Trainer Mur­phy on the fast track to be­com­ing a win­ner in his own right

Gor­don El­liott’s for­mer as­sis­tant has wasted no time since go­ing out on his own, says Mar­cus Army­tage

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

One of the most ex­cit­ing as­pects of the jump sea­son so far has been the rise, from al­most nowhere, of Olly Mur­phy. In a sport where even the “overnight” suc­cesses have of­ten been in the game sev­eral years, the young Strat­ford trainer has given new mean­ing to the phrase “quick out of the blocks”.

Mur­phy went to Punchestown on April 29 for the last day of the Ir­ish jump sea­son in the role he had filled for the four pre­vi­ous years, as­sis­tant trainer to Gor­don El­liott.

At that point of the day, El­liott was still lead­ing Wil­lie Mullins in the Ir­ish train­ers’ cham­pi­onship, al­though that was to change dur­ing the course of the af­ter­noon. Two months later, on July 4, Mur­phy sad­dled his first Flat run­ner, Dove Moun­tain, a win­ner at Brighton, and, five days later, his first jump run­ner, Gold Class, won at Mar­ket Rasen.

Al­though or­ches­trat­ing first win­ners is all part of the process, it was what hap­pened next that has been as­tound­ing. Since then, he has had a fur­ther 15 win­ners un­der both codes, in­clud­ing an across-the-card four­timer at Strat­ford and New­ton Ab­bot.

Not even his old boss, who won the Grand Na­tional in 2007 with Sil­ver Birch in his first sea­son, set off at that pace, and sud­denly “11 horses to run through the sum­mer” have swollen to 51 horses and the sta­bles could not go up quick enough.

Al­though the name is new, 26-yearold Mur­phy has not quite come from nowhere. His fa­ther is Ai­dan Mur­phy, a suc­cess­ful Na­tional Hunt blood­stock agent who buys most of Philip Hobbs’s horses. His mum, Annabel, has tick­led away on the Flat as a trainer, hav­ing half-a-dozen win­ners a year for some three decades from the fam­ily home in Wilm­cote, best known as the birth­place of Anne Hath­away, Mrs Wil­liam Shake­speare.

Study­ing Hath­away’s hus­band’s works was never go­ing to be high on young Mur­phy’s agenda. Much keener on the form book, he was al­ready help­ing out as a jock­eys’ valet in the weigh­ing room aged 12 un­til health and safety put a stop to it, say­ing that he should not be so close to naked men. It does not seem to have scarred him too much.

He grew up with the Skel­ton boys who live two miles away, he rode in pony races, he spent 18 months with Alan King in an at­tempt to be­come a jockey and then two years with Chris Bealby rid­ing point­ers.

“I got heavy,” he re­called, “and I’d done a cou­ple of sum­mers with Gor­don in Ire­land when he of­fered me the job as as­sis­tant. I learnt more with him than I did in the first 22 years of my life.”

Apart from the train­ing, he was with El­liott when the trainer moved from his first yard to Cul­len­tra House, a run-down farm that El­liott con­verted into one of the best train­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Ire­land, and while Mur­phy’s War­ren Chase Sta­bles was his par­ents’ rather more well-fit­ted stud, a state-of-the-art rac­ing yard and gal­lops have nev­er­the­less been built from al­most scratch.

Where pos­si­ble, from the Wexford-sand cir­cu­lar gal­lop and the school­ing ring, to the Amer­i­can barns with ex­tra height to im­prove ven­ti­la­tion, ev­ery­thing is based on the suc­cess­ful El­liott model.

“Gor­don’s in­flu­ence is ev­ery­where,” said Mur­phy. “It’s a car­bon copy; the feed, the bed­ding, the hours the lads work, 7.30am-4.30pm (rather than 6am-6pm with a long break in the mid­dle of the day).

“I set out to be am­bi­tious and a few, in­clud­ing my head lad Ed Telfer, a great friend, jumped on board hop­ing it would work.

“It was a mas­sive gam­ble for him to leave Wil­liam Hag­gas to come here – like leav­ing Manch­ester United to play for a lit­tle club.”

De­spite his age, Mur­phy felt the time was right to leave El­liott’s at the end of last sea­son. “It was one of those things,” he re­flected. “If I’d stayed there an­other sea­son, it would have ended up an­other 10. Gor­don felt the tim­ing was right, too.

“The last day was hor­ri­ble. Ev­ery­one had worked so hard to make him cham­pion. He said he’d help me and we speak most days.”

In the rac­ing game, though, you make your own luck. He has been plucky at the sales, buy­ing horses on spec with­out an owner in the wings and, hav­ing seen the early re­sults, some of his fa­ther’s clients have sent him horses.

“I’m go­ing to have to be pa­tient now,” ex­plained Mur­phy. “Half my string have never run be­fore and won’t be out be­fore the spring. A lot will take time and I’m un­der no il­lu­sions – I’ve been train­ing three months and I’ve been away from Eng­land five years. I still need a lot of guid­ance.

“Peo­ple have said hav­ing such a good start takes the pres­sure off but, if any­thing, it has in­creased it to keep it up. We had two sec­onds on Thurs­day and I was gut­ted, but if you like los­ing you shouldn’t be train­ing horses.”

Win­ning fo­cus: Olly Mur­phy says if you like los­ing you should not be train­ing horses

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