Star apprentice Oisin Murphy did his homework the hard way before riding his first John Smith’s Brighton Mile winner.

The 18-year from County Kilkenny went out and ran the course himself before Brighton’s biggest race of the year.

Murphy timed his charge on Andrew Balding’s Mime Dance just right to grab a thrilling win by half-a-length from 14-1 shot Piceno, ridden by Matthew Hopkins.

He recovered from a sluggish start to move wide and hit the front inside the final two furlongs.

The 5-1 joint favourite just about stayed in front on the stand side despite a thrilling late riposte from Hopkins.

Mime Dance gave rising star Murphy a tough ride – but he was fit and strong enough to cope.

He admitted: “A lot of jockeys walk the course before a meeting. I run it!

“I was out running earlier. I try and keep as fit as possible.

“You need to – particularly to ride horses like that. You need a high level of fitness.

“And of course you have a little look at what the course is like while you’re out running.

“The run was hard work on a hot day like today.

“But it helps you lose a few pounds and perhaps you learn a bit.

“Rails and things are always changing. They had changed a rail today.

“Things like that are important.”

Murphy conceded he had to reignite Mime Dance’s challenge after a sluggish start in which Piceno took up the running.

Experts had predicted a fast and close-fought race for the £12,450 first prize and so it proved.

Murphy said: “It’s a big field and it’s very competitive here at Brighton They went off quite quickly and my horse wasn’t going fast really.

“He was racing a bit lazily and I came down the outside and thankfully he picked up and found the line really well.

“It’s a split-second decision. It’s up to a jockey to make that decision.

“I decided to switch to the outside and thankfully it worked out.”

Murphy, who returns today for Ladies Day, added: “This is my favourite track. It’s where I’ve had most winners. I’ve been very fortunate here.

“I seem to get on well. This and Epsom are very alike. You always get a good crowd and atmosphere here.”

The vastly more experienced Richard Hughes, now 41, also showed a liking for a sun-kissed hilltop track by winning the first three races on the card.

His third success will long be remembered by those who saw it.

Hughes came from nowhere in the Thorley Taverns Selling Handicap on 6-1 shot Unidexter after the horse played up at the stalls and threw its jockey off. Many watching expected him to give the race up as a bad job.

But he persevered and won by a length in another thriller.