New Zealand cricketer, see:" John Murtagh
Johnny Murtagh (born
Navan, County Meath, May 14, 1970) is an Irish flat racing jockey.
He was a promising schoolboy footballer and boxer when he was younger. At a fight evening held at a hotel in his native County Meath a spectator advised his mother that young Johnny would make a jockey explaining that he's small, light, got good balance, a good sense of rhythm and plenty of courage. Sheila Murtagh was interested by someone thinking Johnny could be a jockey because Michael, her husband, had wanted to be a jockey but he was told you couldn’t be a jockey if you weren’t brought up with them. She wrote to the school for apprentice jockeys in County Kildare, got a two-week trial for her son and sent him on his way. The teenager thought it would be a bit of fun but as soon as he stepped into the world of horses, he knew it was for him. From the trial, he got on the 10-month course and within a year, he was apprenticed to John Oxx, one of Ireland’s leading trainers. He was 17 when he rode his first winner, 19 when he became champion apprentice and 22 when he became first jockey to Oxx.
(David Walsh http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/racing/article4188097.ece)
He is today one of the world's top jockeys and was appointed as the
Coolmoreoperation's number one jockey in 2008. He excels on the big occasion having won many of the big races around the world. His haul includes five Irish Oaks and three Yorkshire Oaks, four Ascot Gold Cups and two Tattersalls Gold Cups, three Epsom Derbys and two Irish Derbys, three King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, two English and two Irish 2000 Guineas, an English and an Irish Champions' Stakes and wins in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Breeders' Cup Turf and Breeders' Cup Mile and Hong Kong Vase. He is a jockey to follow particularly at Royal Ascot where he has scored at least once in all of the Group 1 races staged there (Ascot Gold Cup x4, Prince of Wales Stakes, Queen Ann Stakes x2, St James Palace Stakes x2, Coronation Stakes, King's Stand Stakes, Golden Jubilee Stakes x3).
This sustained success over nearly two decades is all the more impressive as he cannot naturally meet the flat jockey's weight and has to spend the season very underweight. He has been granted a
National Huntlicence, which has enabled him to ride in Hurdle races occasionally which he enjoys as he is able to get closer to his natural weight.
1987 - 1999
He was apprenticed to trainer
John Oxxand rode his first winner on Chicago Style at Limerick in July 1987. He became champion apprentice in 1989 and enjoyed a steady rise in profile until 1992 when he lost his position with trainer John Oxx after problems with alcohol and his weight.
But Murtagh bounced back, and with the renewed support of Oxx and owner-breeder, the Aga Khan, was Irish champion jockey in 1995, 1996 and 1998.
In 1995 he achieved his first group successes when he and his first world-class mount, Ridgewood Pearl, trained by John Oxx, triumphed in the Coronation Cup at Ascot, the Prix Moulin at Longchamp and the
Breeders' Cup Mileat Belmont Parkto crown her as the champion miler of 1995. Their only reverse came in the QEII where she could not keep up with Bahri. (He also unfortunately missed out on her classic success in the Irish 1000 Guineas as he was required to ride the Aga Khan's runner, Khaytada, to third.) He also rode the Oxx and Aga Khan filly Timarida to brilliant victories in the Matron Stakes at the Curragh and in the Prix de l'Opéraat Longchamp Racecourse.
In 1996 he was the regular partner of two more of Oxx's star fillies, Timarida again and also Key Change. His group 1 wins were the
Yorkshire Oakswith Key Change, the Bayerisches Zuchtrennen, Beverly D. Stakesand the Irish Champion Stakeswith Timarida who as a 4-year-old season competed and won at the highest level against the colts.
Over the next two years he monopolised the
Irish Oaksaboard unfancied Oxx trained Ebadiyla in 1997 and Winona in 1998.
The Murtagh and Oxx team ended the 1999 season with two group 1 wins, the
Ascot Gold Cupwith Enzeli and the Irish National Stakeswith Sinndar.
2000 - 2004
The following year Sinndar went on to give him his first victory in the
Epsom Derbywhich was also Ireland's first win in 16 runnings. This classic win was followed up by a repeat performance in the Irish Derby. At Royal Ascot he partnered the Richard Fahey trained outsider Superior Premium to a 20/1 success in the Cork and Orrery Stakes (now the Golden Jubilee Stakes). Murtagh's services were in demand more than ever for the rest of 2000, especially after Kieren Fallonwas injured at Royal Ascotand Sir Michael Stouteneeded an able deputy for his Newmarket stable. Murtagh won eight Group 1 races for Stoute. He tasted further glory in the Irish Oaks aboard Petrushka and at the Yorkshire Oaks Petrushka reversed the tables with Epsom conqueror Love Divine. He partnered Greek Dance, out of the great Darshaan broodmare Hellenic, to victory in one of Germany's biggest races, the Bayerisches Zuchtrennen and runner up behind the great Giant's Causeway in one of Ireland's biggest races, the Irish Champion Stakes. His greatest day came at Longchamp in October when he completed a Group 1 treble, winning the Prix de l'Opera on Petrushka, the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchampon Namid and the Prix de l'Arc de Triompheon Sinndar. Thus Sinndar became the first and so far only horse to win the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby Stakes and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same year. Murtagh finished the year with more glory on the Stoute trained and Agha Khan owned Kalanisi at the Champion Stakesholding off a surge from the great Montjeu and at the Breeders' Cup Turfin Churchill Downs where the colt again triumphed over an international class field. He also enjoyed juvenile success with Dilshan in the Racing Post at Doncaster but the colt was to disappoint in the following year's Derby. He rounded off 2000 with two great rides in Hong Kong's biggest races by partnering Greek Dance to a second place in the Hong Kong Cup over 10 furlongs and Daliapour (Agha Khan owned), last year's Derby runner up, to victory in the Hong Kong Vase over 12 furlongs.
