Could There be a Measure Of Magic from Johnny Murtagh at Royal Ascot?

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Johnny Murtagh had more than 40 Royal Ascot winners during his illustrious career in the saddle, but one race he never got the opportunity to ride in before retiring as a jockey in 2014 was the Commonwealth Cup. 

He has a live contender in training at his Coolaghknock yard for this year’s running of the six-furlong Group 1 sprint for three-year-olds, however, in Measure Of Magic. A daughter of the up-and-coming sire Kodi Bear, this filly has back-to-back wins at Listed level on her side of the Irish Sea this season.

Measure Of Magic, a fine third in the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes during the St Leger Festival at Doncaster last autumn on her only previous British start, delighted her trainer when following-up on her successful return to action at Navan. Success in the Polonia Stakes punched her ticket to Royal Ascot.

“I think we’ll give [it] a go in the Commonwealth Cup,” said Murtagh after her second win of the campaign at Cork. “Ben [Coen, her jockey] said she has really learned how to sprint now, and she deserves a shot at a big one.”

With 2000 Guineas third Lucky Vega set to stay over a mile in his next assignment, Measure Of Magic is actually the leading Irish contender for Commonwealth Cup glory from the early closing entries, according to the ante-post betting. The jump from Listed level to a Group 1, even in an age-restricted race, is big but that doesn’t seem to faze Murtagh.

Measure Of Magic could run again before Royal Ascot too. She holds an entry in the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes, a six-furlong sprint also open to older fillies and mares at the Curragh on 2 June. That is just over a fortnight before the royal meeting, but Murtagh wasn’t afraid of turning her out quickly with a mere dozen days between her first and second runs this term.

Wesley Ward’s American raider Campanelle, a half-sister to Measure Of Magic and winner of the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at the meeting last year, is already among Royal Ascot day 4 tips and predictions given by experts for the Commonwealth Cup. She is also the favourite with her trainer always targeting transatlantic runners at Britain’s major Flat festival.

Irish runners haven’t fared that well in the Commonwealth Cup since its introduction in 2015, however. Just one winner of the race to date has been trained in the Emerald Isle, and that was Caravaggio for Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien back in 2017 after a couple placed third in the first two runnings.

Forever In Dreams took second spot behind Advertise in the Commonwealth Cup of 2019 for the much smaller stable of Kilfeacle handler Aidan Fogarty. As a filly, Measure Of Magic will receive a 3lb sex allowance and that makes a difference. Three fillies have placed in this race before.

For the JP Murtagh Racing Club syndicate who own Measure Of Magic, this is about more than just a day at the races. They will be looking for a bold show from a filly trained in the same stables that produced Champers Elysees to Group 1 glory last season.

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