Oisin Murphy will fulfil a lifelong ambition when he is crowned champion jockey on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday.
It has been a dream since childhood that has come to fruition – and the 24-year-old’s rise from fledgling apprentice to top of the tree in just six years is nothing short of phenomenal.
Every year, Murphy has ridden more winners than the previous one, and now he has reached the summit of his profession.
“It’s something I’ve dreamt of since I was a child and to be on the brink of picking up the trophy is a great feeling and a testament to all the people behind me and all the support I’ve been given,” he said.
Murphy, nephew of Best Mate’s jockey Jim Culloty, left the family home in Killarney in 2013 to pursue his career in the UK.
He joined Andrew Balding’s stable and burst on the scene that September, winning the Ayr Gold Cup on Highland Colori in an incredible four-timer at odds of 9,260-1.
“I didn’t realise the significance at the time, but you have to keep going forward,” he said.
“It’s amazing the fact that people still remember that day. On a personal level it was superb and a breakthrough for me as an apprentice and fortunately I’ve been able to find good horses.”
After spending that winter in Australia, he returned to the Balding yard and became champion apprentice in 2014 with 76 winners.
“I suppose I was riding for the right stable in Andrew Balding and I’ve grown significantly since I first arrived,” he said.
“When you don’t have your claim it’s hard, as you have to prove yourself again with the big boys. I was given the right opportunity to do that and I must thank those people who gave me that extra chance.
“I’m retained by Qatar Racing (since 2016) who are fantastic to me and I’ve been able to improve and grow.
“The best jockeys are judged on the big days and the big races and the big horses. Numerically I’ve done very well, but it’s important to get the Group One winners as well.
“I’ve ridden 13 in total now. I could have a good autumn and there are plenty of good horses to look forward to, starting this weekend. I’ve got a couple of favourites and I’m looking forward to that.
“I’ve got a ride in every race on Saturday and a couple of them will be at the top of the betting.
“It’s a privileged position to be in.”
Murphy will be forever indebted to the brilliant but ill-fated Roaring Lion, who thrust him into the Group One limelight with four victories at the top level in 2018.
“God rest him. He won four Group Ones on the bounce and ran a cracking race in the Derby when he didn’t stay,” he said.
“He was a horse of a lifetime. It will be very hard to find a horse like him. I’m very grateful he came along at that period of my career.”
This year, Murphy named his two Group One victories on Veracious in the Falmouth Stakes and Deirdre in the Falmouth as among his highlights.
“I suppose Veracious and Deirdre and all the Group Twos – Benbatl, Fox Champion, Threat, Mystery Power, Kick On,” he said.
“There’s been lots of good horses, with lots of exciting two-year-olds coming through for next year, too.”
Among those sharing Murphy’s joy this weekend – at a meeting that will be live on Sky Sports Racing – will be his parents, who are making the journey from Ireland.
“They are all going to be here – my mother and father, and all the extended family. They are all making the trip,” he said.
“Ryanair and Aer Lingus will be doing well out of the family for Champions Day at Ascot!”
Murphy feels privileged to be involved as Qipco ambassador.
“They have been great for British racing, are official partners of Ascot and put money in and promote racing and expect very little in return,” he said.
“That is something we are all very grateful for.”
As for the future, Murphy knows he has set the bar really high – but there is no way he will rest on his laurels.
“It will be hard to improve numerically on this calendar year, but hopefully I can keep improving and keep coming in for those good spare rides and keep everybody happy,” he said.
“Touch wood, I’ve never fallen out with a trainer or owner and I’m proud that everyone is happy to put me up.”