'Racing in Japan is a bit different to Mallow alright'

'Racing in Japan is a bit different to Mallow alright'
Raise You and Oisin Murphy win Division II of The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes Race run this time last year. Picture: Julian Herbert/PA Wire.

OISIN Murphy is widely-regarded as being one of the best jockeys on the planet.

The Qatar Racing-retained rider further enhanced that claim, and fulfilled a long-held ambition, when winning Britain’s Flat jockeys’ championship, in 2019.

A native of Kerry, who later moved to Cork to undertake his secondary education and to pursue his racing interests, the 24-year-old totted up 220 winners in the UK last year, surpassing the previous year’s total.

The former champion apprentice also enjoyed a hat-trick of group one wins in Britain last season, while there was further top level success in the Japan Cup. Securing a much-coveted first senior jockeys’ title, however, was the sweetest success of all.

So much so, that he wants to do it again.

‘‘It was everything, because I had worked so hard. From the time you are an apprentice, you are working towards being champion jockey at some stage. To finally achieve it, it was a great feeling.

“My family and everyone around me got a great buzz out of it.

“If I can do it again, I’ll certainly give it 110%. Of course, I want to be champion jockey and to win more group ones.

“Year on year, I’ve beat my annual tally. I’d like to get up to 200 winners again, when racing resumes. If I stay healthy, and the horses stay healthy, I’ve got a good chance of achieving that,’’ Murphy said.

A global ambassador for the sport of horse racing, Murphy usually spends the winter months of the year plying his trade further afield. Dubai, Japan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were among his ports of call, during the recent off-season. Globetrotting has becoming an integral part of his calendar. It’s also helping to keep him sharp.

“It’s similar to what I do every year, but I really enjoy going. As a child, I dreamt about the beauty of being a Flat jockey; you can race all over the world. The fact I can fulfil that, is lovely.

“When you are travelling to so many different places as well, you always feel fresh, because you’re looking forward to an additional thing. It brings out the best in me, being busy and being here, there and everywhere.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates after being crowned the 2019 Champion Flat Jockey. Picture: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Oisin Murphy celebrates after being crowned the 2019 Champion Flat Jockey. Picture: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Before he took the plunge to further his career in Britain, the subsequent group one-winning pilot gained his secondary school education, and much of his race-riding knowledge, here in Cork. A former pupil of Coláiste Mhuire, Buttevant, he has fond memories of his years in the Rebel county.

“All of my secondary school education was in Buttevant. It was a very small school, with around 200 pupils, 40 in my year. We did really well, but that was solely down to the teachers, because I was certainly very bold, and there were lots of other bold boys.

“They must have done a good job with us. I spent most of my time, from the age of 11, with or around my uncle, Jim (Culloty).

“I remember he had lots of decent National Hunt horses; Spring Heeled, Lord Windermere, Legal Exit. It was great to be around them at a young age, and the jockeys coming in schooling. Although I am a Flat jockey, I used to live for that, once a week.

“I used to be allowed to ride the odd one. They are memories you never forget. Japan is very different to Mallow.

“It’s only now I appreciate how fun that was; there was no pressure. Jim had a schooling ground there. So, lots of local trainers, used to come up, the likes of Mick Winters.

“I got to know lots of people. I haven’t had the chance to ride in Ireland too much but, hopefully, in the future, I get some more opportunities.”

Still in his mid-twenties, Murphy has already achieved a hell of a lot as a jockey. But what continues to motivate him is the quest to find the next above-average type.

‘‘I get very excited about riding in maidens; even if the horse doesn’t win, because it’s a little bit babyish or a bit weak. When I believe they have a big future; that can keep me going for weeks.

“Every winner is important because it counts towards the championship, and you’re keeping your owners and trainers happy. The low graded runners, winning on them is super, but it doesn’t lead to anything.

“Whereas when you ride a really nice maiden, for Andrew Balding, or for Qatar Racing, or for any of the trainers who I have first choice for, and I know I can ride them again, then that’s a brilliant feeling.

“For example, when I rode Telecaster for Hughie Morrison at Windsor, I thought he was an absolute machine. He proved to be very good. James Fanshawe’s Pondus, who won at Sandown, he ran a little bit disappointing at Ascot, I thought he’d win there, but he has freshened up since.

“It’s those sorts of horses, they give you that feeling. Sometimes, they don’t even win, but often they do. They are the ones that (keep you going), when you’ve had a few days getting beaten on favourites, and you’re scratching your head.

“No matter how confident or cocky or arrogant one thinks a jockey is; you’re all the time self-criticising. It’s just part of the human mind-set, I think.

“Everyone is their own worst critic.”

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