Timmy Murphy: it was getting to the stage where I just didn't want to go racing
Grand National-winning jockey Timmy Murphy on Wednesday said he had reached the stage where he no longer wanted to go racing after deciding to call a halt to a 24-year riding career because of increasing weight issues.
Murphy, 43, a multiple Grade 1-winning rider over jumps who had developed a second career as a Flat jockey, announced he was retiring from the saddle with immediate effect after riding Happy Escape to victory at Chepstow on Tuesday.
Murphy, best known for his 2008 Aintree triumph on Comply Or Die, rode 31 winners last year, his third season since switching codes, but Happy Escape was only his third of 2018 having not ridden during the whole of March and April.
"I had given up for a couple of months after Christmas because I couldn't keep my weight stable," said Murphy. "It was yo-yoing all the time. It didn't exactly settle where I wanted it to settle.
"I also wanted to see if I could survive on what I am doing at home and riding out. I was making about the same money with less driving and better quality of life. I reapplied for my licence with a view to riding a winner and that would be it.
"I feel a bit sad now to be honest but I don't regret not having to wear a sweat suit in the car again."
Murphy, who rode his first winner in 1994, is one of an elite band of jockeys to have ridden more than 1,000 winners over jumps.
He gained his first Cheltenham Festival win on Terao in the 1997 Mildmay of Flete, landed the 2001 Irish Grand National on Davids Lad and was working for Paul Nicholls when in 2002 he was jailed for six months for indecent assault and being drunk on an aircraft during a flight from Japan.
He rebuilt his career, eventually forging an enduring association with champion jumps owner the late David Johnson, for whom he rode a host of big wins not only on Comply Or Die but 2008 Ryanair Chase winner Our Vic and Well Chief, one of the leading two-mile chasers of the period, trained by David and Martin Pipe.
Paying tribute David Pipe said: "Timmy was a great jockey, a lot of it came naturally to him. He was a great horseman, great over an obstacle and on his day as good as any."
Martin Pipe said: "Timmy was a very good jockey, a very good hold-up jockey. He won me some big races like on Well Chief and horses like Our Vic. Together with David Johnson we had a good time."
Murphy added: "I'm humbled by all the support I've been getting. I didn't realise I was that popular and that's nice."
He plans to continue to ride out for Richard Hannon while supervising his stock of resting horses and cattle at his home outside Cheltenham. He said training was "not at the front of my mind".
He added that he won't miss the fasting. "The lightest I'd done was 8st 11lb last summer but just for some reason this winter I couldn't get a hold of it. Every weight I did was a struggle – 11lb was the most I lost to do 9st. From getting in the bath the night before to riding the next day and it wasn't exactly to ride a favourite either. I always loved going racing and enjoyed racing but it was getting to the stage where I didn't want to go and that wasn't right.
"I am pleased I gave it [riding on the Flat] a go. It was something I was always fascinated about. I probably left it a bit late. Like everyone who retires it's the weighing room you miss the most."
Of his riding highlights, he said: "There are so many memories – the Grand National would be the main one. Ride-wise it was probably Davids Lad in the Irish Grand National, Poker De Sivola in the bet365 Gold Cup, and Merigo winning two Scottish Nationals. I was the last jockey to ride Best Mate. I also rode Beef Or Salmon, Al Eile, Our Vic and Well Chief.
"David Johnson will always hold a special place in my heart. He was like a dad to me over here. He was a terribly easy person to ride for. The people who left me to it were the people I rode best for."
Murphy magic: three of the best
The crowning moment of Timmy Murphy’s career came aboard Comply Or Die in the 2008 Grand National. Sent off 7-1 joint-favourite, Murphy quietly coasted around tracking the leaders before hitting the front two out.
Unsurprisingly, given it was Murphy in the saddle, his arrival at the head of affairs was met with the term “travelling strongly” by big-race commentator Richard Hoiles and nothing summed up Murphy the rider quite like that moment when, over the last and still motionless while galloping towards the Elbow, he took a big look around for dangers before sending his mount on to win by four lengths.
The following year, off a considerably higher mark, the pair nearly repeated the trick when leading over the last. The weight meant Comply Or Die didn’t travel anything like as strongly and he was pushed along approaching the second-last, but he and Murphy saw off all bar Mon Mome to finish second.
No horse did more to establish Murphy as a Grade 1 jockey than Michael Hourigan’s Beef Or Salmon, who gave the rider his second, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth successes at the highest level. The Irish hero and Murphy were a match made in heaven with the rider dropping him out the back and cruising through his races.
No performance summed up the partnership quite like their Gold Cup win at the 2004 Punchestown festival. Turning in, Francois Doumen’s First Gold looked to have got away from his rivals but Murphy was patience personified, only nudging his mount to follow, and between the last two Beef Or Salmon came back on the bridle as he cruised past, popped the last and galloped away under his motionless jockey.
In Murphy’s long association with David Johnson, Murphy rode some classier horses than Our Vic. Well Chief was among them, but the gallant bay Our Vic was perhaps a better match for the jockey. The pair achieved so much together, allowing the rider to show he was as adept from the front as he was on wait-and-pounce types.
The two justified favouritism in the 2005 Paddy Power Gold Cup thanks to an atypical Murphy ride pushing the pace from the front a long way out, while they just about made all for a first Grade 1 in the Ascot Chase – relocated to Lingfield – later that season. Two seasons later a Charlie Hall and Ryanair Chase followed before the pair’s crowning glory when they got the best of Kauto Star by a nose in a nail-biting Aintree Bowl.
The pair led to three out but were passed and six lengths down on the imperious Kauto Star by the second-last. A mistake by the leader meant the gap was down to two lengths at the last and, as their rival floundered, Murphy galvanised his gallant mount and they got up in the final stride.
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com