01/29/2008 12:00AM

Murtagh gets Coolmore call

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Johnny Murtagh has landed the plum job of first-string rider for Coolmore, the powerful John Magnier-led operation that operates out of Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle yard in Ireland.

The hiring, announced Tuesday in a release by Coolmore, comes in the wake of the 18-month suspension imposed last week by French racing authorities on Coolmore's previous first-string rider, Kieren Fallon, for cocaine use.

During Fallon's lengthy previous suspension while he was under indictment for race-fixing charges that were ultimately dropped in December, Murtagh rode a number of Group 1 winners for Coolmore and O'Brien, among them Dylan Thomas in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Peeping Fawn in the Irish Oaks, and Listen in the Fillies Mile.

Murtagh, 37, is currently riding in Dubai. He will return to Ireland and his new base after the Dubai World Cup on March 29.