Murtagh finished with free lunches and wants to dine out on Irish Champions win



Johnny Murtagh will bid to crown an already remarkable season as he sends his strongest ever squad to Longines Irish Champions Weekend, with star talent Know It All primed for a tilt at the Coolmore-backed Group 1 Matron Stakes.


Speaking via Zoom as New Emerald Bay provided him with his 37th winner of the year at Punchestown, Murtagh hailed the two-day bonanza as vital for the Irish calendar and spoke of his determination to be strongly represented at the two-day fixture.


"I love the whole concept of it," said the former top jockey. "I wasn't riding when it came along and going to it in the first couple of years was a bit depressing because the only reason I was there was for getting a free lunch after being invited.


"I remember having a table with my friends, who weren't overly into racing, and explaining how big a festival this is. I said to [my wife] Orla two years ago that we need to have runners at these meetings, we need to be a part of it."


He added: "For the last six weeks we've had our eye on this weekend, trying to build a team to hopefully get there in one piece. At the entry stage we have nine or ten entries; we're really looking forward to it."


The leading light of the Murtagh's team is undoubtedly Prix Rothschild third Know It All, who has always been highly regarded.


"I thought if we had a good horse in the yard [at the start of] this year it was her," he said of the Group 3 winner.


"The season has gone smoothly for her and it's all guns blazing for the Matron. She has a big workout on Friday morning, so hopefully all goes well."


He added: "What she did as a two-year-old was probably remarkable because she was so big; you knew she was going to be a better three-year-old. I have a few horses that are after catching up to her over the past six months, but I don't think they've just caught her yet."


The Qatar Racing-owned filly is likely to be joined by Champers Elysees, who continued her sensational rise when landing a Gowran Group 3 on Wednesday.


The in-form trainer nominated the progressive Mirann as his best chance of a winner at the fixture in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF "Petingo" Handicap, while also confirming that major improver Red Kelly was on course to run in the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes.


Leading apprentice Ben Coen, one of Murtagh's main riders, has been sidelined since fracturing his collarbone at Sligo on August 7 but the trainer says the 18-year-old is doing everything in his power to return for the meeting.


He said: "If he's going to ride there he'll have to ride at Navan next Thursday, and at the moment he reassures me everything's going well.


"He's getting physio and going to an oxygen chamber. He's giving himself every chance and wouldn't be coming back unless he's firing on all cylinders."


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