In all he finished the season with an incredible tally of 12 worldwide Group 1 wins; including 8 for trainer Michael Stoute and 6 for owner Agha Khan. (Retrospectively 13 as the Cork and Orrery Stakes is now a group 1 as the Golden Jubilee Stakes)
He could manage "only" three group 1 winners in 2001, on the Aidan O'Brien trained Black Minnaloushe in the
Irish 2,000 Guineasand the St. James's Palace Stakes, and Mark Johnston trained Royal Rebel in the Ascot Gold Cup.
The year 2002 started well for the affable Irishman, with classic wins aboard
Rock of Gibraltarin the English 2,000 Guineas and High Chaparralin the Epsom Derby relegating Mick Kinane on board the more fancied Hawk Wing to second in both races. He also repeated his Ascot Gold Cup triumph on Royal Rebel. But he lost out to Mick Kinane in a very tight battle for the Irish jockeys' championship which went to the last day of the season and also missed out to the same jockey on the Rock and High Chaparral's further wins that season.
His flagbearer in 2003 was Alamshar, who won the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes under the same Sinndar combination of John Oxx and the Aga Khan. In the former Johnny was able to employ Alamshar's stamina to take the race from the Aga Khan's more fancied Dalakhani while in a high class King George Alamshar accelerated well clear of the field of older horses and also Kris Kin who had defeated Alamshar in the Epsom Derby for a convincing win. Murtagh also partnered the Aussie speedster Choisir to an incredible Ascot sprint double in the
King's Stand Stakesand the Golden Jubilee Stakesbut dropped a bombshell at the end of the season when he announced that he would be splitting from Oxx because of ongoing problems with his weight.
He began riding freelance and spent much of 2004 in England, initially based with David Loder but then teaming up in particular with
James Fanshawe. This association brought four group 1 wins on two more super fillies with Soviet Songin the Falmouth Stakes beating Attraction, beating the colts including Refuse to Bend in the Sussex Stakes and confirming the form with Attraction in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. While he partnered Frizzante to a tremendous late surge in beating a world class field in the 6f sprint July Cup at Newmarket. He ended the year with a creditable 74 winners in the British jockeys' championship.
2005 - 2007
At the start of the 2005 Flat Racing Season, Johnny became attached to Curragh trainer Michael Halford while continuing to ride for a wide variety of other trainers and once again he enjoyed a fine season. Halford ended up the year with 54 winners, his biggest total of flat winners in a season with Murtagh winning the likes of the Waterford Testimonial Stakes at the Curragh on Miss Sally and the Leopardstown November Handicap on Golden Cross while he also rode several good winners for other trainers. Harry Rogers’ Moon Unit won the Woodlands Stakes at Naas and the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh, Jessica Harrington’s Sahara Princess won the Blue Square Stakes while other notable winners came on Edward Lynam’s Jioconda in the Silken Gilder Stakes at the Curragh and on Noel Meade’s Sugarhoneybaby in the Knockaire Stakes at Leopardstown. However, the highlight of the 2005 season was undoubtedly his fantastic victory on the Michael Bell trained
Motivatorin the Epsom Derby while earlier he landed the Dante Stakesat York on the same horse. Soviet Song added another Group 1 success in the Falmouth Stakes, but Murtagh's campaign was blighted by a 21-day suspension picked up for punching fellow jockey Pat Smullen following a race at Leopardstown in August. He also split with Fanshawe.
Towards the end of 2005, Johnny decided to try his luck over hurdles and he notched up four victories from just a handful of rides with his win on Golden Cross in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan the most notable. At Cheltenham in March, he almost pulled off a famous victory on the same horse in the Ladbrokes
World Hurdlebut the combination went down by a head in a thrilling finish with My Way De Solzen after a ding-dong battle from the final flight.
In early 2006, it was announced that Meath trainer Ger Lyons would have second claim on Johnny and that partnership worked well with Murtagh riding 18 winners for the stable during the season which included victory on the stable's An Tadh in the Ballycorus Stakes at Leopardstown in June which was the trainer's first ever Group winner. He enjoyed big race victories on Michael Halford's Quinmaster, who won both the old McDonogh Handicap at the Galway Festival and the Irish Cambridgeshire at the Curragh, while other notable successes came on the same stable's Newgate Lodge who took the €100,000 Sportsmans Challenge 2-Y-O Race at the Curragh on Shelbourne Hotel Goffs Million Day while he also struck up a fine partnership with Noel Meade's Arch Rebel on whom he landed the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh and both the Amethyst Stakes and the Trigo Stakes at Leopardstown later in the season. He continued his Epsom heroics with a great ride in the Derby to take third on board a battling performance from the unheralded Dylan Thomas who then relegated him to the runner up position aboard the Andre Fabre trained Gentlewave at the Irish Derby. He ended up with a fine tally of 71 domestic winners which helped him to finish in third place behind the new Champion Jockey, Declan McDonogh.
