Sonnyboyliston Will Not Travel For Melbourne Cup

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Johnny Murtagh, the trainer of Sonnyboyliston | Tattersalls

Sunday's G1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger hero Sonnyboyliston (Ire) (Power {GB}) will not travel Down Under for a tilt in the 2021 G1 Melbourne Cup. Trained by Johnny Murtagh, the Kildare Racing Club colourbearer took the Listed Martin Molony S. at Limerick in June and, although sixth in the G3 John Smith's Silver Cup S. at York on July 10, bounced back with a narrow win in the Sky Bet Ebor H. there on Aug. 21. The 4-year-old gelding defeated 2020 Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) in the Irish St Leger at The Curragh on Sept. 12.

Murtagh told www.racing.com, “I spoke to the owners the other day and the horse has come out of the race really, really well. But to be fair to him, he's run in the Ebor and ran in a grueller here at The Curragh–a very strongly run race over a mile and six. It was a titanic battle with him and Twilight Payment and he came out on top.

“He's been on the go for a long time and hasn't let us down all year. I feel it's time for him to have a little break now. He's only four and is one of the top stayers in Europe at the moment. Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) isn't getting any younger.

“The Melbourne Cup was in the back of our minds, but it wasn't the plan–and to go over there and take on the best in Australia, the Melbourne Cup has to be the number one target.”

The ownership group has knocked back a few offers for the progressive stayer both before the Ebor and after.

Commenting on the more stringent screening protocols for horses being aimed at the Victorian showpiece and COVID-19 travel restrictions, Murtagh added, “It's very difficult to get down there full stop. It's hard to get people there with the Covid restrictions. It's hard to get down there as a trainer and enjoy the whole build-up and everything that goes with the Carnival.

“We've had a few offers. There were a few offers before the Ebor and there were a few offers after the Ebor. But everyone was saying 'get him in the bone scan' and 'we don't want to buy him unless he can come down here and run in the race'.

“He passed the vetting for Hong Kong last year, which is pretty severe, and it was just at the last minute that the guys decided to keep him and run him as a 4-year-old, which was good for us.

“He's a pretty sound horse, but he's had a hard season and I just didn't fancy putting him through all that at this point of the year.”

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