This Flat season has been as much about a new generation of jockeys making their mark at the top of the sport as it has been the horses.
Leading the way are Godolphin duo James Doyle and William Buick, along with Oisin Murphy, retained rider for Qatar Racing and increasingly the ‘go-to’ jockey for connections in big races.
So it proved again when he partnered The Tin Man to victory in the Sprint Cup at Haydock, and Murphy is hoping to make another big splash on Irish Champions Weekend.
How do you feel the season has gone for you so far?
I’ve been very lucky of late to find some really class horses to give me such big days. Getting the chances to ride the likes of Lightning Spear, Roaring Lion, Benbatl, Signora Cabello and The Tin Man means I’m very lucky. There’s still plenty of the season left and lots of big days to go, so I want to keep kicking until the end of the year.
Connections of The Tin Man opted for you in the Sprint Cup last week as they felt you are ‘on fire’. Do you feel your confidence is sky-high at the moment?
The stables I’ve been riding for have been in very good form and when you’re riding winners you’re going to get confidence from that. As a jockey you’re relying on the four legs beneath you as well and ultimately fast horses make good jockeys – that’s the bottom line.
Do you feel you have improved as a rider as this season has gone on?
People of late have been saying I’m riding better than ever, which is very kind and that may well be the case, but a lot of that has to do with the fact I’m on better horses than I’ve ever been. Hopefully I can keep making it count and continue to get good rides as that’s what it’s all about.
Roaring Lion has been one of your stars this season and is favourite for the Irish Champion Stakes (6.35) at Leopardstown. How are things with him?
I’m very excited to be riding him again. I don’t really ride him at home, that’s done by Kieran O’Neill, and they’re very happy with him. I thought his performance at York was outstanding so everyone can’t wait to see what he can do at the weekend. He’s a hugely talented horse.
Roaring Lion seems to have got better and better this year. What do you put that down to?
Physically he’s a very big horse and he was always going to get stronger. But [trainer] John Gosden and the team have really fine tuned the horse’s brain and he’s becoming very easy to ride in races. He’s stepped up with every run this year and his last run was his best. Hopefully there’s still more to come from him.
Sheikh Fahad, who owns Roaring Lion, described the Juddmonte International as one his best days. How important is this horse to everyone involved with Qatar Racing?
He’s ignited a hunger in all of us to go out and try and find more horses to compete at the very top level. They’re extremely difficult to get your hands on but hopefully there are plenty more good days with this fella first. He’s a special horse to all of us.
Also on Saturday, you start off by riding Mia Mento in the Ingabelle Stakes (3.20). What do you make of her prospects?
She won her maiden nicely and then I thought she ran a good race when she was fourth at the Curragh last time in the Round Tower Stakes. It’s a big field for this race and it’s going to potentially be quite rough, so I’m quite glad to be drawn wide as that should help give me a good run round. We’ll be aiming to get some black type with her.
You ride Limini for Willie Mullins in the Petingo Handicap (3.50). How do you think she will get on?
Willie’s an unbelievable trainer under both codes so it’s going to be a pleasure to ride for him. I’m not quite sure where Limini stands in the stable pecking order for this race, but she’s a talented filly and you’d have to think a mile and a half around Leopardstown would be right up her street.
Burnt Sugar goes for back-to-back wins in the Sovereign Path Handicap (7.10). Do you think he can do it?
He’s a smashing horse. He’s a course-and-distance winner and he’s been in fantastic form this year – better than ever you could argue. We’re drawn in stall one so we’re going to need a bit of luck, but in this sort of race I’d rather be drawn low and save as much ground and hope for luck.
And, finally, where are you riding on Sunday?
I’m riding in Canada on Sunday for Qatar Racing. I ride Federal Law in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes and Chica Amigas in the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes. They’re big fields and we’re not entirely sure what we’re up against, but we’ll give it everything we have and try and get top-level black type if we can as it’s very important.