Timmy Murphy has been chosen over champion jockey Tony McCoy to ride Best Mate, when the steeplechasing star returns to the track later this week.
Best Mate’s trainer Henrietta Knight confirmed earlier today that Murphy, who rode an impressive seven winners at the Open Cheltenham meeting last weekend, will deputise for Best Mate’s regular jockey Jim Culloty. Culloty is out of action until Christmas with an injured thumb.
While Murphy is undoubtedly in flying form, it was widely expected that Best Mate’s owner Jim Lewis would chose McCoy, who rode the horse to victory in the 2002 King George VI Chase. However, Murphy’s riding style won out in the end.
Knight told sportinglife.com: “Obviously Mr Lewis has a lot of loyalty to Tony McCoy, who has ridden winners for him in the past, but we decided that Timmy Murphy’s style of riding would suit him [Best Mate] better.”
With dry weather forecast for much of the coming week, Best Mate’s return looks set to take place in the William Hill Gold Cup at Exeter on Friday. Connections had been concerned that wet weather in the run up to the race might make the ground too testing for the horse’s first run of the season, but it now looks extremely likely that he will run, unless the course suffers torrential rain.
Knight has also entered the three times winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the Totesport Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Saturday, as a precaution.