Johnny Murtagh: King George glory for Dylan Thomas meant so much

Fri 28 Jul 2017

When it comes to winning the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, there are few riders, both past and present, with a better record than Johnny Murtagh.

His tally of four wins in the Ascot showpiece is bettered only by Lester Piggott (six) and Mick Kinane (five).

Having triumphed in the race for the first time aboard Alamshar in 2003, the 47-year-old celebrated win number two 10 years ago when partnering Dylan Thomas to glory.

After suffering a number of near-misses aboard the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt, including when beaten a neck into third in the 2006 Epsom Derby, the former champion jockey was not to be denied his one and only success aboard the son of Danehill on July 28, 2007.

Entering the race on the back of a second in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot the previous month, the then triple Group One winner was sent off the 5-4 favourite to go one better.

Carrying the hopes and expectations of the majority of those in the stands, the market leader lived up to his billing with a decisive four-length success over Youmzain.

Reflecting on the race, Murtagh said: "On the day he was always going to be hard to beat as a mile and a half around Ascot on that ground was perfect for him.

"He travelled very well all through the race, then I asked him to quicken he just kept going and went away by four lengths.

"I can't take much credit, as anyone could have won him that day - it was that easy. There was never a moment of worry with him.

"It was my only win on him and I had hit the crossbar a few times. We had been beaten neck in the Derby the year before and I was delighted to win a big one on him.

"The day was really special and it was a great result. He was very consistent, but it was not until the King George that he really showed us what he was about.

"It meant so much, as the King George is one of the summer highlights."

Although the victory on Dylan Thomas, who ended that season with a second success in the Irish Champion Stakes and victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, meant a great a deal to Murtagh - who also struck the following year on stablemate Duke Of Marmalade - he still feels it is hard to rank his four winners.

He added: "Every kind of horse that wins the King George is a special kind of horse.

"On the day Dylan Thomas was hard to beat and he would be right up there with the other ones that I have ridden and won the race on, but equally Novellist (2013) was as good breaking the track record.

"I could not pick any one of them over the other as they were all such good racehorses.

"When I look back it is pretty special the horses that I received the chance to ride."

There may be those who feel the race has lost some of its sparkle in recent years, but Murtagh is not an advocate of that theory with his attitude and opinion very much at the other end of the spectrum.

He said: "Some people have said the race has lost a bit of its glamour, but I can't have that. You only have to look at the four horses I won it on and they were brilliant racehorses.

"It's a Group One and it is a big mid-season highlight. It gets the pecking sorted out between the older horses and the three-year-olds.

"It is one of those races when you look through the history of it nearly all the great middle-distance horses have won."

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