“I’m realising a childhood dream,” Oisin Murphy said ahead of being crowned 2019 Champion Flat Jockey. The boy who once rode his pet pony Rusty through the fields surrounding his home in Ireland has now achieved the feat that all his hard work had been geared towards. Success in horse racing does not come easy. The season is long, the competition intense, and so winning the title is an achievement worth celebrating.
“I set my stall out to be champion and it has been a lifelong ambition. I’m delighted,” he added after being presented with the trophy by World Champion heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson at Ascot. “I’d love to win another jockeys’ championship one day, but it won’t always go as well as it has this year and whether I can do it again next year, I don’t know.”
Murphy joins an elite list of riders who have won the title, including fellow Irishmen Richard Hughes, Kieren Fallon and Patrick Eddery. He has displayed maturity beyond his years throughout the season, and the delight was clear to see on his face as he got his hands on the trophy.
The 24-year-old has enjoyed a sensational 2019, riding 168 winners from 854 races. He came into British Champions Day at Ascot with the title already in the bag, and so the meeting represented something of a victory lap – a moment of glory for a jockey who has put so much effort into reaching the top.
There have been some stunning triumphs along the way. Victory in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on prized Japanese mare Deirdre at the beginning of August was one of Murphy’s defining wins of the season, as were victories in June’s Queen Vase at Ascot and the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in July. Murphy’s form has meant he has been a leading name each week in the odds listed at www.betfair.com/exchange/plus/horse-racing
It has not all been plain sailing, however. In June, Murphy failed an alcohol breath test ahead of a Salisbury fixture and was stood down from the meeting as a result. While his breathalyser reading was still below the drink-driving limit, it was above the maximum level permitted for jockeys, and the experience was something of a wake-up call for the Irishman.
Murphy has since accepted full responsibility for that misdemeanour. “It was my fault. If you’re dehydrated the day before and you consume alcohol, don’t go to bed on time, don’t hydrate the next day and don’t eat anything, you’re in trouble. It was so embarrassing. Even now I’m ashamed of it.”
Lesser jockeys may have wilted in the aftermath of such embarrassment, but Murphy continued to excel on the racecourse. Had those missed Salisbury races proved crucial in the standings for the title, it would have been a different story, but Murphy proved his worth over the length of the season and is a deserving champion.
For someone who speaks eloquently and carries himself in the right way, it’s easy to overlook Murphy’s tender age. At 24, he is the youngest Champion Flat Jockey since Ryan Moore won the title in 2006 when he was 23. There’s a sense that this is just for the beginning for Murphy. To repeat this achievement would take a monumental effort, but he has proved this year that he has the qualities and attributes needed to be a consistent champion.
Murphy counts racing legend Franki Dettori among his idols, a man who has achieved great things in the sport. The goal for this ambitious young Irishman is to establish a similar reputation – so that young riders may one day look up to him as their inspiration. With the form Murphy has displayed to win the title, there is little standing in his way.