Johnny started the 2007 season with a bang at the Curragh in March 2007 completing a big race treble at odds of 880/1 on Ardbrae Lady, Deauville Vision and Little White Lie. He repeated his Curragh heroics in May with a strong ride on Notnowcato to hold off Ballydoyle's Dylan Thomas in the
Tattersalls Gold Cup. For the rest of the year though Johnny teamed up with Coolmore to great effect as in 2000 initially due to injury and suspension to Kieron Fallon but then due solely to the talent he went on to display in the saddle. He was given the saddle on Aiden O'Brien's leading Epsom Derby contender, Eagle Mountain, but even his mastery of Epsom and steady climb through the field to take the runner up position had to bow to Authorized's brilliance in powering away from the field. Johnny's return to the limelight also led to English based trainers again regularly calling on his services in the prestigious English races for the remainder of the season. His fans were rewarded with a profitable Royal Ascot in June with three winners at big prices; Elletelle in the Queen Mary Stakesat 20/1, Eddie Jock in the Britannia Stakes at 33/1 topped off with yet another Group 1 win on board Soldier's Tale backed down from 20/1 to 9/1 repelling the Australian sprinters in the Golden Jubilee Stakes. And in July he won another two Group 1 races in a week on the Coolmore owned Simply Perfect in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket (following up 3rd place in the 1,000 Guineas at the same venue back in May) and Peeping Fawnin the Irish Oaks. The contrast in these two rides highlighted his versatility and talent showing in the former a mastery of front running and controlling the pace of a race to suit his mount and undermine the hold up horses in the field and in the latter stalking the English Oaks winner, Light Shift, before pouncing in the final furlong. Fans of Johnny's strength in the saddle will of course argue that had he also been aboard Peeping Fawn at Epsom she would have been the dual Oaks winner as he would have been better able to keep the filly from veering towards the rails and losing momentum. In July on board Dylan Thomas in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes he again showed his cool and timing on board an impressive performance from last year's Irish Derby and Champion Stakes winner. In August his season long association with Yellowstone was rewarded with victory in the Gordon Stakes and he again teamed up with Peeping Fawn to claim the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood to confirm her as the best filly in training in Europe after outclassing Mandesha. At York's Ebor meeting just three weeks later he partnered this super filly to another convincing victory in the Yorkshire Oaks while also enjoying success in the Lonsdale Cup on Septimus. In the Juddmonte International over 10 furlongs his ride Dylan Thomas could not reel in the Derby winner Authorized with Murtagh commenting,“I make no excuses,” he reflected, “I had Dylan Thomas in a bad position between three and one-and-a-half-furlongs out. But he struggled in the [easy] ground. Peeping Fawn would have given Authorized much more to do.” Also at York his St Leger ride Honolulu ran a fine second to Purple Moon in the Ebor while Yellowstone was also beaten by John Gosden's Lucarnoin the Great Voltigeur Stakes. In the St Leger itself at Doncaster Honolulu could only come third to another classy display from Lucarno but Johnny had the consolation of Septimus proving his ability as a top notch stayer with a course record breaking performance in the Doncaster Cup and in giving a winning power packed ride to Arabian Glean to land a Group 2 success in the Park Stakes. The Arabian Glean success was his third Group success with Nemarket based trainer Jeremy Noseda following Soldier's Tale and Simply Perfect and the trainer's appreciation of his jockey was evident for all to see in the ring afterwards. His super September weekend was rounded off with a big race Sunday double at Longchamp on board Mrs Lindsay and Soldier of Fortune. The Mrs Lindasy victory in the Prix Vermeille was particularly sweet as the Francois Rohaut-trained filly kept on strongly to reverse placings with West Wind from the Prix Diane. While he rewarded Coolmore's confidence in him by giving the Irish Derby winner Soldier of Fortune a well-judged ride to land the Prix Niel and confirm his Arc credentials. The following Saturday at Newbury Johnny gave the Luca Cumani trained Monte Alto a patient last to first ride to win cosily in the Heritage Stakes warmup for the Cambridgeshire. However, in the Mill Reef Stakes he could not reel in Dark Angel on board the Noseda trained Strike the Deal who went down by a neck under a 3-pound penalty for its Richmond Stakes Group 2 win. Johnny rounded off September with a big priced treble at Dundalk's Friday evening all weather meeting and with juvenile success for Ballydoyle at Ascot's QEII meeting on Saturday. In the Royal Lodge Stakes his mount Achill Island came second before landing Group 1 spoils on board the beautifully bred Listen in the Fillies' Mile who comfortably held off the fancied French runner Proviso and had revenge on her Molygare conqueror Saoirse Abu. Johnny quipped post race that he hoped Listen would be his Peeping Fawn in 2008. He rounded off his hot spree with a 50/1 success on Candidato Roy in the Challenge Cup with a simply brilliant well-planned ride ploughing a front running stand