- For the New Zealand cricketer, see: John Murtagh
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 horses. 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. (Source - David Walsh, sports correspondent for the Times, 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 Coolmore operation'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 in Ireland; three 2000 Guineas, one 1000 Guineas, four Irish Derbys, five Irish Oaks, two Tattersalls Gold Cups and an Irish Champion Stakes, in England; two 2000 Guineas, three Epsom Derbys, the Eclipse Stakes, three King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, three Sussex Stakes, three Yorkshire Oaks, the International Stakes, a QEII Stakes and a Champion Stakes, and internationally wins in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Breeders' Cup Turf, Breeders' Cup Mile, Breeders' Cup Marathon 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 (5 Ascot Gold Cups, Prince of Wales Stakes, 2 Queen Anne Stakes, 3 St James's Palace Stakes, 2 Coronation Stakes, King's Stand Stakes, 4 Golden Jubilee Stakes).
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 Hunt licence, 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 Oxx and 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 Mile at Belmont Park to 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'Opéra at 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 Oaks with Key Change, the Bayerisches Zuchtrennen, Beverly D. Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes with 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 Oaks aboard unfancied Oxx trained Ebadiyla in 1997 and Winona in 1998.
2000 - 2004
The following year Sinndar went on to give him his first victory in the Epsom Derby which 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 Fallon was injured at Royal Ascot and Sir Michael Stoute needed 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 Longchamp on Namid and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sinndar. Thus Sinndar became the first and so far only horse to win the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby 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 Stakes holding off a surge from the great Montjeu and at the Breeders' Cup Turf in 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, last year's Derby runner up, to victory in the Hong Kong Vase over 12 furlongs.
In all he finished the season with 12 worldwide Group 1 wins; including 8 for trainer Michael Stoute and 6 for owner Agha Khan.
He could manage "only" three group 1 winners in 2001, on the Aidan O'Brien trained Black Minnaloushe in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and 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 Gibraltar in the English 2,000 Guineas and High Chaparral in the Epsom Derby relegating Mick Kinane on board the more fancied Hawk Wing to second in the Derby. 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 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 Stakes and the Golden Jubilee Stakes but 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 Song in 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 Motivator in the Epsom Derby while earlier he landed the Dante Stakes at 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 Hurdle but 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 Aidan 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 Stakes at 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 Fawn in 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 and 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 Lucarno in 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 30 March Johnny 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 next few weeks were disappointing with Ballydoyle’s classic crop all needing their first run of the season and the news that Listen, favourite for the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks, was ruled out of both Classics after returning stiff from a canter. The older horses also started slowly with Macarthur flopping in the Alleged Stakes while US Ranger could only come a fast finishing third in the Gladness Stakes. By the end of April though Johnny starred with another treble, this time at Naas, in a series of tight finishes as the Ballydoyle horses came into form. At Naas 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 filly Charlotte Bronte. There was the first showcasing of another filly prospect in Moonstone staying on well for Johnny to take second in a competitive maiden race. Johnny cemented 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 boss, 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." 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 three-year-old 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. 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. 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.
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 two-year-old Rip Van Winkle who flew home on the outside. On the Saturday he enjoyed a hat-trick of wins starting with another maiden two-year-old 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. 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." 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. 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. 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 as Coolmore swept the board in another Classic. In the race 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 two-year-olds 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." 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 three-year-olds 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 two-year-olds. The win also sealed the Glorious Goodwood top jockey title for Johnny with 8 winners to go with his Ascot top jockey trophy.
