Oisin murphy

A great contest without the skulduggery of the past

Taking a day off racing to enjoy Joe Root’s regal 180 not out against India on the third day of the England-India Test — tranquillity interrupted only by a call from home to say that Flat-coated Retriever Damson had eaten the TV controller — I was struck by the amount of ‘gardening’ indulged in by batters. After any ball that has beaten them they stroll down the pitch, glare malevolently at an innocent patch of turf and prod back into inoffensive conformity the infinitesimal protrusion on the surface which they have assured themselves was responsible for the ball whipping past their hung-out bat. Excuse accepted. Mental confidence restored. Confidence is

The rise of older jockeys

There are many facets to Royal Ascot’s appeal. For some it is glamour, style and opulence. For some it is the betting opportunities afforded by large fields, for others an opportunity to pay tribute to a revered monarch and to share her obvious pleasure in its equine stars. What I love is the sheer intensity of the competition. The immeasurable kudos afforded to owners, trainers and jockeys of being able to say you have had a Royal Ascot winner ensures the fiercest effort from all concerned: there is no such thing as an easy victory at Royal Ascot. Few this year will forget the spectacle of Frankie Dettori and the

Why it pays for a jockey to follow the rules

Lester Piggott was famous for pinching other jockeys’ rides. He used his friendship with owner Ivan Allan to have Luca Cumani’s regular rider Darrel McHargue ‘jocked off’ Commanche Run in the 1984 St Leger. The disgusted McHargue said that he would spend the day playing tennis rather than watch the race, which duly supplied Piggott with his 28th Classic victory. Asked on Leger morning if rain would spoil Commanche Run’s chances, Lester replied coolly: ‘No, but it will ruin McHargue’s tennis.’ Piggott is famously a man of few words but he can make them tell. Former jockey Dean McKeown told me once of riding 33-1 shot Miss Merlin at Windsor

Horse-racing has made a triumphant return

Horse racing, it turns out, wasn’t the first sport back in post-lockdown action: that distinction went to pigeon racing when some 4,400 birds took to the air and raced from Kettering to Barnsley. Nor did the first Classic, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, provide the hoped-for tonic headlines about a new super-horse to succeed the great Frankel. Pinatubo, a scintillating winner of all his six races as a juvenile and the highest-rated two-year-old since 1994, ran a perfectly respectable race to finish third, but the high hopes that the hot favourite was going to prove to be something truly special were dashed. It seems that the bigger, rangier types caught