Johnny Murtagh hopes to lead Sonnyboyliston to more success in Riyadh

The Wizard of Eye giving new owners the ride of their lives as they head into Saudi Cup weekend

For most people, the old line about owning racehorses rings true.

“The best way to make a small fortune in horseracing,” it goes, “is to start with a large one.”

However, Roy Humphrey, his partner Alison Flavell and nephew Oliver Humphrey might disagree with the conventional wisdom since their first dip into the ownership waters has yielded The Wizard Of Eye (IRE), which will contest the Saudi Derby presented by Al-Rajhi Bank on Saturday at King Abdulaziz Equestrian Racecourse.

Lambourn trainer Stan Moore, who also owns a share of the striking 17 hands chestnut with a blaze and four white socks, tells the story that around a year ago he called prestige car dealer Humphrey about the possibility of acquiring one of his vehicles.

“I put the phone down and Roy had bought the horse. Roy is known as ‘The Wizard,’ his car showroom is in Eye in Suffolk, and that’s how the horse was named,” Moore said in his County Down burr.

“He is their first horse and they have received really very good offers to sell him to different parts of the world, but they have stuck to their guns because we all believe he could have a lot to offer this year.”

The Wizard Of Eye, which cost just $4,500 (SR16,900) as a foal in Ireland, has won one of his five starts — impressively, too, at Newbury last year — but his three final runs as a juvenile were significant races in France, culminating in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc Day at Paris Longchamp.

“The form of the Group 1 is very strong. He was beaten three lengths and the winner Angel Bleu has come out and won another Group 1 in which the second was Ancient Rome, which finished just ahead of our horse in Paris. On ratings alone, he is more than entitled to be here,” said Moore, who has been training for over 30 years and won the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye in 2009 with Total Gallery.

“The Wizard is probably the kind of horse that will get better with racing. He is such a big horse and he has more maturing to come,” Moore added.

“If he handles the surface — which his jockey John Egan thinks he will — then we believe he will run well. If he comes out of this as we hope, then we might also look at the UAE Derby in Dubai next month. The Irish 2,000 Guineas is another race we could consider later, but our focus is on the here and now. 

“He is a tough horse. He had no problem with the traveling back and forth to France last year. Getting held up at customs and the like didn’t bother him and he is taking this trip in his stride, too. He looks very happy. His owners have just arrived here in Riyadh and they are all very excited about the next chapter in his story,” Moore said.

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