Johnny was not so successful across the Atlantic at the Arlington meeting in Chicago with Plan coming second to Winchester in the Secretariat Stakes while Mount Nelson came third in the Arlington Million unable to keep pace with Spirit One and Archipenko. He scored further Group 1 wins at the end of August in the International Stakes on Duke of Marmalade holding off comfortably old foe Phoenix Tower and Derby winner New Approach and on Bushranger in the Prix Morny. In September there was a Group 2 success on the highly regarded Westphalia in the Champagne Stakes at the St Leger meeeing in Doncaster but disappointment again in the St Leger when Frozen Fire could not reproduce his Irish Derby run as Michael Stoute finally ended his St Leger hoodoo with Conduit. There was consolation the following day at the Curragh when Mastercraftsman showed great guts on testing ground to hold off Shaweel to take the National Stakes. Bushranger again showed his quality in October to take the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. The remainder of the season was, however, a little disappointing for Johnny with the Ballydoyle horses seeming to lose their edge. There were excuses for Henrythenavigator at Longchamp in the Prix Moulin in the testing ground which always blunted his speed but in the QEII at Ascot he could not get past Raven's Pass who finally got the better in their season long duel. At Longchamp in the Arc meeting there was disappointment after disappointment for Johnny as a number of fancied Ballydoyle runners failed to reproduce their earlier form. Johnny had a better time of it at the Breeders' Cup meeting but was denied a winner when Westphalia came a neck second to John Gosden's Donativum in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf while Heart Shaped was denied by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies. Johnny stayed loyal to Duke of Marmalade in the Breeders' Cup Classic but the Duke ran another disappointing race as in the Arc and it was left to Henrythenavigator to restore some Coolmore pride with a gallant second staying on in the inside chasing Raven's Pass all the way home. Nevertheless Johnny rounded off the European season on a high with a pair of French Group 1 wins on Yeats in the Prix Royal Oak who finally showed his class on French soil and on the two-year-old prospect Fame and Glory in the Critérium de Saint-Cloud. These wins brought Johnny's overall Group 1 successes in 2008 to 21; all on Coolmore owned horses with 19 for Aidan O'Brien (who won 23 in the season overall) and 2 for David Wachman.
Johnny Murtagh had a great start to the season in Ireland. He has won the Irish 2000 Guineas on Mastercraftsman and the Irish 1000 Guineas on Again.
On the opening day of Royal Ascot, 16 June, he rode Mastercraftsman to edge out Delegator and win the St. James's Palace Stakes . "He's like all the great horses I ride for Ballydoyle – they never know when they're beaten," Murtagh said. "I committed him early enough, but when Delegator came to him, you could see my horse put his head down." The following day he enjoyed an overdue success for Spacious in the Windor Forest Stakes for his old boss, Jamie Fanshawe, who came on top of a pulsating battle with fellow Cheveley Park runner Heaven Sent. “I didn’t know her when I rode her at Epsom but I thought this race would be ideal. I wanted to let her use that beautiful stride,” Murtagh said afterwards. He then picked up an impressive Royal Hunt Cup victory when the favourite, Forgotten Voice, retained his unbeaten record in style. Forgotten Voice looked every inch a Group horse in a handicap as he scraped paint up the stands rail throughout to beat Huzzah and Mia’s Boy and bring off a long-range plan by his trainer Jeremy Noseda. Murtagh added: “The way he went down to the start I was very confident. He is still a big playboy and there’s lots of improvement in him.” On ladies' day he rode Yeats to win a historic fourth successive Ascot Gold Cup. Johnny Murtagh, felt entitled to compare his mount to Muhammad Ali himself. "Today Yeats showed everyone that he's the ultimate heavyweight champion," he said. No race in the world presents a more exacting test of stamina for the top-class thoroughbred than the Gold Cup but once again Yeats won at his leisure. At the end of the two and a half miles, he looked as though he could cheerfully embark on another lap.
In Ireland during the Irish Derby weekend Johnny won the Railway Stakes on Alfred Nobel and then landed his third Irish Derby on Fame and Glory. The colt benefited from a brutal gallop set by stablemate Rockhampton as he took up the pace on the turn for home to pull clear and win by 5 lengths. Winning jockey Murtagh said:"It was hands and heels, a very easy win. I thought when I worked him earlier in the week he was going to do something like this. I rode Sinndar and Alamshar and they went on to better things, and this horse has a similar profile. He could be the horse for the Irish Champion Stakes (at Leopardstown) later in the year." Of a possible rematch with Epsom Derby winner Sea The Stars, Murtagh added: "He is 1-0 up, but hopefully we'll lock horns later in the year - it will be great for racing." Back at the Curragh at the end of July Johnny landed the Phoenix Stakes on Alfred Nobel with a well timed run on heavy ground to pip stablemate Air Chief Marshall. Alfred Nobel looks set to be another high class son of Daneill Dancer for Ballydole to contest the classic races in 2010.
At Glorious Goodwood in the Sussex Stakes Rip van Winkle showed he was definitely one of the elite horses of 2009. With Johnny Murtagh sitting cool as a cucumber, he tracked the pace set by his Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate Malibu Bay, led at the three-eighths pole, and was never seriously challenged by either Paco Boy or Ghanaati, who came home a one-paced third, four lengths behind the runner-up. "I said he was one of the best I'd ridden and he's shown he's a great horse," Murtagh said. "I rode him in the Guineas and he was a bit keen earlier in the year, but the team have done such a great job on him and I thought he might stay the Derby trip. A mile to a mile and a quarter - he will be very hard to beat from now to the end of the season. He's a great cruiser and he covers a lot of ground." After surviving a big injury scare the night before the race, Rip Van Winkle's display was even more impressive.
