Monday 19 March 2018

Richard Forristal: Ayr four-timer signals big future for Oisin Murphy

Kerry teenager Oisin Murphy celebrates partnering Highland Colori to victory in the prestigious Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday
Kerry teenager Oisin Murphy celebrates partnering Highland Colori to victory in the prestigious Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Oisin Murphy woke up to a different kind of reality yesterday morning. A nephew of the former three-time Gold Cup-winning jockey and current trainer Jim Culloty, the Killarney native drove Highland Colori to a sensational 20/1 rout of the Ayr Gold Cup field on Saturday.

On Murphy's first venture to Scotland, that was his first ride, and then he went and won the remaining three races on the card to plunder a 9,260/1 four-timer.

In the absence of a showpiece Group One on the day, it was a barnstorming feat that triggered an abundance of headline coverage.

Murphy only turned 18 two weeks ago, so this was the pinnacle of what was a whirlwind summer. The 5lb claimer made his track debut in May, and only rode his first winner on June 16. Just three months later, he has ridden 28.

It's impossible to see his progress and not recognise how it echoes Connor King's rise here.

Both were stars of the pony racing scene and combined to steal the limelight at Dingle just over 12 months ago. Now they are two of the hottest young properties in racing.

With 36 winners for 18 different trainers, King – who also excelled with a 14,725/1 quartet on a decent Cork card – is effectively assured the Irish apprentices' title.

Murphy, who is currently 10 shy of Jason Hart's tally of 38, has been successfully employed by 15 handlers.

He has outscored Hart nine to six in the past fortnight, with the British championship not set to be decided until November 9.


Normally, I would hazard that Murphy's momentum surge gives him more than a fighting chance of victory, but maybe not this time. Last week, before Saturday's euphoria, Andrew Balding moved to proactively fulfil his duties as Murphy's master.

Aware of the pace at which the teenager's career was accelerating and the haste with which he was eating into his claim, he announced that Murphy would no longer ride in races worth less than €10,000.

Last month, when I outlined the potential pitfalls of King's rapid ascent, some readers asked what exactly I meant when I suggested that King's boss David Wachman and agent Ruaidhri Tierney should begin to carefully manage his outside bookings.

Well, that is the sort of thing I had in mind – though that isn't to say that Wachman and Tierney aren't striving to do the very same.

Ultimately, every situation is different and this is one of sport's most complex conflicts.

Still, in terms of the big picture, it is counterproductive for an apprentice of King or Murphy's quality to waste their claim on moderate horses in bad races for small trainers who will have little to contribute to their future development.

Balding has a history of supervising his apprentices' trajectories responsibly, with William Buick the most distinguished to come through his academy. He has a keen sense of how to balance the frenzy of being fashionable with doing what is best for the rider.

To most trainers seeking to extract value from Murphy's claim, he is a commodity to be exploited; to Balding, he is an individual whose precocious talent warrants and demands careful supervision.

"We were just anxious he was riding a lot of winners and not Saturday winners, which was why we brought in the embargo about him not riding in the lower grade races," Balding explained of Murphy.

"He's no mug and I've sat him down on a couple of occasions to say it was all going a little quicker than ideal and he was very receptive.

"I think he knows now the difference between riding a big winner and just riding a winner round Southwell. It is important for him to get that experience and I'm hoping his claim hasn't gone by Ascot next year.

"If it's gone after that we can crack on, but we'll try and conserve it a little bit as that will be to his long-term advantage."

Well said. As Murphy discovered on Saturday, sometimes less really is more.



Michael Hourigan and Barry Geraghty combined for a 27/1 double courtesy of Run With The Wind and The Crafty Butcher on the last day of Listowel's Harvest Festival on Saturday.

In between, Mikey Fogarty secured his third winner from five rides since turning professional by guiding Paul Nolan's Dick Dundee (12/1) to a neck victory in the handicap chase, but the most taking performance was that of Minella Foru in the maiden hurdle.

Purchased by JP McManus after winning its only point-to-point start in March, Mark Walsh's mount denied Willie Mullins' French import Shamsikhan with some authority on its debut for Eddie Harty.

The seven-day bonanza's total attendance came in at 87,996, which is up a negligible 40 on last year. Given that the weather held up so much better this time, that would have to be deemed slightly disappointing, as might the number of races that lacked an apparent sponsor. Otherwise, there was plenty for the executive at the north Kerry venue to be happy about, as the turnouts on the two big days (Wednesday and Friday) held up well, and the €120,000 invested in drainage appeared well spent, albeit it wasn't thoroughly tested by the elements.

If the stagnant gate figure reaffirms that the seven-day duration is too long, the fact that field sizes held up so well was testament to a racing surface that took plenty hardship.

Indeed, such competitive racing was a boon for those who are determined to maintain the status quo.


Fethard handler Barry Lalor saddled his first winner with his first runner in England when Maarek landed Saturday's five-furlong Group Three at Newbury for Declan McDonogh.

Switched from David Nagle's nearby stable prior to its previous run, the classy 9/2 shot hadn't won since its seasonal bow at Naas in April, but looked more like his old self as he powered through the soft ground to score for a 10th time.

A tilt at the Champions Sprint that he won at Ascot last year or a step up to Group One for the Abbaye is now on the cards.

Andrew Slattery's An Saighdiur was third in the Ayr Silver Cup for a second year in a row under Billy Lee, while Derry handler Noel Kelly and amateur rider Derek Fox combined to take the three-mile handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter yesterday with Mia's Anthem at odds of 8/1.


Michael Stoute's Mango Diva comfortably justified strong support into 7/4 favouritism to plunder yesterday's Group Three Lanwades Stud Fillies' Race for Johnny Murtagh at Gowran Park.

The resurgent Murtagh had also been among the winners at Newbury on Saturday, taking the Cesarewitch trial on Oriental Fox at odds of 9/1 for Mark Johnston.



Called to @KeithHadnett physical therapy in Limerick a couple of times during Listowel, feeling the benefits

– Barry Geraghty, who posted an accompanying photo, gives a shout out to Keith Hadnett's new physiotherapy venture. Hadnett, who won the Galway Plate on Rockholm Boy in 2002, last rode in 2006. Now we know what he has been doing in the meantime. Davy Russell also utilised his services last week.


0 What you will pay to get into the Curragh for next Sunday's Beresford Stakes card if you brandish a ticket for the previous evening's All-Ireland hurling final replay.

1 Pat Murphy's career tally after the Castlecomer handler got off the mark with the Declan McDonogh-ridden Wagadoogoochoochoo at his local Gowran Park venue yesterday. Murphy wasn't on hand to welcome back the 20/1 winner, as he was taking in the Grand Prix in Singapore as part of his honeymoon en route to a friend's wedding in Bali. Busy man!

2 The number of Gowran Park winners enjoyed by Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning who combined for a first and last-race double courtesy of Mandatario and Wexford Opera. The former looked a very promising juvenile when seeing off Kerkeni by a short-head and the brace was completed by the hitherto frustrating Wexford Opera which finally shed its maiden tag thanks to a positive ride from Mannning in the closing maiden.

Irish Independent

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