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Johnny Murtagh: Star of the Week

43 year old Irishman, JOHNNY MURTAGH, must rank as one of the most successful jockeys ever to have come out of Ireland. He was champion apprentice in his early days and amassed a century of winners during his apprenticeship. However, the Irishman has come a long way since and has won the Irish Champion Jockey’s title 5 times. He has notched up a staggering 107 Group 1 wins in his illustrious career, made up of 3 English and 4 Irish Derby victories, 5 wins in the Ascot Gold Cup, single wins in each of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Turf and Marathon, Hong Kong Vase as well as a solitary triumph aboard Sinndar in the Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe of 2000. Johnny has recently embarked on a new era in his life as he was granted his trainer’s licence by the Irish Turf Club on 18 May this year. He has already tasted success in his new field and continues to turn out the winners as a jockey. Murtagh has ridden in many countries in Europe as well as Dubai, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and India. He now makes his first visit to compete as part of the International team in the three-legged Jockeys Challenge sponsored by ACTS Coach Charter.  He is looking forward to the experience and has listed the great former President, Nelson Mandela as the person whom he would most like to meet. WINNING FORM, HOLLYWOODBETS.NET and SPORTING POST, along with all its followers wishes Johnny and his International teammates a pleasant and successful stay in our country.

What is your name and age?
Johnny Murtagh and I am 43 years old.

What is your star sign and birthdate?
I am a Taurus and I was born on 14 May 1970.


Where were you born?
Ireland.


Where do you live?
Ireland.


Tell us about your family?
I am married with 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys.


Do you have a ‘nickname’?
No.


Favourite food?
Steak and chips.


Favourite drink?
Tea.


Favourite music?
I like all music.


Favourite book?
I read any sports autobiographies.


What are you reading at the moment?
A book on Sir Alex Ferguson.


Favourite sport?
I like all sport.


Favourite soccer team?
Manchester United.


Favourite racecourse?
Ascot, England.


Favourite holiday destination?
Mauritius.


What is the characteristic you like most about yourself?
My honesty.

Do you have a role model?
No.

Who is the person you would most like to meet?
Nelson Mandela.


Mention the different options you had for your career as a youngster? 
I never really had any options.


What tertiary qualification did you achieve?
Never went to university.


Where did you go to school? 
Ireland.


What swayed you into becoming a jockey? 
My love of horses.


Where did you start your apprenticeship?
I went to the Apprentice School, Kildare, Ireland.

Who were your fellow apprentices at the school?
Joe Fanning.

Tell us about the early days in your career as an apprentice and then as a qualified jockey?
I started with John Oxx and had my first winner on my third ride.

Who was the first trainer that supported you as an apprentice and what was the best advice that he gave you?
I was with John Oxx and he told me to work hard.

Do you still remember your first winner?
It was Chicago Style at Limerick in 1986.


How many winners did you ride as an apprentice?
I rode 100 winners.


What was your best moment as an apprentice?
When I became the champion apprentice.


What made you take the bold decision to relocate to the United Kingdom and what year did you make your move?
I moved because I was commuting from Ireland to England and had been doing so for 2 years.

Which trainers supported you early on in your UK career?
James Fanshawe and Amanda Perrett.


Do you still ride for any of them?
Yes, I do.


Mention some of the highlights of your UK career?
Riding Soviet Son, Motivator and Frizzante.


How many Group 1 winners have you had?
107.


Most successful calendar year to date?
2008.


How many Jockey’s Championships have you won?
6 championships.


Mention some of the top performing trainer’s that you have been associated with throughout your career?
John Oxx, Aidan O’Brien, Michael Stoute and Mike de Kock.


You obviously rode some great horses in your career. Which of them will stick in your mind as being exceptional?
Sinndar, Henry The Navigator and St. Nicholas Abbey.


Mention the different countries that you have ridden in?
Europe, Dubai, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and India.


Mention the major races that you have won around the world?
Breeders Cup, Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe, Hong Kong Vase.


Is there any one race above all else which will always stand out in your memory?
Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe.


Which jockeys have you found to be your toughest competitors over the years? 
Frankie Dettori.


Describe a day in the life of Johnny Murtagh?
Busy.


Of great interest to South African breeders, owners and racegoers is the fact that in 2001 you won the Irish 2000 Guineas on Black Minnaloushe who now stands at stud in South Africa. Tell us about your time with him?
He is a special horse. He is very tough with a great turn of foot.


In recent times you have got to know South African trainer Mike de Kock well. In your opinion how do you rate him with the top overseas trainers?
He is up there with the best.


You have accepted an invitation to represent the rest of the world in the International Jockeys Challenge in South Africa. Have you ever been here before? Are you excited about competing on our shores?
This is my first trip and I am looking forward to it.


What convinced you to take up the challenge?
I have never ridden in South Africa before and it will be a new experience.


Have you spoken to any of the other jockeys about what to expect when riding in South Africa?
No, I haven’t but I am looking forward to it as I am open to the experience and the challenge.


Apart from riding in the competition what else are you keen to do while in the country?
I will only be in the country for 3 days.


Which South African jockeys have you competed against? 
Kevin Shea, Basil Marcus and Dougie Whyte.

Have you done any homework on the South African racecourses that you will be competing on? No, not as yet.


More importantly, how clued up are you about South Africa as a country with regards to its heritage?
I only know general information about the country.


You have now been granted your trainers licence. How well does that fit in with you being a jockey at the same time and what are the Jockey Club regulations in this regard?
It works very well.


How long do you plan on riding before becoming a full-time trainer?
For as long as I can.


Now that you have taken out your trainer’s licence, will you become more involved in the breeding side of horseracing?
No.


The Irish are known to be fanatical about horses and horseracing. Do you have a big following who bet heavily on you when they think you are on a ‘good thing’?
Yes, I do.


How involved are the rest of your family in horse racing? 
They are very involved. My wife works in the office. My eldest daughter rides in the yard.


What is your motto in life? 
‘The river doesn’t need pushing’.


The saying is “Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman”. Does this apply to Johnny Murtagh?
Yes. My wife helps me in all aspects of training and bureaucracy in the office. She will mind the yard when I ride in South Africa!

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Racing Personalities:
Chris van Niekerk

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