Murphy must dig deep once more to bounce back to the top

Oisin Murphy’s decision to relinquish his licence “to focus on my rehabilitation” pending a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing brings to a halt, at least temporarily, a career which has seen him rise to the top of his profession.

His maiden title in 2019 was the icing on the cake for the 26-year-old Irishman, who grew up in Killarney, and he has collected Group One victories around the world on a regular basis.

Further lustre was added to his CV last year with a first Classic triumph, courtesy of the Andrew Balding-trained Kameko in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The victory came in the colours of Qatar Racing, for whom he was appointed number one jockey in 2016 and whose founder, Sheikh Fahad, has been a long-time ally, staunchly standing by him when headlines have been made for the wrong reasons.

Sheikh Fahad and Oisin Murphy with Roaring Lion
Sheikh Fahad and Oisin Murphy with Roaring Lion (PA)

The pair will always be indelibly linked through the exploits of Roaring Lion, whom Murphy guided to four Group Ones in a glorious spell in 2018.

Nephew of Best Mate’s rider Jim Culloty, Murphy began riding in the UK in 2013 and quickly made an impact, being crowned champion apprentice in 2014 – yet another beneficiary of the Balding academy which has also produced the likes of William Buick, appropriately his closest pursuer in this year’s epic title race.

His first Group One triumph came aboard Aclaim for Martyn Meade in the Prix de la Foret in 2017, and there have been many more since – including a famous success in the Japan Cup aboard Suave Richard in 2019, a win Murphy described as a “dream come true”.

He recorded three top-level triumphs in Britain in 2020, including Dream Of Dreams for Sir Michael Stoute in the Sprint Cup at Haydock.

He also rode his 1,000th domestic winner at the end of October that year on the Michael Dods-trained Perfect Sign, in the Qatar colours.

He told Sky Sports Racing afterwards: “I ride for great people, and it’s really nice to get my 1,000th in these colours.

“When you start out as an apprentice, you hope to just get one winner – hopefully I can ride 1,000 more in the future.

“I ride good horses all over the world – I’m very privileged and I have to remember that.”

Big wins this year have come with the likes of Alcohol Free, Buzz and Starman, while his links with Japan paid dividends again, as he rode 50-1 outsider Marche Lorriane to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar.

Of his bombshell news on Thursday, which came on the back of an alleged breach of Covid-19 protocol and two failed alcohol tests, Murphy said: “Whether I deserve it or not, many kind people have stood by me and I really appreciate their support. I’m deeply embarrassed and regret my actions.”

It will be a long road back, of course – but he has done it before, after testing positive for metabolites of cocaine in France which led to a three-month suspension. He is certain to get all the help and backing he needs from those in the industry and his weighing-room colleagues. Frankie Dettori, for example, has always been a great supporter.

And as he showed in picking himself up off the floor – quite literally at Chelmsford following a nasty fall in the dwindling hours of the title race – to hold off Buick’s at one stage relentless pursuit, he is made of the right stuff.

He is also one of a new breed of jockeys who communicate well with the public, be it in television interviews or on social media, and that will stand him in good stead when the time comes for his return.

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1 reply
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  2. Ian Speed
    Ian Speed says:

    I do believe that he hadn’t helped himself by putting a lot of pressure in winning the title. There are certain sections of the media ( one individual in the main ) who also didn’t help the situation by going on and on about it. I complained on more than one occasion to him ( not Murphy ) to shut up but did he , no. I’m convinced that all this led him towards the release into the abuse/problems. Some people can cope, some cannot. Hard lessons to be learnt.


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