In what was the first Japan Cup to be staged without any international horses it was an international rider in the shape of new British champion jockey Murphy who turned on the style on the Yasushi Shono-trained five-year-old to beat Curren Bouquetd’or in second and Wagnerian third.
The Group One contest over 12 furlongs was played out in front of over 80,000 spectators – significantly down on recent years attendance – but nevertheless they saw Suave Richard occupy third place as the field reached the top of the straight. Here Murphy switched his mount to the rail before they found a decisive extra burst to grab the lead of which they never looked likely to lose.
Frankie Dettori, William Buick and Ryan Moore also had rides in the race, but they all finished down the field on Look Twice (in 10th), Rey De Oro (11th) and Jinambo (13th) respectively.
Having spent the winter riding in Japan, Murphy had already been some very big achievements, not least the four Group 1 wins secured for his Qatar Racing employers last year aboard the mighty Roaring Lion. His championship title was followed by Group 1 glory on Kameko and now success in the Longines-sponsored Japan Cup and an enormous first prize of £2,167,824 has capped a fine year.
Speaking afterwards, an understandably delighted Murphy said, “I’m absolutely over the moon. It’s one of the biggest achievements of my short career. I’m thrilled.”
“Suave Richard is a top-class horse and the trainer did a great job.
“They were very confident but it was my idea to put cheekpieces on him. His last few starts weren’t fantastic but I knew he had a great chance and everything went right in the run. I had a plan and, thankfully, it came off.
“I wanted to go mad when we crossed the line – but I had to behave because I’m in Japan!”
Murphy added, “This is a dream come true and a fantastic thing to happen.
“Last winter was my first stint in Japan and this was my first Japan Cup. I never really thought I might be winning a race of this stature but I have a great team around me. I’m thrilled.
“We have some amazing meetings in Europe, like Royal Ascot and the Arc weekend, but this is a little bit different. It’s a big deal. This race gets newspaper coverage for weeks on end here. I presume it will be on the front pages of all the newspapers here tomorrow that this little white child won.”
“There’s only one Japan Cup and to put my name on it is massive”.
Indications are that Murphy will remain in Japan until well into 2020. It is possible that when back in Britain he might be reunited with Suave Richard, whose owners will consider a European campaign having this year seen the horse finish a credible third in the Dubai Sheema Classic.