side course and leaving the rest of the field in his wake. October started a little disappointingly for Johnny with his 2-year-old filly Elletelle never really getting going in the Chevely Park Stakes while Monte Alto in the Cambridgeshire, Simply Perfect in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket and Soldier of Fortune in the Arc all failed to be placed despite his best efforts to keep them up with the pace. Normal service was resumed at Newmarket's Champions' Day where Johnny had a full book of rides. In the Champion Stakes he was reacquainted with his Derby mount, Eagle Mountain, who put up a good performance but the pair had to settle for another runner up slot unable to keep pace with the French Jockey Club runner up Literato. He then rode a famous victory in the Cesarewitch on the game Leg Spinner from the stable of legendary Irish trainer Tony Martin. For Johnny's fans the horse was allowed to go off at 14/1 despite the trainer's fearsome reputation for landing gambles in big field handicaps. Johnny commented afterwards, "Tony is a great trainer and I love it when he books you early." He finished another successful day in the saddle with victory by the fast improving Aidan O'Brien trained Kitty Matcham in the Group 2 juvenile fillies' Rockfel Stakes. The following day Johnny made a trip to Canada worthwhile by again enjoying Grade 1 success with another of his super fillies, Mrs Lindsay, in the EP Taylor Stakes. Johnny was unable to secure a big race success for Coolmore at the end of season international meetings in the Breeders Cup and Hong Kong with Dylan Thomas particularly showing the scars of his Cartier and European horse of the year exploits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartier_Racing_Award) and Johnny doing well to simply stay on board a spooked Simply Perfect in the Distaff. Johnny at least enjoyed two second place rides at Monmouth Park in the Breeders Cup Turf Juvenile on Achill Island and on Excellent Art in the Breeders Cup Turf Mile.
Johnny Murtagh was rewarded for his fantastic season (10 Group 1 wins with 6 for Coolmore) at the end of January 2008 by being appointed retained jockey to Coolmore (the powerful owning triumvirate of John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith) and has first call on all their horses. Aidan O'Brien welcomed the appointment of Murtagh as the new first jockey, "Johnny has already enjoyed plenty of success as part of the team at Ballydoyle and we are delighted to have him on board." Murtagh said: "Frankly, I'm over the moon, and I'm really looking forward to riding for the [Magnier, Tabor and Smith] team in 2008. Hopefully, it will be a big season for us. "I'm 37, and I feel my best years are ahead of me. I think I'm improving in my riding. I'm adding something all the time, and I feel I'm more consistent," he pointed out.
This was in addition to South African trainer Mike de Kock securing the services of Johnny Murtagh for the 2008 Dubai Racing Carnival as a complement to his existing book of rides from Dhruba Selvaratnam in the UAE. The De Kock-Murtagh combination had a profitable carnival with two horses excelling in particular; Honour Devil taking the UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby and Asiatic Boy taking a lucrative runners up slot behind Curlin in the Dubai World Cup.
On the first day of the Irish flat season at the Curragh on 30th March he got off to a flying start for Coolmore with successes in two maiden races for 3-year-old colts on Georgebernardshaw and Poet respectively and a runners up ride on Savethisdanceforme in the Group 3 fillies Park Express stakes. He completed a treble by partnering Snaefell to a handicap victory for Ger Lyons. The following Sunday at Leopardsdown was, however, a little disappointing with a number of Ballydoyle 3-year-olds going down including Sail, Psalm, Greek Mythology and Washing Irving albeit Sail and the last named Epsom Derby hope showed some sound acceleration to be placed. There was bad news for Johnny the following week though when it was announced that Listen, favourite for the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks, was ruled out of both Classics after returning stiff from a canter leading her to be given a month off to recover. Johnny fared little better on his return to the Curragh with Macarthur flopping badly in the Alleged Stakes while US Ranger could only come a fast finishing third in the Gladness Stakes. It was left to Georgebernardshaw to give Johnny a Listed win as the Danehille Dancer colt established his classic credentials leaving both his lacklustre 2-year-old form and pursuers in the Loughbrown Stakes well behind. There was also much to look forward to for Johnny in the way debutant 3-year-old filly Queen of the Night, by Sadlers Wells and half-sister to Falbrav, closed a gap of 12 lengths to just 1 1/2 lengths in finishing third in a competitive maiden race. However, Ballydoyle's 3-year-olds colts fared disappointingly in the Classic trials at Longchamp, France and Newmarket, England. After a number of lacklustre performances in France (where Johnny was not present) by Sligo, Achill Island, Lucifer Sam and One Great Cat at Newmarket Johnny partnered The Bogberry to a creditable 3rd place in the Craven Stakes at a very generous 28/1. The only other bright spot was Zulu Chief, half brother to Hawk Wing, who with Johnny aboard put up a promising debut performance to finish third in the Ditton Stakes. Johnny