Johnny was very busy the following weekend making the trip to Chicago for the Secretariat Stakes on board Black Bear Island. BBI, having his final start for Aidan O’Brien after being sold to new American owner, was settled in second place before being eased into the lead approaching the far turn. Murtagh then launched into an all-out assault in a bid to repulse Take The Points, who looked to receive a bump from his rival before battling through the long stretch drive to score by a head. Afterwards, Murtagh said: "My horse ran a very good race. It was just the last 20 yards or so, he went dead on me. The winner just got me at the wire." Back at Tipperary the following day for the El Gran Senor Stakes Johnny had a more positive result after getting serious on Viscount Nelson in the final furlong to get him past Bobbyscot.
At York's Ebor meeting in the International Stakes despite opening up a lead on board Mastercraftsman Johnny was unable to hold off the challenge of Sea The Stars.Johnny was also denied in the Ebor on Changingoftheguard after deciding to stay inside but never finding the running room to launch a sustained challenge to catch the winner Sesanta. Back in Ireland at the weekend in the Futurity Stakes at Fairyhouse he partnered Cape Blanco who maintained his unbeaten record with a workmanlike success. Johnny Murtagh decided to make the running and the juvenile showed a pleasing attitude to knuckle down in the home straight. Murtagh said: "He hated the ground. "He hit a soft patch off the last bend and I was trying to get him organised after that. He definitely wants quick ground. He has a great temperament and has a chance of being a good horse."
On Irish Champion Stakes day at Leapordstown Johnny had a great start to the day with an opening double. You'll Be Mine picked up beautifully for Johnny in the final two furlongs of the fillies' maiden and the daughter of Quarter Moon looks to be another classic contender like her siblings. In the next race, the Group Three Kilternan Stakes, Poet (9-4 favourite) rattled off a quickfire third straight victory as the four year old continued his improvement. In the Group 1 races on the card Johnny had to settle for placed efforts. In the Matron Stakes Again could only finish a distant third to Rainbow View who finally showed her two year old form while again Johnny had no answer to John Oxx's brilliant Sea The Stars in the Champion Stakes. This time on board the Irish Derby winner Fame and Glory he again tried to outstay this season's star but could not hold on to the lead once Mick Kinane pressed the button.
After a short spell out through injury Johnny came back to win the QEII Stakes at Ascot on Rip Van Winkle. The winner was in front from fully three furlongs out and despite looking likely to be swallowed up by Zacinto in the final furlong, kept finding extra for Johnny Murtagh and if anything he was going away again the finish. The following day back at the Curragh in the Beresford Stakes, he helped St Nicholas Abbey maintain his unbeaten record with some aplomb in the Group Two event. Mark Johnston's Layali Al Andalus took it up with two furlongs to run and briefly looked as if he had caught Johnny Murtagh's mount flat-footed. However, given time to find his stride, St Nicholas Abbey picked up in the manner of a top-class colt and without resorting to his whip, Murtagh steered his mount to a three-quarters of a length victory.
At the Arc meeting in Longchamp Johnny's day started brilliantly when Total Gallery emulated his sire Namid as he powered to victory in the Prix de l'Abbaye. The John Oxx trained Namid won the five-furlong Group One in 2000 for Murtagh, and the rider teamed up with Stan Moore this time to see Total Gallery add to the family laurels. It was a real battle in the final furlong as the Jeremy Noseda-trained favourite Fleeting Spirit really started to motor, but she could not find the necessary extra, leaving Total Gallery to claim a landmark neck success for Moore. Moore said: "He's a top-notch horse and what he did earlier in the year was just a bonus. Johnny said that he's the best sprinter he's ridden since his father (Namid). Johnny said coming in that he'll be an awesome horse next year. We'll have to do a gameplan for him next year, but that'll probably be it for him this season. He's a horse who has the world as his oyster." However, the rest of the day was an anti-climax for Johnny as his mounts in the next three races were unplaced with Fame and Glory only sixth in a high class Arc won inevitably by STS until Yeats put in a brave performance to finish third in the Prix du Cadran on his final outing behind Irish St Leger winner Alandi.
He is married to Orla, daughter of famous Tipperary hurler, Michael Keating and has five children.
