Jockey Mitchell Murrill has wasted no time in making up for his lost ground in the jockey standings at Arlington International Racecourse. The journeyman jockey was a familiar face the last two seasons, riding strongly enough to finish second in number of wins in both 2015 and 2016, but spent the early part of the 2017 season riding at Delaware Park. Murrill, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Thursday, rode eight winners in just 53 mounts at Delaware before deciding to finish out the season back at the Chicagoland oval.
“It's nice to come back to where you can call home,” said Murrill. “All these guys put you on horses right away. I've picked up a lot more for Chris Block, Hugh Robertson, some guys that I haven't ridden a whole lot for before. Last year I rode a lot for Mike Stidham when he had more here, but it's good to venture out and ride for different [trainers].”
Riding his first day back at Arlington on July 7, Murrill picked up a win with his second of three mounts that card when he piloted Feel The Thunder Stable's Cannes to a two-length victory for Stidham.
“It was nice to show everyone that I still got it,” Murrill said with a laugh. “I didn't do as well as I wanted to at Delaware, but it was really nice to get that first win [at Arlington] out of the way.”
Since then, agent Tim Hanisch has worked to get his rider every possible opportunity, and Murrill has delivered encouraging results in his brief time back. Sitting sixth in the jockey standings at the start of racing Sunday, the Alabama-native had 33 wins in 176 starts, just eleven wins from the second spot currenly held by Chris Emigh despite Murrill missing the first 27 racing days of the meet. Murrill also holds the second highest percentage of top-three finishes behind overall leading rider Jose Valdiva, Jr. for jockeys with more than 10 starts at Arlington with a total of 87 placings, or a strike rate of 49%.
“I've picked up some other horses from some guys that have been shipping in and been doing well for them, which has been good,” said Murrill. “It's always good to meet new people because you never know when the opportunity will show up. Now that I'm doing well again hopefully it will give people a little more faith in my riding, and maybe it will open a door somewhere else.”
Murrill says the plan is to ride in Kentucky following the end of the Arlington meeting before heading back to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Louisiana, his winter base for the past three years. He finished second in the standings at Fair Grounds in 2016 with 66 wins and was third in 2017 with 60 wins. Murrill hopes to get a chance to take top honors when racing resumes there on
“We've been right there, close. Hopefully we'll keep moving forward.”
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