was back in Ireland for the weekend racing starring with a treble at Naas in a series of tight finishes. Ballydoyle had their first 2-year-old winner of the year in Peter Tchaikovsky, sired by Dansili, and Johnny's old friend Snaefell battled to victory past Tax Free in the Woodlands Stakes over 5 furlongs. He completed the treble in a maiden 3-year-old race on David Wachman's highly regarded filly Charlotte Bronte. His Sunday at Leapordstown though was most disappointing when two Coolmore colts, Followmyfootsteps in the Heritage Stakes and Alessandro Volta in the Ballysax, showed nothing when he asked for an effort from them in the straight. There was consolation in yet another filly prospect from Ballydoyle in Moonstone staying on well for Johnny to take second in a high quality maiden race also on the card. Johnny rounded off April by cementing his partnership with Aidan O'Brien with a Group 1 win in the Prix Ganay, Longchamp on board Duke of Marmalade. After a number of placed efforts in Group 1 races last year the Duke showed great guts under Johnny's prompting to hold off the German raider Saddex. Johnny started the May bank holiday weekend with a Cork bonanza. The highlight being a listed win in the Cork Stakes over 6fs on David Wachman's Contest for a comfortable length victory over English raider Tax Free. This was part of a treble including a win for his old gaffer, Ger Lyons, on Ohiyesa in a 2-year-old race and a victory for his new boss, Aidan O'Brien, on Ice Queen who showed a great attitude to take a fillies' maiden race. The next day at Newmarket Johnny showed why he is the retained Ballydoyle jockey with a brilliantly timed burst on board Henrythenavigator in the 2000 Guineas to go ahead of and then hold off the Jim Bolger trained hot favourite New Approach. This was a reversal of their previous head to head in the Futurity Stakes in Ireland as 2-year-olds and Johnny commented afterwards that the way the two horses pulled away from the rest of the field he was confident that Henry could notch up further victories in the top mile races to come in the season. Aidan O'Brien was fulsome in his praise to both jockey and horse, "Johnny was masterful. Johnny rode him like he couldn't get beat on him today. He was very confident and super strong. We are very lucky to have Johnny in this form. He played to all his strengths and it was speed that carried him into the race." There was disappointment, however, a week later in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains where Georgebernardshaw was unplaced being unable to quicken on much firmer ground at Longchamp compared to the easier surfaces he had been excelling on at the Curragh. Johnny achieved a Group 1 double at the Curragh Guineas meeting at the end of May beginning with Henrythenavigator proving himself to be an exceptional miler by again quickening like a top quality horse ahead of future Derby winner New Approach in the Irish 2000 Guineas. He continued to make up for lost time on board Duke of Marmalade who landed a second Group 1 in May in the Tattersalls Gold Cup by outstaying another Jim Bolger classic winner Finsceal Beo. He also scored on board the gelding Hebridean in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes. However, unfortunately none of Ballydoyle's 3yo colts proved capable of being competitive in the Epsom Derby. This was in spite of some promising performances by the likes of Alessandro Volta winning the Lingield Derby Trial and runners up placings by King of Rome (Johnny's surprise Derby pick) at Lingfield, Washington Irving in the Derrinstown Derby Trial and Frozen Fire in the Dante Stakes respectively. Johnny nevertheless left Epsom with another Group 1 triumph on board Soldier of Fortune in the Coronation Cup. Johnny received many plaudits for his brilliant race riding in hemming in main rival Getaway as both tried to pass his Ballydoyle stablemate Macarthur giving his charge time to accelerate away and hold off a late charge from serial runner up Youmzain. Like fellow Irish Derby winner Dylan Thomas last season the Coronation Cup victor is all set to be campaigned in all the top 12 furlong races in Europe to give Johnny a great chance of further Group success. Johnny then achieved a good second place in the Prix Diane at Chantilly on the Coolmore owned and Andre Fabre trained Gagnoa who picked up well to chase home the brilliant Zarkava putting clear daylight to the rest of the field and is set to do even better when stepped up to 12 furlongs. Before the Prix Diane Johnny had endured a frustrating time in the fillies classics with his intended partner Listen ruled out through injury and then his substitute pick for the English and Irish Guineas Kitty Mitcham not proving to have the speed to be competitive much like Psalm in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches. While his attempt to make all in the Epsom Oaks on board the Blue Wind Stakes winner Adored never looked like paying off. Nevertheless Johnny still has good chances for picking up more black type with Gagnoa and some other Ballydoyle fillies this season. He has the option of partnering Halfwaytoheaven, Irish 1000 Guineas winner and Poule d'Essai des Pouliches runner up, in the remaining fillies 8 to 10 furlong races this season while Epsom Oaks runner up Moonstone, Noblesse Stakes winner Ice Queen and the unexposed Queen of the Night give him some competitive options in the remaining middle distance distaff races.
