'From an early age we thought Global Citizen was the best we'd ever run'
Willie Murphy tells us about the early career of the exciting novice hurdler
Could British racing have its own Samcro? It would be unfair to load any horse with the hefty burden of expectation that Gordon Elliott’s effortless Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle winner has to carry, but after Global Citizen strolled to a wide-margin success in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday you cannot help but have great expectations for Ben Pauling’s charge.
Flashy victories aside, Samcro and Global Citizen – who scored in a time nearly three seconds quicker than the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle was run earlier on the card – have something else in common, as both are Irish point-to-point graduates who topped trade at their respective boutique jumps horses-in-training sales.
While Samcro, a four-year-old maiden point winner between the flags at Monksgrange for Colin Bowe, sold to Elliott for £335,000 at the inaugural Goffs UK Aintree Sale, Global Citizen scored in a five-year-old maiden point at Bellurgan Park for Willie Murphy just 11 days before being knocked down to Stroud Coleman Bloodstock for £275,000 at last year’s Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham April Sale.
The nature of Murphy and his brother Jim’s Ballycurragh Stud operation in County Carlow is fascinating from a bloodstock perspective, as not only do they produce horses to win their point-to-points and sometimes sell them for big money, but they also stand stallions – including Alkaadhem, the sire of Global Citizen – and break in and train their inmates mostly on behalf of owner-breeders.
“We have our own schooling grounds and a circular sand gallop of about three furlongs, and the aim is to breed horses and then to produce them,” says Willie Murphy, who also oversaw the early career of Kauto Star Novices’ Chase winner Annacotty. “Our father founded the stud and we’ve had stallions here for 50 years – we had Kambalda, the sire of Barton Bank and Miinnehoma years ago.
“Like the late Sir Henry Cecil, we mainly work for owner-breeders and we don’t buy anything at the sales. We’d be training no horses here that were bought.”
Not having to go to market and replenish the point-to-point string with other breeders’ produce can be an advantage as you gain familiarity with a family’s traits over years of training its different members, Murphy says, before he adds: “Not so much if you end up with a bad stallion or broodmare, although still at least then you’d know soon enough to move on those who weren’t helping you so much.”
Fortunately, Global Citizen is by a sire in Alkaadhem and out of a dam in Lady Willmurt who Murphy knows to be good producers. Alkaadhem, a winner of the Select Stakes and Jebel Hatta for Marcus Tregoning who joined Ballycurragh Stud in 2007, has also thrown fellow black type-winning hurdlers Moylisha Tim and The Organist from limited chances .
Lady Willmurt – owned by Martin Byrne, a close friend and associate of the Murphys – has meanwhile also delivered A Hare Breath (another by Alkaadhem), winner of a Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown in December, and De Plotting Shed (Beneficial), a Grade 2-placed hurdler who has caught the eye with placed efforts in beginners’ chases for Gordon Elliott this year.
Byrne sent Global Citizen to Ballycurragh to be broken in and prepared for his pointing venture, and Murphy spotted the young horse’s talent early.
“He was ready to run in the spring as a four-year-old but we just said we’d give him more time and let him develop to get even stronger,” he remembers. “Then when he went to war he was ready.
“He just had presence above all the others – everything he did just came naturally to him, be it jumping, galloping, it was all so easy. From an early stage my brother and I just thought he was the best we’d ever run.
“When it came to the point-to-point, we’d him entered in three or four meetings that Sunday and it was just a matter of trying to get the best jockey we could.”
That raw talent meant Byrne was not going to sell his precious pointer for anything other than a king’s ransom when he came up for auction just over a week later at Cheltenham.
“It was the first time we’d topped the sale, but we went there with good expectations and the owner wasn’t prepared to let him go for small money – he was ready to go to the Punchestown festival for the bumper had he not made what he did,” Murphy says.
“I was trying to convince him to sell for a bit less than the plenty he was hoping for, so of course we were happy to get what we wanted. The rest is history.”
So Murphy was naturally delighted to see Global Citizen translate that early promise into a power-packed performance under rules on Saturday.
“It was simply brilliant,” he says. “He never missed a beat with his jumping. He danced in front of the hurdles to shorten his stride and jumped each one perfectly. All the hard work paid off.”
Alkaadhem, an 18-year-old son of Green Desert from the great Reprocolor family that also includes the leading British-based jumps sire Kayf Tara, can be expected to bask in some reflected glory from his exciting son.
“He would have been quiet early on, and it’s only more recently that he’s got more busy – there were a couple of years when he covered only 20 or 30 mares,” says Murphy. “But he has four black-type winners now and percentage-wise he’d be doing very well in terms of winners to runners.
“He has a great pedigree and he was a good racehorse, with a high official rating, so it’s not a fluke he’s doing well as a sire. If you go through his family it’s as good a pedigree as you could wish to find.”
Speaking of good pedigrees, Alkaadhem has been joined at Ballycurragh Stud since 2016 by Snow Sky, a Nayef brother to last season’s Prix Royal-Oak winner Ice Breeze. He was an impressive winner of the Hardwicke Stakes and also landed the Yorkshire Cup and finished third in the St Leger.
Murphy says: “He’s been popular from the word go. His first yearlings are big, good-looking horses so he’ll continue to be popular.”
And not forgetting Byrne’s blue hen Lady Willmurt, who is still going strong aged 22 and is carrying a full-sibling to Global Citizen and A Hare Breath.
“She wasn’t a great racehorse but she has an old-fashioned pedigree and is by Mandalus, a good broodmare sire [daughters also produced Refinement and Sizing Europe among others].
“The family goes back to a Powers Gold Cup winner in Troubled Times; it’s a proper, old-school pedigree. And that means it imparts soundness, jumping ability and the runners sure can jump.”
Global Citizen looks like advertising the merits of Alkaadhem and his stout pedigree for a while longer yet, and of course he and Samcro – as well as fellow expensive former point-to-pointers Getabird, On The Blind Side and Minella Rocco – will no doubt pour more fuel onto the already red-hot demand for jumps horses in training at auction.
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