O'Brien pays tribute as Murphy quits training
Aidan O'Brien has led the tributes to Colm Murphy, who shocked Irish racing yesterday by announcing that he will be retiring very soon.
Trainer of such top-class horses as Brave Inca, Big Zeb and Feathard Lady, Murphy's decision at the age of 42 comes out of the blue and has been put down to monetary reasons.
And O'Brien, for whom Murphy worked for six years prior to taking out a licence, says he will be a major loss to Irish jumps racing.
"Colm was around with us when we had Istabraq and he was a great fellow, a star fellow for us. He is a top-class person who showed a great understanding of people and horses, and he was a world-class trainer.
"He rode lots of bumper winners for us and did basically everything else he could when working for me," the champion Flat trainer added.
Murphy admitted that it was something he had "been thinking about for the last while". He told PA Sport: "After a few difficult years, my accountancy background told me we just can't make it pay any more. It's been a very difficult decision and not one we've made lightly but in the end it was a financial decision that was made for us."
The timing is unexpected, as Murphy had only last March trained Empire Of Dirt to win at the Cheltenham Festival, though he had said in an interview in February that training was "not the be all and end all".
Earlier in the campaign, the same horse had won a lucrative handicap at Leopardstown for Gigginstown House Stud and things appeared to be looking up for the stable when it gained some high-profile Alan Potts-owned jumpers.
However, recent years have been extremely lean. Murphy was accustomed to around 25 winners a season at his peak but trained only nine in Ireland two seasons ago, six last term and three in this campaign.
That is a world removed from Brave Inca winning both the Supreme Novices Hurdle and Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. He also enjoyed Champion Chase glory with Big Zeb, while Feathard Lady won all seven races in her career, including at Grade One level.
Big Zeb's victory in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at the end of 2011 was the yard's last win at the top level. "We've been very fortunate to have some fantastic horses over the years and I want to thank all the owners and staff that have given us so much support," said the Gorey trainer.
"Winning the Champion Hurdle and the Champion Chase were great days and I suppose last year's Cheltenham winner was so sweet as it had been tough going for so long."
Murphy said Black Zambezi could be his final runner at Gowran this day week. Asked what he would do post-training, he said: "I don't really know."