Target trainer Murphy excelled during lengthy career

French Holly one of the handler’s stars

  • Tuesday 03 September
  • News
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Ferdy Murphy was renowned as one of the game’s finest target trainers during a career in racing that spanned over 50 years.

Born in Wexford, Murphy picked up his first significant role in racing with Phonsie O’Brien in 1963 – brother of the legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien.

He subsequently moved to England to pursue a career in the building trade, but the lure of horses proved too much, and he returned to his homeland and later took a role with Paddy Mullins – first as a breaker of young horses, then as head lad and later as first jockey.

Having chalked around 100 winners as a professional, Murphy was approached by Bill and Tony Durkan to become their private trainer.

Bill Durkan’s name was on the racecard, but Murphy played a key role in producing Anaglogs Daughter to claim a hugely-impressive victory the 1980 Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival. Murphy also rode the the brilliant front-running mare to win at Chepstow just four days later.

In 1985 he returned to Britain to become the unofficial private trainer for Geoff Hubbard. Murphy was granted his own licence in 1990 and sent out Sibton Abbey to win the 1992 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury under a young Adrian Maguire.

Two years later Murphy decided to go it alone, first as a public trainer in Somerset before moving to Middleham and later to Wynbury Stables in nearby West Witton, from where he trained the majority of his big-race winners.

His best horse was the late French Holly, winner of the 1998 Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and third to Istabraq in the following year’s Champion Hurdle.

Always considered a budding superstar when sent over fences, French Holly won on his chasing debut at Wetherby in October 1999 – but the dream ended when he died in a schooling accident in November of that year.

Truckers Tavern was another headline horse for the Murphy yard, finishing second only to Best Mate in the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Paddy’s Return won the 1996 Triumph Hurdle for Murphy, who enjoyed other Grade One wins with Kalahari King, Ballinclay King, Another Promise and Carlys Quest.

Murphy was the punters’ friend in major handicaps as illustrated when Paris Pike won the Scottish National as a novice in 2000, with Joes Edge adding another triumph in that race in 2005.

A third Scottish National came in 2007 courtesy of Hot Weld, who also won the-then Betfred Gold Cup (Whitbread Gold Cup) at Sandown just a week later – a race Murphy claimed twice, with Poker De Sivola obliging in 2011.

Murphy also struck in the 2004 Irish Grand National with Granit D’Estruval, with L’Antartique’s Paddy Power Gold Cup victory at Cheltenham in 2007 another significant achievement.

In the spring of 2013, Murphy – always a staunch supporter of northern National Hunt racing – made the surprise announcement that he was to to relocate to France from his North Yorkshire stables.

Murphy continued his breeding business there, as well as buying and selling young stock, and training on a smaller scale.

He had five children – Barry, Paul, Caroline, Zoe and Rees.

Target trainer Murphy excelled during lengthy career
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