Johnny Murtagh got Royal Ascot off to a great start when Haradasun moved off the rail and got a dream run up the inside to clinch a narrow victory over Darjina in the Group One Queen Anne Stakes. Henrythenavigator then completed a Group One hat-trick and a double on the opening day of Royal Ascot for Aidan O'Brien and Johnny Murtagh when winning the St James's Palace Stakes. The 4/7 favourite was given a typically confident ride from Murtagh as stablemate Minneapolis set a strong gallop before Henry got a split between horses over a furlong out and quickly went clear with his trademark turn of foot never looking like being overhauled. "We are delighted - he's a really special horse," said O'Brien. "He has speed, stamina, class and he picks up - he has a great attitude and Johnny rode him with so much confidence. "He's a great horse and I think it's very hard to say that we'll get a better miler than this lad." While Johnny commented, "It opened up nicely for him as the lesser horses weakened and he had the class to take the gaps. He knows he's the best horse now and he trains like the best horse, too. He's exceptionally good." On Wednesday Duke Of Marmalade gave Johnny Murtagh his third Royal Ascot winner of the week with a brilliant victory in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. The four-year-old, out of Danehill's last crop, stormed clear in the final furlong to win impressively by four lengths from Phoenix Tower who was a short-head in front of Pipedreamer. Once Johnny Murtagh moved him wide off the home bend and issued the prompt, Duke Of Marmalade responded with the fury of a hungry lion. It was a simple, beautiful kill, breathtaking in its execution. “He murdered them,” was Murtagh's succinct appraisal of Duke Of Marmalade's performance. Some minutes later, O'Brien would explain the difference between this year's model and the one who ran admirably without winning throughout last season. “As a two-year-old he fractured a pastern and had pins put in a front joint,” O'Brien said. “They were hurting him all last season, when he was always half lame. They were catching a ligament but the boys [vets] tweaked them last winter and now he moves much more easily.” On Ladies' day Johnny was part of something special after winning the Ascot Gold Cup on board Yeats who equalled Sagaro's record of three successive Gold Cups. Johnny made the marathon trip a real test by taking Yeats to the front half a mile out to see off French raider Coastal Path and Jamie Osbourne's mercurial Geordieland. After the race Johnny commented, "When Geordieland arrived next to us it helped me, because it really gave him a second burst of energy and you could see how well he stayed on to the line. He doesn't ride like a seven-year-old at all, he's more like a two-year-old when he's around the yard, always quite fresh with himself, and Aidan deliberately kept him fresh for this." Johnny wrapped up the leading jockey title at Ascot with Macarthur giving him his fifth win of the Royal meeting with victory in the Hardwicke Stakes. But it was a close-run thing as the 11-8 favourite only got up in the dying strides to deny Multidimensional (25-1) by a neck. Johnny then ended Royal Ascot as he started it - with a winner on board his 2007 St Leger ride Honolulu in the marathon 2m 5f Queen Alexandra Stakes getting the better of Distinction in a battle royal throughout the final furlong. This was a sixth Ascot victory of the week for the all conquering Murtagh and O'Brien team. Johnny also enjoyed a number of excellent placed mounts at Ascot with Bushranger in the Windsor Castle Stakes, Grecian Dancer in the Windsor Forest and King of Rome keeping on well in the Hampton Court Stakes.
Back at the Curragh Johnny started Irish Derby weekend with a victory on the highly touted Ballydoyle 2yo Rip Van Winkle who flew home on the outside. On the Saturday he enjoyed a hatrick of wins starting with another maiden 2yo win on Westphalia before landing a handicap on King of Westphalia and then rounding his day off on board an ultra smooth performance by Septimus in the Group 3 Curragh Cup. Aiden O'Brien confirmed afterwards that Septimus would be returning to the Curragh later in the season to target the Irish St Leger. Irish Derby day started well for Johnny with a Group 2 win in the juvenile Railway Stakes on Mastercraftsman who was pushed all out in the final furlong to hold off Alhaban. However, in the Derby his mount Alessandra Volta on reaching the front started to veer violently to the left ending his own chances and also hampering Derby runner up Tartan Bearer. Johnny was lucky to only be demoted to fourth but nevertheless showed his sportsmanship by warmly congratulating fellow Ballydoyle stable jockey Seamus Heffernan for his Irish Derby win on Frozen Fire. Back on British shores Johnny Murtagh bagged another Group One as Mount Nelson earned a last-gasp win in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. Sent off at 7-2, the Rock Of Gibraltar colt came with a sustained drive inside the final quarter-mile to master the Henry Cecil-trained 5-2 favourite Phoenix Tower right on the line. Murtagh said: "We've got some marvellous horses and this is another one. I have the best job in racing, but, while Aidan steers the ship, everyone has their say and we all pull in the same direction. There is so much talent in Ballydoyle, both equine and human, and I am loving being part of such a fabulous operation. I know people might be saying this isn't the strongest Group One, but try winning one." Johnny and the Ballydoyle team certainly know plenty about Group 1s as the Eclipse success was Johnny's 10th (Ballydoyle's 12th) Group 1 of the season