The racing world has been paying tribute to Cheltenham Festival winning trainer Ferdy Murphy who has died aged 70 following a long battle with cancer.

Born in Wexford, Murphy rode more than 100 winners as a professional jockey before being asked by Bill and Tony Durkan to become their private trainer. Bill Durkan’s name may well have been on the racecard, but Murphy played a major role in producing Anaglogs Daughter to land the 1980 Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival. Murphy also rode the the fabulous trail-blazing  mare to win at Chepstow just four days later.

In 1990 he was granted his own trainer’s license and sent out Sibton Abbey to win the 1992 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. Murphy went on to saddle 10 winners at the Cheltenham Festival during a highly successful career.

His best horse was the late French Holly, a stunning winner 14 length winner of the 1998 Royal & Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and third to the legendary Istabraq in the following year’s Champion Hurdle.

Truckers Tavern was another top class animal that came under his care and finished a fine  second to Best Mate in the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Paddy’s Return won the 1996 Triumph Hurdle for Murphy, and I had the pleasure of meeting him in the winners’ enclosure at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival when Forpadytheplaster, who was owned by friends of mine in The Goat Syndicate, got the better of his Kalahari King by a short-head in a thrilling finish.

Although obviously gutted that his horse had not won, Murphy was magnanimous in defeat and a real gentleman who was obviously held in high esteem and admired by those involved in the sport.

A Master at Laying One Out

Murphy became something of a punters friend due to his skill at laying one out to land a valuable prize – and a gamble in the process. He would set long term targets for his charges and ensure that they were well-handicapped come the big day – without being so well-treated that they would not get in the race.

Two prime examples of this at the Cheltenham Festival were the successes of Naiad Du Misselot in the 2008 running of the ultra-competitive Coral Cup and Divers winning the Centenary Novices Chase in 2011.

Davy Russell, who was ice cool in steering Naiad Du Misselot to victory, was quick to pay tribute to Murphy on twitter. He said: “Very sad to hear of Ferdy Murphy’s passing, one of the all time greats of our game. He was a huge part of my life and career. Thoughts and prayers are with his family. RIP.”

Andrew Thornton, who steered the aforementioned French Holly to each of his eight victories over obstacles, echoed Russell’s sentiments. Speaking on Sky Sports Racing, he said: “For getting horses ready for Cheltenham, there was no-one better. His clock was set around the second week in March and they were ready. I felt it was then that Ferdy’s season started – Cheltenham, Aintree and Sandown.

“Ferdy was charismatic and just a true horseman because he trained the individual. A great man for asking questions and for making jockeys. “It’s a sad time and thoughts go out to all the family. He was a massive influence to a lot of people.”

Top jumps trainer Nicky Henderson described Murphy as a great guy and an exceptional horseman. He tweeted: “Extremely saddened to hear that we have lost Ferdy Murphy. He was a great guy and an exceptional horseman and trainer. We missed him when he moved to France but we shall all miss him even more now. Condolences to all his family and close friends.”

Major Handicap Successes Aplenty

Murphy’s prowess in major handicaps was also illustrated when Paris Pike won the Scottish National as a novice in 2000. Joes Edge won the same race for him five years later. A third Scottish National came in 2007 thanks to Hot Weld, who also won the Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown just a week later .

Murphy won the latter twice, with Poker De Sivola obliging in 2011 having landed the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the previous year. Murphy also struck in the 2004 Irish Grand National with Granit D’Estruval and L’Antartique in Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November 2007.

In the spring of 2013, Murphy the surprise announcement that he was to relocate to France from his Wynbury Stables in West Witton, North Yorkshire. 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. Barry, told the PA news agency: “It’s a sad day, but he’s in a better place. We had some amazing days. He’s a true great, in my opinion. “He was a pure genius and he was a master of getting one well handicapped for Cheltenham, which is very hard to do these days as if you’re too well handicapped, you won’t get in.

“He was brilliant at producing a horse for a big day.” Murphy is certainly one of the best trainers that I have the honour of meeting. He will indeed be sadly missed.

Ferdy Murphy’s Cheltenham Festival Roll of Honour:

  • 1996 Stop The Waller
  • 1996 Paddy’s Return
  • 1998 French Holly
  • 2006 Hot Weld
  • 2006 You’re Special
  • 2007 Joes Edge
  • 2007 L’Antartique
  • 2008 Naiad Du Misselot
  • 2010 Poker De Sivola
  • 2011 Divers