Oisin Murphy‘s delight was obvious when he fulfilled a lifetime ambition by being handed the Champion Flat Jockey trophy by World Heptathlon gold medal winner Katarina Johnson-Thompson at a winner’s enclosure ceremony before racing on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in 2019.
At 24, Murphy became the youngest champion since Ryan Moore won his first title at 23 in 2006, and he did not just win it – he won it by a country mile. He chalked up 168 winners with Danny Tudhope, his nearest pursuer, on 133.
At one point in July Tudhope was on such a roll that he led Murphy by nine winners and was odds-on for the title.
That lead did not last long, and by the end of August Murphy was 18 ahead once again and it was effectively game over, but Tudhope’s mid-season spurt certainly had him worried.
Murphy, an ambassador for QIPCO British Champions Series, said: “When Danny went clear I was genuinely concerned that I’d thrown it away, but I got the lead back and then I was able to enjoy the last month or so because I was 30-odd clear.”
Reflecting on his achievement he said: “I’m both relieved and delighted that I managed to do it because I set my stall out to be champion and it has been a lifelong ambition. It’s been super.”
While Murphy has so far had only two Group 1 winners – Veracious in the Falmouth Stakes and Deirdre in the Nassau – compared to nine in 2018 when the late lamented Roaring Lion contributed four, in almost every other respect it has been a year of unmitigated success for the former champion apprentice, whose standing within the sport and even outside it has risen relentlessly.
Besides his obvious natural talent and extraordinary work ethic, Murphy, a nephew of Best Mate’s rider Jim Culloty, always finds time for the ever-increasing media demands that are made of him and for fans of all ages.
He is intelligent, articulate and unfailingly polite, and he is also multilingual. He prides himself upon being a good role model and it is no wonder that David Redvers, his immediate boss at Qatar Racing, describes him as “the complete package” or that many others see him as Frankie Dettori’s natural successor as the public face of racing when the Italian retires.
Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes both won a second title the year after their first, but plenty of other multiple champions, including Ryan Moore and Silvestre De Sousa, failed to follow up immediately after their first championships.
Murphy, who will winter once again in Japan and understandably counts the Goodwood success of the Japanese mare Deirdre as a season highlight, is realistic about his prospects and is quick to acknowledge that he will not always enjoy such a clear run of it as in 2019, when he has been largely untroubled by injury and suspensions and his main stables have held their form well.
He said: “I’d love to win another jockeys’ championship one day, but it won’t always go as well as it has this year and whether I can do it again next year, I don’t know.”
The following month, Murphy capped his golden year by landing the Japan Cup aboard Suave Richard.
Oisin Murphy factfile:
Born: September 6, 1995 Background: Nephew of former jump jockey Jim Culloty, who won three Cheltenham Gold Cups on Best Mate and trained the 2014 winner Lord Windermere. Murphy began riding at the age of four and competed in pony races and show jumping. Joined Culloty’s Cork yard at the age of 13 before teaming up with trainer Tommy Stack two years later. Started riding out for Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien at 16 and then moved to England as an apprentice for Andrew Balding in October, 2012. First win came aboard Imperial Glance at Salisbury on June 16, 2013. Capped 2013 with a memorable four-timer on Ayr Gold Cup day, including in the feature race on Highland Colori. Had a three-month spell with leading Australian trainer Danny O’Brien in 2013/2014 and gained 13 successes. Crowned Stobart Champion Apprentice in 2014 after riding 91 winners. Appointed second jockey behind Andrea Atzeni to Qatar Racing Ltd ahead of 2015 Flat season and became first jockey to the organisation when Atzeni returned to trainer Roger Varian in late 2015. Had his best season in 2018 when partnering 198 British winners, including Roaring Lion who gained four G1 victories. Big-Race Wins include: Coral-Eclipse (2018 Roaring Lion), Juddmonte International (2018 Roaring Lion), Irish Champion Stakes (2018 Roaring Lion), Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (2018 Roaring Lion), Dubai Turf (2018 Benbatl), Ebor Handicap (2015 Litigant), E P Taylor Stakes (2017 Blond Me), Prix de la Foret (2017 Acclaim), Sussex Stakes (2018 Lightning Spear), Haydock Sprint Cup (2018 The Tin Man), Nassau Stakes (2019 Deirdre), Falmouth Stakes (2019 Veracious)
xOisin Murphy has established himself as a rising star in the sport and, aged 23, enjoyed a spectacular time in 2018 when he enjoyed no fewer than five Group 1 triumphs in the Champions Series.
He guided Roaring Lion to superb victories in the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International and QIPCO-sponsored Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, plus won the Qatar Sussex Stakes, aboard Lightning Spear, and 32Red Sprint Cup, on The Tin Man.
The Eclipse was his first Group 1 triumph in Britain after a series of near-misses at the highest level, including when third on Roaring Lion in the Investec Derby the previous month.
After his Sandown triumph, achieved by a neck from Saxon Warrior, he said: “It’s a relief. I’m pleased for my family. My mum and dad will be proud as it has taken me six years [to win a Group 1 race in Britain]. This is at the top [of my achievements]. This is what I wanted to be achieving.
“I was on the best horse in the race and I just had to get it right and not get there too soon. John [Gosden] always asks me how I want to ride him and he is always happy with that. That gives me confidence before you start.
“I’m delighted I’ve got the done job for them because the horse was good enough.
“Sheikh Fahad [of owner Qatar Racing] buys and breeds horses that are supposed to be brilliant, but as we all know from the other big organisations, they are hard to find and we have one now. I’m just lucky enough to be part of one.”
Murphy gained his first Champions Series win in 2014 aboard Hot Streak in the Betfred Temple Stakes at Haydock Park, when he made virtually all the running and held off the late challenge of Pearl Secret by half a length.
His finest moments have been in the colours of Qatar Racing, with Murphy having succeeded Andrea Atzeni as their No.1 jockey in 2016.
He only began riding in 2013, as an 18-year-old, when apprenticed to Andrew Balding, but instantly made a great impact, riding four winners on Scottish racing’s Ayr Gold Cup day in September, including in the feature race.
He spent the 2013/2014 winter in Australia, riding mainly for Danny O’Brien and with a total of 13 winners, gaining huge plaudits.
Another graduate of the renowned Irish pony racing circuit and nephew of three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winning rider Jim Culloty, Murphy was, as expected, crowned champion apprentice in 2014 when he rode 91 winners throughout the year.
He is an ambassador for the QIPCO British Champions Series and regularly contributes blogs to the website.