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Defending Royal Diamond's St Leger crown main focus for Johnny Murtagh

Updated: Thursday, 05 Sep 2013 16:03 | Comments

Royal Diamond (red and white cap) pulling away to win the 2012 Irish St Leger at the Curragh
Royal Diamond (red and white cap) pulling away to win the 2012 Irish St Leger at the Curragh

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Trainer-jockey Johnny Murtagh will not make any decision on a possible Melbourne Cup tilt for Royal Diamond until after he has defended his crown in the Gain Irish St Leger on Sunday-week.

The consistent seven-year-old was a surprise winner of the all-aged Group One a year ago when trained by Tommy Carmody, but is likely to be a leading contender this time around following his victory over the course and distance in last month's Leger Trial.

Royal Diamond was among the initial entries for the Melbourne Cup earlier this week, but Murtagh is keen to take it one race at a time.

Asked about a possible trip to Australia, he said: "His next race will decide that. He's all set for the Leger and he's very well at the moment. He came out of his last run really well.

"It looks a good race this year, but it's a mile and six (furlongs) at the Curragh and our horse has been there and done it.

"He's pretty versatile ground-wise, so we'll see what happens."

Among the opposition at the Curragh is set to be Royal Diamond's old adversary Ernest Hemingway.

Aidan O'Brien's four-year-old has twice accounted for Murtagh's charge this season but was beaten into third behind Royal Diamond in the Leger Trial, when sent off the 4-9 favourite.

O'Brien said: "At this stage Ernest Hemingway is a definite starter for the race."

"He is in very good shape and we are very much looking forward to running him." - Trainer Mark Johnston comments on Universal

Mark Johnston plans to saddle Universal, winner of the Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket and fifth to Arc favourite Novellist in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Johnston, whose Jukebox Jury dead-heated with Duncan in the Curragh Classic two years ago, said: "The Irish St Leger has been Universal's target for some time now and he will definitely take his place.

"He is in very good shape and we are very much looking forward to running him."

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