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My Racing Story

My Racing Story

Johnny Murtagh

Johnny Murtagh
© Photo Healy Racing

It is really exciting to be looking forward to the Longines Irish Champions Weekend with the horses in good form and hopefully a couple of chances of recording a win which would crown a very good year.

As a jockey, I was lucky enough to travel all over the world and I always thought it strange that we didn’t have a weekend where the cream of the crop showed up like they do in so many other jurisdictions. We are the best in the world and we should have.

It has taken a while for me to be represented with chances as a trainer at Irish Champions Weekend and hopefully I will this year, though they will need to find improvement as Ireland is the most competitive place in the world to race in terms of trainers, jockeys and horses.

It is the perfect time of the year in the calendar and you can see that with the calibre of contestants.

Training a winner is a better kick than riding one for me. You plan the whole lot, you’re with them all the time, you know the horses inside out, there’s so much more work goes into it. You have your team around you, all the people are working with you.

This year has gone well. We’d a lot of horses came into this year on the right marks. We didn’t have a great year last year, the two-year-olds were big and backwards. I thought we’d win more races with them but they did well over the winter and we’d a very good spring.

The riding is great and when you go by that winning post it’s great, but training, you go back out the next day and see the horses and it’s very satisfying to know that you’ve done the job, whether you bought it as a yearling, trained it for this race, picked this race out three months in advance and it comes up trumps.

Champers Elysees is unbeaten in three runs this season
© Photo Healy Racing

I won the Irish Champions Stakes once on Timarida in 1996. She was a filly that improved a lot. She won the McDonagh Handicap in Galway off 8-6 as a three-year-old. She came back as a four-year-old and really improved. John Oxx trained her really well.

It was a top-class race but she’d a great turn of foot and that’s what won it for her that day.

It’s a very hard race to win. Back then, the Irish trainers weren’t winning it that often. The English were bringing over their best horses and cleaning up in the top Irish Group 1 races. That has changed now.

I rode a lot of good horses in it and maybe should have won it more than once but I’ve fond memories of the race.

This year, I would just about plump for Magical to make it two in a row on home turf. Ghaiyyath would be a real threat if he makes the journey. Leopardstown would be a good track for him, it’s not a bad track for front runners, but I just think on home turf, at a place she has won well, Magical might just edge it.

We have entered nine or 10 horses, with two likely runners in the Matron. I thought if we had a good horse in the yard at the start of this year it was Know It All. The season has gone smoothly for her, winning the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Stakes and then running a cracker in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild.

What she did to win as a two-year-old was probably remarkable because she was so big; you knew she was going to be a better three-year-old. I have a few horses that are after catching up to her over the past six months, but I don't think they've just caught her yet.

Champers Elysees is closing in and has come out of Wednesday well when she won the Group 3 at Gowran. But Mirann, who's owners are hoping will be a Cup horse in Australia next year, could just be our best chance in the Petingo Handicap.

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THE IRISH TIMES