Sandwiched between his stints because the No. 1 jockey for the highly effective John Oxx and Aidan O’Brien stables in Eire, Johnny Murtagh was so usually the “go to” title within the jockey ranks on a worldwide stage.
He formally retired from the saddle in 2014 to focus on his coaching profession and final yr marked a breakthrough yr for him, with Classics success within the Irish St. Leger at The Curragh.
That victory by Sonnyboyliston helped Murtagh break into the highest 5 trainers in Eire when it comes to prize cash and now the Curragh-based handler is hoping that the enhancing five-year-old can present him with a springboard again to the large time throughout the Saudi Cup weekend, which begins on Friday at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh.
Murtagh made his mark as a rider on a number of events in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Dubai, the US and the UK, in addition to his native Eire, and has made no secret of being equally bold in his pursuit of success as a coach.
“I rode in Saudi Arabia a few years in the past and whereas I haven’t seen the grass monitor, it’s a completely lovely grime monitor there and an excellent spot for the horses,” Murtagh mentioned previous to arrival within the Kingdom.
“It’s nice to have horses rated excessive sufficient to get into a lot of these races for this sort of prize cash and it’s a brand new expertise for us however we wish to be competing on the world stage.”
As a jockey, Murtagh commonly delivered profitable runs for a number of the greatest house owners on the earth on horses bred within the purple however his first Group 1 winner as a coach, Champers Elysees, was a filly he picked up for $32,000 as a yearling. Sonnyboyliston was a equally priced steal.
“We purchased Sonnyboyliston on the yearling gross sales at Tattersalls for $29,500,” Murtagh mentioned. “He’s by Energy, who’s a bit underrated, and the dam aspect is nice.
“Liam Clarke runs the Kildare Racing Membership, who personal Sonnyboyliston, and he knew the breeder and was very eager on this lad going to the gross sales. They’ve all been very affected person with him till issues actually began to click on and now right here we’re.”
Connections are hopeful that this week’s journey to Saudi Arabia can be simply the primary leg of an internationally centered marketing campaign for the modestly priced yearling, whose earnings to this point of near $1m could possibly be multiplied with victory in Saturday’s $2.5 million Longines Purple Sea Turf Handicap.
“We’ll see how Saturday goes however he’s a horse that can journey as a result of there are many races for him,” Murtagh mentioned. “We had an awesome finish to the season with him final yr however he has carried out very well over the winter and he undoubtedly strengthened up on his break and appears sturdy.
“Saturday can be his first run of the season, clearly, however we introduced him to Leopardstown racecourse for a gallop a few weeks in the past and we have been pleased with that. I believe he’s fairly match and we’re wanting ahead to the weekend.”
Already such a well-known face within the sporting world, Murtagh’s endearing character may nicely lead him to impress an entire new viewers in one other guise on Saturday.