The track’s leading rider and leading trainer shared in three of the victories, with Achak, Turk and Ashka on a good night for punters.
Murtagh, who bounced back to the top of the Jockeys Championhip table, kicked off his evening with an armchair ride on the classy, David Wachman-trained Pursuit Of Glory which justified odds-on favouritism in the opening Ardee 2-Y-0 Fillies Maiden.
The daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus and Coronation Stakes heroine Sophisticat scampered clear to slam Island Breeze by six lengths, prompting her trainer to comment: “She needed her first run and was much sharper and knew more about her job today. We’ll look for a suitable stakes race for her now.”
Former champion Murtagh then provided Lyons with his first success of the night as he produced Achak, friendless in the market, with a strong late surge to short-head Helioza in the Annagassan Maiden before surviving a Stewards Enquiry.
Ger Lyons described the winner as “a big weak horse”, before adding “He needs time to mature and strengthen and won’t run again this season.”
“Johnny rode the race to perfection,” stated Lyons after Turk notched his fourth win of the season in the six-furlong Drogheda Handicap.
Dropping back in trip to six furlongs, the tough Dr.Fong gelding got the better of Cihangir to credit Murtagh with the third leg of his haul, Lyons adding: “He’s a tough, decent and consistent horse. But, ideally, he needs seven furlongs or a mile, And, of course, he likes this place.”
After course winner Kinetic Quest, ridden by stable apprentice Emmet McNamara landed the Dundalk Nursery, in which the Murtagh-ridden favourite Grand Admiral could finish only twelfth, the Lyons/Murtagh combination struck again with Ashka in the one-mile Blackrock Maiden.
“She has been very consistent and deserved this,” said the trainer. “It’s strange, but maidens are often less competitive than handicaps at this time of year. At least, she’s won and she’ll have to go back handicapping now.”
Murtagh’s superb night brought his seasonal tally to 70 and re-established his lead in the title-race.
But Fran Berry, who had edged ahead of him over the weekend, struck back by recording a double on James Halpin’s Headford View in the fillies handicap and Wings Of Dawn, which outpointed Weybridge Light in the first division of the Knockbridge Handicap.
Berry’s double leaves him just one behind Murtagh as the championship race gathers momentum.
Reigning champion Pat Smullen, struggling to keep tabs on the other pair, registered his 64th win of the campaign when he drove Dbest past Barndeh well inside the final furlong of the ten-furlong handicap.
A prolific winner for Joanna Morgan over hurdles and fences, Dbest was recording his fourth flat success and his first since scoring at Galway in September 2004.