So today’s post is such an exciting one, an interview with Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy. He is only 24 years old and is already travelling all over the world to ride winners and now he is also the Champion Jockey. I am lucky enough to have been able to interview Oisin and I truly hope you enjoy!
Me: As a flat jockey, what jumps races do you most look forward to watching?
Oisin: I’m a huge national hunt fan and I suppose nothing beats the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup every year. They’re my two favourite spectacles, very hard to separate them. As one is an incredibly fast and entertaining pace and the other race is, I suppose, the gold cup holds a lot of significance.
Me: Did your Uncle, Jim Culloty inspire you to go into racing after winning 3 Gold Cups on Best Mate? Did it ever inspire you to go into jumps racing?
Oisin: Of course, I admired Jim’s success riding, obviously, three Gold Cup wins in a row on Best Mate. At that stage, 2004, I had wanted to be a jump jockey, but it became apparent as I got older that I was never going to be very tall so my allegiance changed a little bit more to following flat racing.
Me: What is your favourite day of the racing calendar?
Oisin: There are many days I look forward to, erm I love watching the Breeders Cup. Possibly in Britain, the QIPCO Champions Day, it isn’t part of a festival, it’s kind of the big day of the year here. The Irish Champions weekend is a very good initiative, Arc Day at Longchamp, Dubai World Cup day. I’ve had Group 1 winners at all of those meetings, so obviously I look forward to them.
Me: What is your favourite track to ride at and why?
Oisin: My favourite track is York, erm with Doncaster being a close second. I love the make up of it, left handed, very flat, the best horse usually wins, great atmosphere, jockeys are well looked after, the Clerk of the course is fantastic, it’s very well managed and I’ve had lots of winners there, so it’s a very happy place.
Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?
Oisin: These horses receive the best care and attention you can imagine. And, you know, there is no doubt they are very well looked after. If we stop horse racing, what’s going to happen to all of the horses? There wouldn’t be any funding or finance to look after them, we’d probably have to put many of them to sleep, because there would be no reason for them. Remember, thoroughbreds are not riding horses, they’re quite high tempered, so it’s very difficult to say we can rehome every thoroughbred. It would have catastrophic results to the breed. It’s just very simple, if people think racing is cruel, what’s the alternative? These horses get five star treatment.
Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?
Oisin: Again, very difficult to answer as there has been many. Benbatl winning the Dubai Turf, Roaring Lion in the Juddmont International, Acclaim being my first Group 1 in la Foret, Suave Richard in the Japan Cup. There are many, many highlights, it’s very hard to pick one out if I’m honest.
Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose and why?
Oisin: I thought Frankel was spectacular and more recently Cracksman and his annihilation of the field in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day was unbelievable. To they eye, his stride length and the closing three furlongs on soft ground was a very very fast time. And I suppose, as a jockey you appreciate things like that. But ultimately Frankel in the 2000 Guineas was just something very special and I think he went on to a similar performance in the Queen Anne later on in his career.
Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?
Oisin: I don’t normally discuss the whip as I don’t feel the rules need changing in any way. We are very heavily regulated in Britain. We can talk about the whip as much as we like, the media like to create a frenzy when there’s none needed.
Me: Last season you won Champion Jockey, what is your next goal?
Oisin: I’d like to be Champion Jockey again in the future, it will be very difficult as Britain is possibly the most competitive riding environment, that’s proven by the success of our jockey’s abroad. Ryan Moore, Frankie Dettori, William Buick, James Doyle, Andrea Atzeni and now the likes of Tom Marquand, David Egan and Jason Watson. Even at home, Rob Hornby and Kieran Shoemark are doing very well, so it will be difficult but I’ll give it my best go.
Me: With two top jockey’s, Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien retiring from the saddle at such a young age due to their battles with the scales, how do you conquer that yourself?
Oisin: Fortunately, I am much smaller than Donnacha and Joseph. Every jockey, or most, has a small or large battle with the scales, depending on your size. But, you need to make light weight sometimes. I tend to, particularly in Japan because that’s where I do my lightest weights, go to the gym on Friday and then sweat a bit in the bath and then in the sauna, but I break it up in stages, that way I can lose 3kg and still ride at a high level.
Me: The whole racing world was heartbroken over Roaring Lion’s death. Just how special was he to you?
Oisin: Roaring Lion was very special as he was a World Champion 3 year old. He was going to make a big impact in the bloodstock world. He was amazing from the point of view, very laid back, he could switch off very easily, a great constitution, very sound, powerful, unbelievable turn of foot.
Me: The dream for a jump jockey is to win the Grand National, the dream for a flat jockey is to win The Derby. It took AP McCoy years to finally win the Grand National – Hopefully you win The Derby a lot sooner, but how would you personally stay motivated if you were in a similar position to AP with the Derby? Winning every other race but not the one your heart is set on. What would motivate you to keep going to finally reach that dream?
Oisin: Yeah, perhaps, every jump jockey’s goal is to win the Grand National, it only comes around once a year. And being a flat jockey, you can appreciate many of the classics as it takes a world class animal. For me, the Derby and the Arc hold equal weight. I would like to win both, but I’m aware I may never win either, I suppose you just have to keep trying. Your body will tell you at an age when it’s time to stop and one must respect that as well. I don’t intend riding past a time where I can’t ride at a high level.
I absolutely loved being able to interview Oisin, I think he is a brilliant young ambassador for our sport and also one of the most down to earth people I have spoken to. I want to thank Oisin for taking the time out of his ridiculously busy schedule to answer some questions! I really hope you have enjoyed reading this post, it was an absolute pleasure being able to speak with Oisin and have an insight into his thoughts an opinions surrounding the sport.
Thank you for reading. I will see you all in my next post!