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Johnny Murtagh gets the nod for Novellist

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Top English rider Johnny Murtagh has been confirmed the new rider for German galloper Novellist in the Group 1 £1m The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Ascot on Saturday.

The ride on Novellist became available when Ryan Moore, who won on the colt in the Group 1 €400,000 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (2400m) at Saint-Cloud, France on June 23, was required to ride the Sir Michael Stoute trained Hillstar after it was a late inclusion into the field.

William Buick was also considered for the ride but owner Dr Christophe Berglar was keen to secure a top class rider as soon as possible.

“We’ve booked Johnny Murtagh as there were question marks over the other jockeys we’ve used before,” Wohler said.

“The owner didn’t want to be hanging around until the last minute, which is understandable, so we’ve booked Johnny.

“Now we have certainty and Johnny is obviously in really good form.”

The shock news overnight that Aidan O’Brien’s Group 1 winner St Nicholas Abbey has fractured his pastern during track work and will be retired has boosted the chances for several other runners at Ascot on Saturday.

With the withdrawal of St Nicholas Abbey, Novellist has firmed up in the betting and is the second favourite at 4-1 behind top pick Cirrus Des Aigles at 11-8 with Irish galloper Trading Leather at 9-2, Hillstar 7-1 and Ektihaam 8-1.

Jockey Dane O’Neill is hoping for better luck on Ektihaam than rival Paul Hanagan had on the four year old in the Group 2 £200,000 Hardwicke Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Royal Ascot on June 22.

Ektihaam slipped on the home bend at Royal Ascot dislodging Hanagaan who has decided to go to York on Saturday to ride the William Haggas trained Mukhadram in the Group 2 £100,000 Sky Bet York Stakes (1 mile 2 furlongs 88 yards).

“He’s a solid horse and rides in these races aren’t easy to come by,” O’Neill said.

“I can see where Paul is coming from, but it must have been a difficult decision for him. He must have been cursing when he realised the two horses were going to clash on the same day – luckily for me it is when doing a job like this works out very well.

“He did a light piece of work this morning, it was basically a leg stretch, and Roger was very happy with him. Since his mishap the last day, he’s been fine at home.”

About The Author

Mark Mazzaglia

Mark is a passionate journalist with a life-time involvement in the racing industry. He spent many years as an analyst and form expert at the Courier Mail and also has hands-on experience working with some of Queensland’s top trainers.

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