with 7 coming in Britain. Murtagh was however denied in the July Cup at Newmarket when his mount US Ranger was caught by favourite Marchand D'Or. French jockey Davey Bonila conjured an impressive late run from the gelding that saw him grab US Ranger in the shadow of the post. It was nevertheless a pleasing performance from US Ranger who has shown steady improvement this year and is sure to be another great stallion prospect for Coolmore as a Group 1 placed son of Danzig. Back in Ireland Johnny enjoyed a double on the Saturday of the Irish Oaks meeting at the Curragh. He opened with a handicap victrory on Flashy Beau for Tony Martin and then eased Aidan O'Brien's frustration at missing out with Plan in the John Smith's Cup at York as the Storm Cat colt wore down Regime close home to land the Keeneland International Stakes. O'Brien said: "He was 'well-in' in that race in England (John Smith's Cup) but didn't get into the race, so we came here instead. He's quite a lazy horse but he's coming forward and starting to come to himself now. Races like the Secretariat Stakes in Arlington are open to him." Murtagh added: "He's very lazy at home and didn't kick in until late in the day. I think after this race he should be spot-on for a big one, possibly a Group One." There was also a pleasing run from Georgebernardshaw who recaptured his smart early season form to take third in the Minstrel Stakes over 7f chasing home Jessie Harrington's ultra game Jumbajukiba. On Sunday Johnny won his fifth Irish Oaks on board Moonstone as the Epsom runner up amazingly won her maiden in a Classic by edging out stablemate Ice Queen. In third was Johnny's Prix Diane runner up Gagnoa back in third as Coolmore swept the board in another Classic. The win also meant that Aiden O'Brien won all four Irish Classic races for the 2008 season. In the race itself Ballydoyle ran six and one O'Brien runner after another took the field along. Perihelon took the field into the straight where stablemate Adored took up the running. Ice Queen, a 66-1 chance, then swept past the leader in what looked a decisive move one-and-a-half-furlongs out, only for Murtagh to produce his filly in the shadow of the post. There were also some promising runs by Ballydoyle 2yos for Johnny earlier in the card as Westphalia built on his maiden win to taken a good second in the Anglesey Stakes behind the impressive Bushranger and a placed effort from Freemantle on his debut in a maiden race. At the following midweek meeting at Leapordstown Johnny enjoyed more Group success with Rip Van Winkle in the Tyros Stakes confirming the promising impression of his maiden win by again quickening to the front in the style of a very smart colt. He also partnered the busy King of Rome to his first Group success in the Meld Stakes. At Ascot in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes Duke of Marmalade rallied in a thrilling finish to hold off Michael Stoute's Papal Bull for a fourth successive Group 1 win and Johnny's third success in England's flagship race. Murtagh said: "I quickened up very well and was surprised to see another horse come with me. But my horse has got the qualities of being a great horse - he's a great battler and has a great will to win. He's one of my favourites, and one of the best I've ever ridden." The Danehill four-year-old has already confirmed himself a worthy successor to the stable's 2007 King George and Arc hero Dylan Thomas, and he still has almost half a season left in which to better that horse's four Group 1 wins in a year. Back at the Curragh Johnny cruised to victory in the Phoenix Stakes on the easy to back Mastercraftsman to see off English raider Art Connoisseur. 2008 has already proved to be Johnny's most successful season as this was his 13th Group 1 success surpassing his efforts in 2000. He then doubled up on the back in form Elletelle for Ger Lyons in the Sweet Mimosa Stakes manoeuvering her through the field after her customary slow start and holding off Aleagueoftheirown.
At Glorious Goodwood Johnny won a treble on the Wednesday of the meeting with the highlight being Henrythenavigator in the Sussex Stakes where he again held off Raven's Pass. Henrythenavigator quickened impressively over a furlong out to take a couple of lengths out of his rivals and although Raven's Pass began to reel him in late on, the market leader was a head to the good at the line. The mile victory in the Sussex Stakes was sandwiched between a success in a stayers' race onboard Baddam in the Goodwood Stakes and a win in a handicap race for 3yos on Love Galore for Mark Johnston in the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Voice Of Racing Stakes. He enjoyed a Group race double the next day taking the King George Stakes on the sprint filly Enticing and the Goodwood Cup on the legendary stayer Yeats who scored with overwhelming authority. On Friday he scored on Sixties Icon in the Glorious Stakes for Jeremy Noseda whose colt proved too classy in the Group 3 race. On the final day of the meeting he landed the Group 1 Nassau Stakes after giving Halfwaytoheaven a shrewd ride controlling the pace to ensure she had enough left to hold off the fast finishing Oaks favourites of the last two years Lush Lashes and Passage of Time. He then got a great tune out of Jukebox Jury for Mark Johnstone to take a maiden race for 2yos. The win also sealed the Glorious Goodwood top jockey title for Johnny with 8 winners to go with his Ascot top jockey trophy.
He is married to Orla, and has five children.
Murtagh's motto is "the river does not need pushing" meaning that "you don’t need to rush things, just take it easy, let things flow. Things happen for the greater benefit".
