’d love to have a live chance in it.”
The September Classic would represent another step up in trip but the way Ottoman Emperor has dealt with them so far suggests that wouldn’t be intimidating.
He also took the presence of a crowd, as yet unseen by the three-year-old before his trip to Goodwood, in his stride as he thrived on the big stage atmosphere.
All of which bodes well for Murtagh, who feels the best is yet to come.
“This horse has stepped up from day one,” he said.
“He has kept improving physically. Mentally, he can improve a bit more.
“Today was a big ordeal with a big crowd, a bit of atmosphere. He’s never seen that before and he was a little bit on his toes.
“Mentally, he can still grow up but he could be a very nice staying horse this year and on into next year.
“We came here to find out is he a mile-and-a-half horse? Can he stay a mile and six? I think he answered a lot of questions today.”
The home straight pitted two jockeys at opposite ends of the Goodwood experience scale against one another, with the fresh-faced Coen doing enough to hold off the challenge of Frankie Dettori aboard Sir Lucan.
The Tipperary prospect said: “I got a bit unbalanced coming round the bend, so I gave him a kick to get going and got there way too soon.
“When Frankie came to me, he was never getting by me. Once he felt the other horse come up to him, he went again.
“He is a big, raw horse and still learning on the job. I haven't got to the end of him yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing what's coming.
“I thought he would always give himself the best chance of staying due to the way he races. He is never keen or over-races. I thought he had a good chance of staying and I can see him getting further as well.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, O’Brien’s Nassau Stakes favourite Joan of Arc finished third in Thursday’s feature race.
The Prix de Diane winner set the pace but was reeled in by Zeyaadah and eventual winner Lady Bowthorpe to miss out on a second straight Group 1 triumph.