MURPHY EYEING NEXT GRADE 1 FOR BELFAST BANTER
Jul 21, 2023 · Belfast Banter
On Wednesday 19th July, ThoroughBid celebrated their first G1 winner, as the Cyril Murphy-trained Belfast Banter sauntered to a six-and-a-half length win in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplchase at Saratoga in the US.
After a terrific set of results this year, with ThoroughBid graduates Maskada and Its On The Line winning at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals respectively, a Grade 1 victory is a fantastic achievement for the online auction house, which is only in it’s third year of operation.
Belfast Banter, an 8yo gelding by Jeremy, who was sold in a bespoke online sale for £130,000 in November 2021, had won at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals in the UK for Peter Fahey, most notably winning the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle, before moving to trainer Cyril Murphy in the US post-sale.
In the aftermath of the impressive win for Belfast Banter’s new connections, Murphy explained how everything went right for the gelding that day: “Yesterday was the first time that we had a race that was run to suit him; he likes to almost run off and on the bridle. Over here, even though it’s firm ground, they don’t race terribly quick early, so they quicken and he’s deceiving about how well he travels early in his races. When you drop his head and tell him to go on, he almost runs like a horse who could run at two-and-a-half or three miles, but really what he really needs is a strongly run two-mile race. Even in the County Hurdle, he was buried out the back, they couldn’t go any quicker, and he arrived late up the hill at Cheltenham. If you give him a bit of daylight, he will run into the hole, but when he gets there, he is done, so there is a very small window of when he is most effective. You want to hold onto him for as long as possible and it all came right for him the other day.”
Such a particular way of running means that Belfast Banter’s next-race options are limited, but Murphy told us of his next plans for the gelding: “Our calendar for him is so limited that his next opportunity is back here at Saratoga in a month in the Grade 1 Jonathan Sheppard Handicap Hurdle and it is something that we will think about and very likely nominate him for as long as everything is okay with him. A tight track with a similar number of runners could suit him well, but the big thing is he will be jumped with a bit of weight for the recent win. After that, he ran well at Far Hills in their big race, the American Grand National, over two miles and five furlongs, but this is his type of track and shorter distances with a strong pace suit him.”
When asked what drove him to buy Belfast Banter, Murphy said “When I approached the owner about the idea of getting involved with him, the big selling point to me was what he has done over in the UK and Ireland as to me, he was a legitimate horse who would win a Grade 1. It has taken a little longer than we had anticipated, some circumstances have slightly worked against him, but he has been competitive every day he has been out, and he’s been chipping away by picking up a cheque here and there which has helped to keep the owners motivated.
“With a little bit of good fortune, there is an opportunity to win at least another one, if not two, Grade 1s.”
Commenting on the experience of buying a quality horse on ThoroughBid, Murphy said: “The opportunity for us to buy him online was great because there was so much information available for the auction, it was no less inconvenient than it is to go to the sales and see them in person. X-rays were available, videos were available, and even Peter Fahey was available! It was as good, if not better, as if you were there on the ground in front of the auctioneer. You couldn’t ask for any more as a buyer for information available to you.”
With his yard in good form this season, Murphy told of his other best charges: “I’ve got a nice horse to run on August 2nd called McTigue who won a Grade 2 as a juvenile in Auteuil in October. He came out to us in May and he won due to someone else’s disqualification – he is training forward and looks nice. We’ve also got what could be a very nice filly called Gold Charm. By Golden Horn, she had raced for William Knight and she broke her maiden tag at the second time of asking a few weeks ago. She is due to run in a month in a race that is restricted to fillies and mares and if she continues to produce like she did the other day, she should be very competitive.
“It’s in the back of my mind that at some point, it would be nice to go over to Cheltenham.”