'Mouse Morris' a legendary horse racing figure who scaled sport's highest peaks
Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30
Christopher Morris was a son of Shanny and Michael "Mouse" Morris, a legendary figure in horse racing circles whose father was Lord Killanin of the same name.
Morris rode his and trainer Edward O'Grady's first Cheltenham Festival winner when steering Mr Midland to victory in the 1974 National Hunt Chase. Turning professional soon after, he returned to claim one of the Prestbury Park gala's marquee events, securing back-to-back Queen Mother Champion Chase successes aboard the Brian Lusk-trained Skymas in 1976 and 1977.
Morris was a highly respected rider who played a significant role alongside O'Grady in the celebrated Gay Future coup at Cartmel in 1974, an elaborate cloak-and-dagger plot that inspired the film 'Murphy's Stroke', which starred Pierce Brosnan in the lead role.
However, over a period of more than 30 years, Morris's feats as a trainer from his Everardsgrange base in Fethard, Co Tipperary, have surpassed his accomplishments in the saddle. With seven winners at the March festival, he is the fifth most successful active Irish handler there.
His early flag-bearer was the exceptional Buck House, a dual winner in the Cotswolds - including in the 1986 Champion Chase under Tommy Carmody - that famously came out on the wrong side of a feted duel with Dawn Run at Punchestown in 1986.
Morris has enjoyed a raft of other big-race victories with horses like Trapper John, Cahervillahow, His Song, Foxchapel King and First Lieutenant, which is owned by Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary. He was one of the first handlers to train for O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud operation, and together they scaled jump racing's highest peak when the Conor O'Dwyer-ridden War Of Attrition stormed to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in 2006.
One of the game's most popular and recognisable characters, Morris is especially renowned as a deft hand at preparing a horse for the big occasion, and his name graces the Irish Grand National roll of honour, both as a jockey aboard Billycan in 1977 and courtesy of O'Leary's Paddy Flood-ridden Hear The Echo in 2008.
Morris and his wife Shanny both hail from genteel family backgrounds, Shanny being a daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel BDH Clark of Kilmacanogue, an esteemed figure who acted as Chairman of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
Morris has a twin brother John, who is married to former RTE presenter Thelma Mansfield. His elder brother Redmond - who inherited the Lord Killanin title but chooses not to use it - is a well-known film producer whose credits include Neil Jordan's' Interview with a Vampire', 'Michael Collins' and 'The Butcher Boy', as well as Ken Loach's Palme d'Or winning 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley'.