Aga Khan loses Arc hope Valyra and jockey Murtagh

Valyra and Johnny Murtagh win Pridx de Diane

Johnny Murtagh will no longer ride under contract to the Aga Khan. The decision appears to have been made rather suddenly, and judging from the terse statements issued by both sides, there’s no love lost between them.

Pat Downes, who manages the Aga Khan’s Irish stud farm said, “I can confirm it is true. I don’t have a whole lot more to say, other than there were differences between the parties and it was agrees that we would part.”

The partnership lasted less than two years, with Murtagh re-joining the Aga Khan in November 2010 when he left the post of stable jockey for Aidan O’Brien. Murtagh’s statement suggested he had no idea that his employment status was about to change. It read, “I was informed yesterday afternoon that my contract to ride for His Highness the Aga Khan was being terminated with immediate effect. I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Highness and his staff at his studs in Ireland and France for the very successful years we have had together, and to sincerely wish them every success in the future.”

It is turning out not to be a good week all round for the Aga and his team, as it came on the morning after his leading Arc hope, Valyra had to be put down after fracturing a back leg whilst exercising on the beach at Deauville. Valyra’s trainer, Jean-Claude Rouget set out the disappointment connections felt at the loss of such a capable filly. He said, “It is a terrible accident and a great loss for His highness the Aga Khan and our stable. We have lost a filly with true class. She was a very sound individual and a pleasure to train.”

Ironically, Johnny Murtagh rode Valyra to her biggest success in the French Oaks earlier this year, when she was a 25/1 outsider, overturning odds on favourite Beauty Parlour to win.

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