Irish 2,000 Guineas- (2) - "Black Minnaloushe (2001), Henrythenavigator(2008)"
Irish Champion Stakes- (1) - "Timarida (1996)"
* Irish Derby - (2) - "
Sinndar(2000), Alamshar (2003)"
Irish Oaks- (5) - "Ebadiyla (1997), Winona (1998), Petrushka (2000), Peeping Fawn(2007), Moonstone (2008)"
* Matron Stakes - (2) - "Timarida (1995),
Moyglare Stud Stakes- (1) - "Ebadiya (1998)"
National Stakes- (3) - "Manntari (1993), Sinndar (1999), Mastercraftsman (2008)"
Phoenix Stakes- (1) - "Mastercraftsman (2008)"
* Pretty Polly Stakes - (1) - "Takarouna (1993)"
Tattersalls Gold Cup- (2) - "Notnowcato (2007), Duke of Marmalade(2008)"----flagicon|United Kingdom Great Britain
* 2,000 Guineas - (2) - "Rock of Gibraltar (2002), Henrythenavigator (2008)"
Ascot Gold Cup- (4) - "Enzeli (1999), Royal Rebel (2001, 2002), Yeats (2008)"
Champion Stakes- (1) - "Kalanisi (2000)"
Coronation Cup- (1) - "Soldier of Fortune (2008)"
Coronation Stakes- (1) - "Ridgewood Pearl (1995)"
* Derby - (3) - "Sinndar (2000),
High Chaparral(2002), Motivator(2005)"
Eclipse Stakes- (1) - "Mount Nelson (2008)"
Falmouth Stakes- (3) - "Soviet Song (2004, 2005), Simply Perfect (2007)"
Fillies' Mile- (1) - "Listen (2007)"
Golden Jubilee Stakes- (3) - "Superior Premium (2000), Choisir (2003), Soldier's Tale (2007)"
International Stakes- (1) - "Duke of Marmalade (2008)"
July Cup- (1) - "Frizzante (2004)"
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes- (3) - "Alamshar (2003), Dylan Thomas (2007), Duke of Marmalade (2008)"
King's Stand Stakes- (1) - "Choisir (2003)"
Middle Park Stakes- (1) - "Bushranger (2008)"
Nassau Stakes- (2) - "Peeping Fawn (2007), Halfway to Heaven (2008)"
Prince of Wales's Stakes- (1) - "Duke of Marmalade (2008)"
Queen Anne Stakes- (2) - "No Excuse Needed (2002), Haradasun(2008)"
Racing Post Trophy- (1) - "Dilshaan (2000)"
St. James's Palace Stakes- (2) - "Black Minnaloushe (2001), Henrythenavigator (2008)"
Sussex Stakes- (2) - "Soviet Song (2004), Henrythenavigator (2008)"
Yorkshire Oaks- (3) - "Key Change (1996), Petrushka (2000), Peeping Fawn (2007)"----flagicon|Canada Canada
E. P. Taylor Stakes- (2) - "Choc Ice (2001), Mrs Lindsay (2007)"----flagicon|France France
Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp- (1) - "Namid (2000)"
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe- (1) - "Sinndar (2000)"
Prix du Cadran- (1) - "Give Notice (2002)"
Prix Ganay- (1) - "Duke of Marmalade (2008)"
Prix Morny- (1) - "Bushranger (2008)"
Prix du Moulin de Longchamp- (1) - "Ridgewood Pearl (1995)"
Prix de l'Opéra- (2) - "Timarida (1995), Petrushka (2000)"
Prix Vermeille- (1) - "Mrs Lindsay (2007)"----flagicon|Germany Germany
Bayerisches Zuchtrennen- (2) - "Timarida (1996), Greek Dance (2000)"----flagicon|Hong Kong Hong Kong
Hong Kong Vase- (1) - "Daliapour (2000)"----flagicon|United States United States
Beverly D. Stakes- (1) - "Timarida (1996)"
Breeders' Cup Mile- (1) - "Ridgewood Pearl (1995)"
Breeders' Cup Turf- (1) - "Kalanisi (2000)"----flagicon|United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates
UAE 2,000 Guineas- (2) - "Asiatic Boy (2007), Honour Devil (2008)"
UAE Derby- (1) - "Honour Devil (2008)"----
Most Successful Mounts
"Ridgewood Pearl" 1995 John Ox
Coronation Stakes, Prix Du Moulin and Breeders Cup Mile Turf
"Timarida" 1995 & 1996 John Ox
Matron Stakes, Prix De L’Opera, Bayerisches Zuchtrennen, Beverly D. Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes
"Sinndar" 1999 & 2000 John Ox
National Stakes, Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
"Petrushka" 2000 Michael Stoute
Irish Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and Prix De L’Opera
"Kalanisi" 2000 Michael Stoute
Champion Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Turf
"Royal Rebel" 2001 & 2002 Mark Johnston
Successive Ascot Gold Cups
"Black Minnaloushe" 2003 Aiden O'Brien
Irish 2000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes
"Alamshar" 2003 John Ox
Irish Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes
"Choisir" 2003 Paul Perry
Kings Stand and Golden Jubilee Stakes double at Ascot
"Soviet Song" 2004 & 2005 James Fanshawe
Falmouth Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Matron Stakes and Falmouth Stakes again
"Peeping Fawn" 2007 Aiden O'Brien
Irish Oaks, Nassau Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks
"Mrs Lindsay" 2007 Francois Rohaut
Prix Vermeille and EP Taylor Stakes
"Honour Devil" 2008 Mike De Kock
UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby
"Duke of Marmalade" 2008 Aiden O'Brien
Prix Ganay, Tattersalls Gold Cup, Prince Of Wales Stakes, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and International Stakes
"Henrythenavigator" 2008 Aiden O'Brien
2000 Guineas, Irish 2000 Guineas, St James’ Palace Stakes and Sussex Stakes
"Mastercraftsman" 2008 Aiden O'Brien
Phoenix Stakes and National Stakes
"Bushranger" 2008 David Wachman
Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes
Links to Newmarket 2000 Guineas victory
* 2002 - Rock of Gibraltar
* 2008 - Henry the Navigator http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMUqYW-pXzU
Links to Epsom Derby victories
* 2000 - Sinndar
* 2002 - High Chapparal
* 2005 - Motivator
Links to King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes victories
* 2003 - Alamshar
* 2007 - Dylan Thomas
* 2008 - Duke of Marmalade
Link to Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victory
* 2000 - Sinndar
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