Sunday 18 February 2018

The jockey's perspective

With Johnny Murtagh still riding the best horses in the best races for Aidan O'Brien, it's fair to wonder why he didn't elect to bite his lip and be content with the rich rewards that would continue to come his way.

Just a fortnight ago he rode a Group One winner for O'Brien when Roderic O'Connor, a Classic prospect for 2011, landed a major French Group One, and he is in action at Saint Cloud again today.

Next year, things might well have continued as they are. Then again, they might not. The problem with the current situation is that there is nothing more demoralising or destabilising for a jockey than watching other riders win on horses that, for one reason or another, you consider to be 'your' ride.

Given that Murtagh is contracted to ride as No 1 for Coolmore and Ballydoyle, he would be entitled to feel hard done by. Ruby Walsh's recently published autobiography details at length the disappointment, frustration and helplessness experienced by a jockey forced to watch 'his' horses win, from the sidelines through injury.

To someone in Murtagh's position, not marginalised by a broken leg, but overlooked in favour of a much less experienced colleague, you could add a sense of anger to that list.

Jockeys function best when their confidence is high, as they need to be able to rely on their instincts. Murtagh's repeated -- and very public -- demotions, even for a jockey of his world-class calibre, would eventually eat away at his self-belief, while the fury inside would naturally compound matters.

On top of all that, this whole debacle will almost certainly cause him to forfeit his champion jockeys' title, so every missed winner in recent months will have cut to the quick.

As a champion, Johnny Murtagh deserves better, and well he knows it.

Irish Independent

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