Our new columnist Oisin Murphy reveals the horses that have meant the most to him in his career so far. Read him on Sporting Life every Friday.
It looks like we have a date to work towards now as regards the resumption of racing, June 1, and it’s with hope that we can safely return then.
I’ve seen bits of the racing in France and it’s encouraging that it seems to be working without a hitch over there. Hopefully we can follow suit soon enough.
I was at Ed Walker’s riding work on Thursday morning, the sun was shining and all was well. So the mornings are great, it will just be nice when we get racing in an afternoon again.
With that in mind I’ve recalled the horses from some great afternoons in the past that have moulded my career up to this point, from my very first winner to some more recent successes.
I hope I haven’t missed anyone out!
All the best,
Imperial Glance – My First Winner
Imperial Glance, I’ll never forget him. Andrew [Balding] told me two weeks before he was due to run at Salisbury ‘I have your first winner for you.’ It was a bit of a team effort getting him there as he was quite difficult at home. He used to let me do slow canters on him and try and keep his head, he wasn’t a great eater. But, goodness me, he absolutely bolted up that day. He escaped a penalty as that was an apprentice race and he looked like he was going to go in again at Newbury, but he ran flat next time out. My first winner, he was a horse I was delighted to come across.
Highland Colori – Striking Gold
Ayr Gold Cup day in 2013 was incredible, they don’t come much better than that. I didn’t really feel any pressure going up there as it’s obviously such a big field, you don’t really expect to win. But Andrew sat me down and explained what he wanted me to do and what a day, Highland Colori – he was a fantastic horse for me. I used to ride him a little bit at home, not all the time. I’d certainly never ridden in a big handicap field like that before and to ride a four-timer on a card like that, the other winners being Cockney Sparrow, Silver Rime and Levitate, was just fantastic.
Levitate – Shelling Peas
Talking of Levitate, we must mention him. He was a very good horse to me. I won two from two on him at the back end of my first year and have very fond memories. As well as being part of that four-timer at Ayr he won a big Saturday handicap for me at Doncaster later in the year as well and he couldn’t have won any easier that day. When I had my claim riding winners was very easy, I was on the best horses most of the time and I had my allowance as well. It made a huge difference.
Absolutely So – First Proper Horse
Up to now I’d ridden some really nice horses, but they were essentially handicappers. I’d say Absolutely So was my first proper good horse. I won a valuable handicap at Goodwood on Guineas day on him in the May of 2014 and then in August we won the Sky Bet City of York Stakes, a Listed race at York. I used to ride him a fair bit at home and he was always very good, Andrew did a great job managing him as he wasn’t the greatest of movers. He used to get quite sore if we did a lot of hard work with him. He had some lovely owners and he was an important horse for me at the time.
Hot Streak – The Fast Show
Hot Streak was incredibly quick, the quickest horse I’ve ever ridden. He was a proper five-furlong horse and an outstanding two-year-old. He was very important for my relationship with Sheikh Fahad and David Redvers, coming early on in my association with Qatar Racing. I didn’t feel any pressure when we won the Temple Stakes at Haydock in 2014 as I thought Ryan Moore was on the better one in Pearl Secret. He’s got the sweetest nature, I still go and see him when I can at Tweenhills and he’s a gorgeous horse.
Intransigent – Cool Customer
He was a really cool horse. He’s only recently retired and he’s probably still at home at Kingsclere, as he’s part of the family. He’s a homebred, Mrs B, Andrew’s mother, bred him. He’s another one that was quite difficult at home, as he had lots of energy and he could pull quite hard. I won the Listed Queensferry Stakes on him at Chester in the August of 2014 and then a few months after that I won a valuable handicap on him at Ascot, the Challenge Cup, where he travelled well and won easily.
Litigant – Murphy’s Law
Litigant’s win in the Ebor was massive at the time for my career. It was the summer of 2015, I’d just lost my claim, I was second jockey at Qatar Racing with Andrea Atzeni riding the first string, so to ride the Ebor winner was huge. I’ll never forget it, it was the most incredible training performance from Joe Tuite as well because the horse was crippled, he had to really manage him. We took him to Kempton to work and he worked like a 50-rated horse, he never worked well, but Joe just had him absolutely spot on for the Ebor and he was very high class. Unfortunately he wasn’t that sound but he did an amazing job with him.
Pallasator – Old Pal’s Act
Sheikh Fahad adored him and I loved riding him for one simple reason; he was trained by Sir Mark Prescott. To ride for him was an honour as he’s an absolute top man, I just wish I hadn’t finished second on him so many times it seemed to happen a lot! He was difficult to get on, another feisty customer, but to be honest I think we gelled pretty well. We were second in the Goodwood Cup together but our best day came at Sandown where I won the Group Three Henry II Stakes on him in the May of 2016. He stayed on well alright that day.
Here Comes When – Black Beauty
He’s a beautiful horse with a shiny black coat, a white face, and there isn’t a prettier horse than him during the summer. Owned by Jim and Fitri Hay, I adore him. He’s still in the yard now and he’s been around for years, he just improved and improved. He was also quite hot, so I used to ride him pretty regularly at home, he used to wear a hood. I won a decent race on him at Chester in his earlier days and then later in his career we won the Hambleton at York and a Group Three at Haydock together. I wasn’t on him when he won the Sussex Stakes as I was on…
Lightning Spear – Group One Regular
…Lightning Spear, who gave me a huge amount of experience in riding in Group Ones. He was so important in helping me improve as a top-level rider. It took him a while to win a Group One but he certainly deserved it and that Sussex Stakes victory was a special day - I’ve a gold-plated whip as a result of that which I treasure. He was a gentleman to ride. He was laid back going to post, he used to walk around the ring like he owned the place and it’s great to see his foals on the ground at Tweenhills.
