IT was many happy returns with a difference for former champion jockey Oisin Murphy when he drove Grensham Bay to a narrow success in the six-furlong handicap on the opening day of Salisbury's 2023 season.

It was 18 months ago that the Irish jockey remarkably escaped with only a badly gashed lip injury when his mount suddenly spooked in the parade ring, sending him crashing into the paddock railing. With blood pouring down his face, he was attended by the racecourse doctor who gave him a general anaesthetic and he surrendered his remaining rides that afternoon. 

But it's a reflection of Murphy's determination for success - or perhaps the idiocentric nature of jockeys - that he drove straight to Lingfield and naturally had another winner!

Grenham Bay represented Murphy's 50th winner at the track on Thursday, May 4, which he first rode on June 23, 2013, when he partnered Imperial Glance for Andrew Balding, who appropriately was the winning trainer on that occasion as well.

The three-year-old is owned by Martin and Valerie Slade, loyal supporters of the Kingsclere yard for several years.

"They were with Andrew before I joined them and I am pleased for them. He was good at Kempton last time out and this was the ideal race for him. He gave me a lovely ride."

Of the half-century landmark, he commented: "That would be very nice if it's true. I always try very hard and want more! I've had great support from many people since I have come back (from suspension), particularly Andrew."

Ralph Beckett carried on where he left off from last season when Matters Most remorselessly gained the upper hand over Live My Life in a style that a step up in trip to six furlongs would be relished.

The Kimpton Down trainer took the three juvenile races at the concluding meeting in the 2022 programme and the Advertise colt showed the benefit of his experience when he finished third on his Newbury debut.

"Very pleased," was Beckett's natural post-race assessment of Matters Most, his first two-year-old runner of the campaign, who had been restricted to working on the yard's all-weather gallop prior to Newbury.

"First time out he had not been on grass, was a bit green and got squeezed. Today he was more professional."

Matters Most's breeding suggested he would enjoy the soft going but ran as though he would handle quicker ground. A conditions race at Pontefract is now on the agenda.

There was a bitter-sweet success for Roger Gould when Under The Twilight, who looked well in at the weights on his best form, sneaked through a gap on the rails to snatch the six-furlong handicap.

It was his first winner in his own colours after 15 years. Previously, the horses ran in those of his wife, Jill, who tragically died two years ago yesterday. 

"We weren't sure how well he would run today," he said of the in-and-out performer. "He had only run once before on grass."

Greek Order is reputedly held in high regard by Beckhampton trainer Roger Charlton and it was significant he booked Ryan Moore for the seven-furlong maiden but the Kingman colt, held at the back of the field, took too long to go through the gears and could only finish a close third to the unraced Quidwah who was done no favours in the runner up Balance Bay who was leaning into him in the final furlong. 

"He did it quite well," said James Doyle. "The second took him off a line a bit but he showed a good attitude and will go further."