It’s exactly a week since the Irish Turf Club approved his trainer’s licence, and Murtagh is pitching straight in at the highest level with Fort Knox, recently bought by Sheikh Mohammed. He is down to ride the horse he now trains in tomorrow’s Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas.
He told the Irish Times: "I finished the course and the Turf Club has granted me a licence to train. I'm delighted to get it sorted and I think it is an added bonus that I will be able to train and ride the horses. I accept that me training might make it difficult for some people to use my services on their horses but I am still available to whoever wants me, and that includes internationally." Harry Dunlop has already picked up on that, and has Murtagh booked to ride outsider Roz in the Oaks next Friday. Murtagh will hope that others like Eddie Lynam and William Haggas, who have provided him with plenty of rides, also take note that he’s still available.
Murtagh owns the stables in Kildare from which Tommy Carmody trained, and the two have worked with considerable success as rider and trainer, most recently in last year’s Irish St Leger, which the stable’s Royal Diamond won for owner Andrew Tinkler.
It was Tinkler’s decision to send some horses across to Carmody that set Murtagh thinking more about training himself. He explained, “We started off with just five horses which Andrew brought over and we thought it would be a nice little project and we could run horses on the all weather at Dundalk over the winter. Then we had our first winner and we had a good run before Royal Diamond came along and won the St Leger. We now have about 40 horses in training so the whole thing has escalated more than I imagined.”
Now Murtagh is ready to take the primary responsibility himself. He said, “I’ve been heavily involved with Tommy over the last 16 months or so and as everyone knows I’ve been helping out with the training of the horses. There is no hidden agenda and I just wanted everything out in the open. Basically I am taking over the licence from Tommy and all the horses will be running in my name. It’s a challenge that I am really looking forward to.”
Murtagh’s fellow jockey Declan McDonogh had a hard task when he took over from Murtagh as first rider for the Aga Khan. There was far more than touting for rides when he said, “I’d imagine that training horses was cut out for him. He has the right mentality to make a proper go of it and he’ll do things the right way I would not have any worries about him making a good go of it and I’m sure it won’t be long before he starts sending out winners.”
If that happens with Fort Knox at the Curragh tomorrow, who’ll get the plaudits – trainer or jockey?