Montaly – Up For The Cup
I watched the replay of Montaly’s Chester Cup win again recently and I never got a chance to pick my whip up as he had to weave his way through the field. That takes some doing at Chester but that race is another one of those big handicaps you’re always delighted to win and to do it on him was special. He was another difficult one. A son of Yeats, he used to wear a hood at home as well as he was hard to manage. He had his little issues but it all came together at Chester, it was massive for Andrew and all the team.
Beat The Bank – Power Packed
He was a terrific horse, he should’ve won a Group One. I had a great record on him and he was an absolute star. I won on him four times and the only times I was beaten on him were in the Jersey Stakes and at Sha Tin. He was sick in the Jersey Stakes and I reckon he’d have won that if he was 100 per cent. Fantastic horse. He was the first horse King Power bought, Alastair Donald saw him win a maiden at Dundalk and Pat Smullen advised that the horse should be purchased. That was good advice!
Aclaim – First Group One
The first time I rode Aclaim was in the Group Two Park Stakes at Doncaster and Martyn Meade, a fantastic trainer, was good enough to keep me on him for his next assignment in the Prix de la Foret at Chantilly. We had to wait for the breaks in France but they came and it was an unbelievable feeling to win my first Group One. He had a wonderful temperament and I can’t wait to see his progeny racing.
Blond Me – Happy Ending
On Blond Me’s very first start I fell off her not once but twice on the way to post at Newbury. She finished ninth and I didn’t ride her in her next 10 races! But all’s well that end’s well and exactly two weeks after my win on Aclaim in the Foret I landed my first top-level success for Andrew on Blond Me in the Grade One E.P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in Canada. She just kept on improving throughout her career and she’s a broodmare now, she’s thrown a lovely foal to Dubawi.
Roaring Lion – The Champion
Of all the horses I’ve been associated with in my career so far, I’d say Roaring Lion is the most important. He was a champion, a world champion. What a horse. I was so lucky to be riding him at such a young age, it meant so much and it’s hard to put into words really. So just look at what we won; the Dante, the Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion Stakes and the QEII, what a horse. He’ll always be tremendously important to me. Looking back he was an easy ride, but he’d never pick up the bridle, he used to look at all the other horses. He knew he was good.
Benbatl – First Royal Ascot Winner
Rated 123 at his best, like Roaring Lion, he’s another champion. He’s taken me everywhere and I won two Group Ones on him in Dubai and Germany. I hope he’ll be back this year, he was all set for the Dubai World Cup, so hopefully he’s in good shape. If he was human he’d be your best friend, he’s got the most wonderful temperament and not many horses try as hard as him. As well as those Group Ones he was my first Royal Ascot winner in the Hampton Court, so he’ll always be special. I’d ridden him for the first time in the Derby a few weeks before but he loved dropping back in trip.
The Tin Man – All Heart At Haydock
The Tin Man had tasted defeat in five consecutive Group Ones by the time I rode him for the first time at Haydock in the 2018 Sprint Cup. Thankfully we got the job done and I’ve been on him ever since. I love riding for James Fanshawe, he’s a gentleman and has a wonderful group of owners. He should’ve won the Sprint Cup again last year, he just stumbled coming out of the stalls and that definitely cost him winning. James has done a wonderful job with him, hopefully he can go back to Haydock and try and win it again this year.
Telecaster – Hitting The High Note
I still hope there are some big days to come with this fellow. He’s a very good horse and he’s bred to be one, he’s by New Approach and his dam was placed in the Oaks. Hughie Morrison’s done a great job with him and he looks in super shape, he sent me some pictures of him the other day. Hopefully he can get back on track this year. The way he won the Dante, beating Too Darn Hot, was so impressive and he set me up for a fantastic 2019…
2019 - Champion Jockey & G1 Success
It was fabulous to be crowned Champion Jockey in 2019 and I should mention all 168 winners that helped me achieve the feat really. However, there was a lot of quality to go with the quantity. Dashing Willoughby, who I love, landed the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, Deirdre was awesome in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, Veracious, a filly I was so proud to ride for Sir Michael Stoute, won the Falmouth Stakes, and then there’s Kameko, a Group One-winning juvenile who offers so much hope for the season ahead. It was a special year and all those Group One wins felt as important as each other.
Suave Richard & Satono Flag – Big In Japan
It’s always a real pleasure to ride out in Japan, I absolutely love it, so I’ll finish with a couple of horses I’ve ridden over there. Firstly, Suave Richard. It was always a dream to win a Group One in Japan and it doesn’t come much bigger than the Japan Cup. Suave Richard is an absolute beast of a horse, he’s like a Land Rover Defender, he’s a massive muscular horse, by Heart’s Cry, he’s an absolute beauty I love him.
And then there’s Satono Flag who I’ve won on a couple of times. A son of Deep Impact, he’s due to contest the Japanese Derby and I think he’s got a very good chance. He ran very well in the Japanese Guineas, which is a mile and a quarter, and he improved for going 2000m at Tokyo. I’d love it if he could win the Japanese Derby for my owner, Mr Satomi, and my trainer, Mr Kunieda. He should love going a mile and a half at Tokyo.
More from Oisin Murphy
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