Oxx delight as Murtagh to renew alliance with Aga Khan
THE big news in Irish racing circles yesterday underlined that old friends are best as Johnny Murtagh was confirmed as the jockey retained to ride all of the Aga Khan's Irish-trained horses in 2011.
The outgoing Ballydoyle stable jockey will renew his association with the powerful French-based owner and his chief trainer in this country, John Oxx.
Murtagh was stable jockey for Oxx between 1992 and 2003, during which time the Meath rider rode 18 Group One winners for one of the world's leading owners.
Most memorably he guided Oxx's Sinndar to victory in the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2000, and is now back in the job following his resignation as No 1 for Coolmore last week.
"Myself and Johnny have obviously had a very successful association over the years and when Johnny announced that he was leaving Ballydoyle, His Highness was keen to renew that old association," said Oxx, who has 90 horses in training for the Aga Khan.
All this is bad news for Fran Berry, as it ends his brief stint as Oxx's stable jockey. Although he will not be retained in 2011, Oxx hopes he will still ride for the yard.
"What has happened is no reflection on Fran Berry, who is one of the country's leading jockeys and is currently having his best ever season," Oxx said. "We've had a great relationship and a very successful one and he'll continue to ride for the stable when the opportunity arises.
"I hope we have some nice horses for next season. I think last year's two-years-olds were my worst for over 20 years, so we were a bit pessimistic about this past season. This year's two-year-olds look much more promising."
Murtagh also expressed his delight. "I'm thrilled to be renewing my association with His Highness' horses in Ireland," he said. "We have shared some fantastic moments over the years.
"I started off riding for Mr Oxx and it has always been a pleasure to be part of his team."
Murtagh becomes the first retained rider in Ireland for the Aga Khan, who said: "I believe it is vital to the continued success of my bloodstock operation to have a retained jockey in the countries where my horses are trained.
"This has been the situation in France for many years and I am most pleased now to have a similar arrangement in Ireland."
Mick Halford is the Aga Khan's other Irish trainer, with 30 horses in his care.