Oisin Murphy says he was “thrilled” with Alcohol Free’s preparation run ahead of Sunday’s QIPCO 1000 Guineas bid and believes she has every chance of staying the mile at Newmarket.
Having teamed up with Andrew Balding last year to strike gold in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas with Kameko, the reigning champion jockey will join forces with the Kingsclere trainer in pursuit of further Classic glory with the daughter of No Nay Never.
Alcohol Free signed off last season with victory on her Group One debut in the Cheveley Park Stakes on the Rowley Mile, before making a successful return to action when taking a step up to seven furlongs in her stride in a Group Three contest at Newbury earlier this month.
Encouraged by that performance, Murphy believes his filly can take another step forward on her first attempt over a mile when returning to the scene of her greatest success. She Is 7-1 joint third favourite with official betting partner Betfair.
Murphy, who is seeking a third straight victory in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship this season, said: “I was really thrilled with her at Newbury. She was just ready to start off. She did everything nicely in the race. I made her come back and wait and go through the gears and she did it all well.
“She has come out of the race well. She hasn’t done any serious work since – it has all been routine work but she has passed every test so far.
“She really stuck her neck out at Newbury but she wasn’t fully wound up and Andrew made everyone aware of that. We certainly felt she would improve for the race. I was happy with her performance and she got to the line well.
“I’d been riding Statement in work as well and she is a nice filly so hopefully they both have nice seasons. You never know if they will get the trip until you go there but she has won at the track and she has every chance of staying.
“She got six (furlongs) very well and the Cheveley Park is a good Guineas trial. She got seven (furlongs) well in the Fred Darling too. She was in the firing line from two out and though the pace wasn’t very strong she had to battle. We always felt she was a Guineas filly from last year.”
Although Alcohol Free has developed into a top class filly among her generation it was not until after her first couple of starts last season that the yard knew just how good she could be.
He added: “We never pressed any buttons at home. She won on debut and her work had been nice but we didn’t say ‘giddy up’ at home. Her work before Salisbury was better and her work after Salisbury was really good and that is when we knew we had a really good filly.
“She is very tough and she gets her ears back and even in her work she doesn’t like to be passed. Every time I’ve ridden her she has got her head down and galloped – she really has got lots of heart.”
While Murphy respects the chances of the Aidan O’Brien trained favourite Santa Barbara, it is last year’s Fillies’ Mile heroine Pretty Gorgeous, trained by O’Brien’s son Joseph, who he believes could be the biggest danger.
He added: “The favourite is bred to stay and you have to respect everything that Ballydoyle bring over. I think Pretty Gorgeous is a very good filly that brings over lots of experience and she deserves to be right at the top of the betting as well. She could be the one to beat.
“We know how hard it is to win Classics and we are realistic, but it is a great opportunity and we want to make the most of it.”
Victory in the 1000 Guineas would be another milestone moment in Murphy’s career. However, he believes it would take on greater significance given Alcohol Free is owned by one of Flat racing’s longest serving stalwarts, Jeff Smith.
He added: “I’ve been riding for Jeff Smith since I began as an apprentice and he is a real gentleman. He didn’t breed this filly but he has done well with his home-breds over the years.
“What with COVID going on I’ve not seen as much as Jeff as we normally would but I know it would give him a huge lift and he would be absolutely thrilled if she can win the 1000 Guineas on Sunday.”
Reflecting on his victory in last year’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas, Murphy admitted it had been a childhood dream fulfilled.
He added: “My first Classic last year on Kameko was a great moment. His owner, Sheikh Fahad, watched it with his wife Sheikha Melissa down the road and it was very special. It’s a shame he wasn’t there in person (because of COVID-19 protocols) but hopefully I can ride another one for him some day.
“It’s a race I wanted to win growing up. I remember watching the likes of Camelot and even before him all the really top-class horses going on their Triple Crown campaigns by starting in the Guineas. I know some of them never ended up running in the Leger – but the likes of Sea The Stars and Frankel were spectacular.
“Last year, with Kameko, the race was run to suit us and the wind was down or probably even behind us. There was fast ground, we went quick and it was a good result.
“With Alcohol Free this weekend in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, she’s got the perfect profile. She’s a Cheveley Park winner and she ticks all the boxes but like any of those big races they’re hard to win.”
And, while the 25 year old jockey would love to add a second Classic to his CV, he admits the ongoing lack of racegoers due to COVID-19 protocols will make Newmarket a different place again this weekend.
He concluded: “Normally for the two days of the Guineas it’s a big buzz because Newmarket is packed. There’s a lot of noise and you get a great mix of traditional racegoers and young people from places like Cambridge and all over Essex.
“The 2000 Guineas is an incredibly important race because it’s a stallion-making race. They’re the races that you look back on when you’re retired and stand out for you if you can win them.
“I’m a big fan of Newmarket. I ride with a lot of confidence there and I enjoy both the July Course and the Rowley Mile. I love them and I’m pleased with my percentages there.”
QIPCO 1000 Guineas – Betfair odds: 6-4 Santa Barbara; 4-1 Pretty Gorgeous; 7-1 Alcohol Free, Sacred; 8-1 Saffron Beach; 12-1 Mother Earth; 14-1 Statement; 16-1 Fev Rover. Thunder Beauty, Vadream; 25-1 Queens Speech; 33-1 Lullaby Moon; 66-1 Baby Alya, Seattle Rock, Snowfall, Star Of Emaraaty