Murtagh's motto is “The river doesn’t need pushing" - you don’t need to rush things, just take it easy, let things flow, things are happening for your greater benefit.
Flag of Republic of Ireland Ireland
- Irish 1,000 Guineas - (1) - Again (2009)
- Irish 2,000 Guineas - (3) - Black Minnaloushe (2001), Henrythenavigator (2008), Mastercraftsman (2009)
- Irish Champion Stakes - (1) - Timarida (1996)
- Irish Oaks - (5) - Ebadiyla (1997), Winona (1998), Petrushka (2000), Peeping Fawn (2007), Moonstone (2008)
- Moyglare Stud Stakes - (1) - Edabiya (1998)
- National Stakes - (3) - Manntari (1993), Sinndar (1999), Mastercraftsman (2008)
- Phoenix Stakes - (2) - Mastercraftsman (2008), Alfred Nobel (2009)
- Pretty Polly Stakes - (1) - Takarouna (1993)
Flag of United Kingdom Great Britain
- Champion Stakes - (1) - Kalanisi (2000)
- Coronation Stakes - (2) - Ridgewood Pearl (1995), Lillie Langtry (2010)
- Eclipse Stakes - (1) - Mount Nelson (2008)
- Falmouth Stakes - (3) - Soviet Song (2004, 2005), Simply Perfect (2007)
- Fillies' Mile - (1) - Listen (2007)
- Golden Jubilee Stakes - (4) - Superior Premium (2000), Choisir (2003), Soldier's Tale (2007), Starspangledbanner (2010)
- International Stakes - (1) - Duke of Marmalade (2008)
- King George VI and 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 Elizabeth II Stakes - (1) - Rip Van Winkle (2009)
- Racing Post Trophy - (2) - Dilshaan (2000), St Nicholas Abbey (2009)
- St. James's Palace Stakes - (3) - Black Minnaloushe (2001), Henrythenavigator (2008), Mastercraftsman (2009)
- Sussex Stakes - (3) - Soviet Song (2004), Henrythenavigator (2008), Rip Van Winkle (2009)
- Yorkshire Oaks - (3) - Key Change (1996), Petrushka (2000), Peeping Fawn (2007)
Flag of Canada Canada
- E. P. Taylor Stakes - (2) - Choc Ice (2001), Mrs Lindsay (2007)
Flag of France France
- Critérium de Saint-Cloud - (1) - Fame and Glory (2008)
- Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp - (2) - Namid (2000), Total Gallery (2009)
- 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 Royal-Oak - (1) - Yeats (2008)
- Prix Vermeille - (1) - Mrs Lindsay (2007)
Flag of Germany Germany
- Bayerisches Zuchtrennen - (2) - Timarida (1996), Greek Dance (2000)
Flag of Hong Kong Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Vase - (1) - Daliapour (2000)
Flag of the United States United States
- Beverly D. Stakes - (1) - Timarida (1996)
- Breeders' Cup Marathon - (1) - Man of Iron (2009)
- Breeders' Cup Mile - (1) - Ridgewood Pearl (1995)
- Breeders' Cup Turf - (1) - Kalanisi (2000)
Flag of 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 Royal Ascot double
Soviet Song 2004 & 2005 James Fanshawe
Falmouth Stakes 04, Sussex Stakes, Matron Stakes and Falmouth Stakes 05
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’s Palace Stakes and Sussex Stakes
Bushranger 2008 David Wachman
Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes
Yeats 2008 & 2009 Aiden O'Brien
Ascot Gold Cup 08, Prix Royal Oak and Ascot Gold Cup 09
Mastercraftsman 2008 & 2009 Aiden O'Brien
Phoenix Stakes, National Stakes, Irish 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes
Rip Van Winkle 2009 Aiden O'Brien
Sussex Stakes and QEII Stakes
Fame And Glory 2009 & 2010 Aiden O'Brien
Irish Derby, Tattersalls Gold Cup & Coronation Cup
Starspangledbanner 2010 Aiden O'Brien
Golden Jubilee Stakes & July Cup
Links to Newmarket 2000 Guineas wins
- 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
- 2007 - Dylan Thomas
- 2008 - Duke of Marmalade
Link to Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victory
- 2000 - Sinndar
- ↑ "Ascot glory for Mastercraftsman". BBC Sport. 2009-06-16. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/8103294.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
- ↑ "Gold Cup history for superb Yeats". BBC Sport. 2009-06-18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/8107750.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-18.