THE fight for the jockeys’ title between Oisin Murphy and William Buick is set to go down to the wire in a nailbiting finale.
Buick shut the gap to one but the champ restored a two-win lead after victory on Notions in the third race at Chelmsford on Thursday evening.
Buick did become 4-6 favourite to win the jockey championship after his triumph on Typical Woman but drifted out slightly after Murphy’s win.
Buick remains in touch though after a big Wednesday, when he triumphed on 13-2 Zebelle in the 3.50 and backed it up on Raasel in the 4.25 at Nottingham on Wednesday.
The jockey, who has never won the title before, had a total of eight rides on the day but hit a blank before victory on the George Boughey runner, which came just before another on Mick Appleby’s charge.
Murphy, the two-time defending champ, was on two favourites at the start of the day but failed to find a winner from his six mounts.
The Irishman, who missed key mounts at Newmarket last week after failing a breathalyser test, is now clinging onto his slender lead over Buick.
Truth is, though, it could be even closer than what it is now.
Buick was booked in for eight rides on Monday and won the first – but in a bizarre twist of fate three of his next four rides were withdrawn.
Still, he looks to be going Flat out to take the champ to final day of the season at Ascot – and bookies have cut his odds on claiming his first title again.
Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “This reminds me so much of the titanic struggle between Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes in 2010 and punters continue to want William, who well and truly possesses the momentum at present.”
It all looks set to come to a boil on Champions Day where, in the star-studded Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Murphy, who 150 wins this season, is to be reunited with Andrew Balding’s three-year-old filly Alcohol Free.
It looks like Buick – 149 wins – will ride Godolphin’s Master Of The Seas in the same race, who he finished second on in May’s 2000 Guineas.
Money has already come in for Alcohol Free – from 10-1 to 7-1 – but both will have to go some way to see off 13-8 market favourites Baaeed and Palace Pier for the £623,801 winner’s prize.
The Revenant remains third-favourite at 13-2 but is weak in the market.
At the start of play on Monday, Murphy, who won last Saturday’s big Cesarewatch handicap on Buzz, was as short as 1-6 to defend his champion jockey title.
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Wins on Alcohol Free, such as at Glorious Goodwood’s Qatar Sussex Stakes, propelled him to the top of the standings and, a few weeks ago, you would have said out of sight.
Murphy, 26, looked to have the title in the bag some weeks back, but to his credit he always maintained the job was not done until it was official and so it is proving a thrilling head-to-head.
Buick, 33, banged in five winners at Newmarket last Saturday and another at Goodwood on Sunday – before his rotten luck hit on Monday.
Murphy missed a crucial day’s racing last week following his second failed breathalyser test.
The jockey previously got removed from his mounts in July 2019 for the same offence.
Murphy apologised for his latest setback and said: “”I was requested to take a breath test at Newmarket today.
“I blew under the drink drive limit but over the riding limit.
“I’m sorry to all the people I’ve let down today. I take full responsibility.”
See all Buick and Murphy’s upcoming rides here.
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