When we first came across Conor Murphy in March 2012 he was a stable hand with Nicky Henderson. Now, instead of mucking them out, he’s training horses in America, and aiming for his biggest prize on Saturday with another transatlantic migrant in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Murphy made the move to his base in Kentucky courtesy of his tremendous belief in Henderson’s horses. A few months before the Cheltenham Festival last year, Murphy backed five of them to win in an accumulator with Bet365. There were surely some sweaty palms after Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig, Bobs Worth and Finian’s Rainbow all came home in front. When Riverside Theatre went on to win the Ryanair Chase, Murphy had won a million pounds and could set off on his American dream.
This time the target is another million, but dollars rather than pounds. His hopes are pinned on Dimension, a horse that signed off his career in England, where James Fanshawe trained him, with a success in a York handicap. Murphy took the horse with him to America intending to sell it on, but didn’t receive a suitable offer. Now he owns Dimension as well as training the five-year-old gelding.
Murphy originates from County Cork, and has a fellow Irishman, Davy Moran, to ride Dimension. He now seems to be settled as the regular pilot, having ridden Dimension his last three races. In his latest run, the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, Dimension finished fifth of six runners behind current Breeders’ Cup Mile champion, Wise Dan.
Murphy says that run shouldn’t dishearten supporters. “The way he ran was my fault. He needs to be fresh and I was so concerned about running him back just three weeks after his previous run that he was too fresh and ran too keen. There wasn’t a hope in hell that we’d ever have beaten Wise Dan but we might have been second. But it showed us that while he gets a mile, he is better over shorter. The ground wasn’t as quick as he likes, but that won’t be any excuse in California. Everyone says you need a seven furlong horse as they go so quick early on that downhill course. That shouldn’t present any problems to him because he’s so well balanced.”
Dimension dodges Wise Dan this weekend, but his task in the Turf Sprint is hardly any easier; he’s up against Mizdirection, Unbridled’s Note and Reneesgotzip, the first three home in last year’s renewal. That’s quite a challenge for horse and his inexperienced trainer, who the excellent Equibase informs us has sent out only 28 runners in his new career.
Maybe it’s a brave move to have a go at the Breeders’ Cup so soon, but why not? It was bravery in betting that has put Murphy where he is now.