JACK GARRITTY hopes history will repeat itself in tomorrow’s William Hill Ayr Gold Cup – the race that kickstarted the career of teenage riding sensation Oisin Murphy 12 months ago on Highland Colori.
The 18-year-old, whose father Russ was regarded as ‘the tough man of National Hunt racing’ following a 21-year career over jumps, partners the well-fancied Alben Star for his boss Richard Fahey in tomorrow’s six furlong cavalry charge.
Though Garritty senior never won the Scottish National at Ayr – his biggest career win came aboard Peter Beaumont’s Hussard Collonges in the 2002 RSA Chase at Cheltenham Festival – his son has an outstanding chance on Alben Star whose seven career wins include the feature sprint at Lingfield on Good Friday.
It comes after the teenager, born and bred in Malton, returned to Ryedale after 18 months learning his trade at the Kingsclere yard of Andrew Balding alongside the aforementioned Murphy and a host of other top young riders. Garritty proved that he was the proverbial ‘chip off the old block’ when partnering the Fahey-trained Home Cummins to victory at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting last week.
“I’m very grateful to Mr Fahey putting me on these nice horses, it makes my job a lot easier,” Garritty junior told The Yorkshire Post.
“He keeps things simple, does ‘the boss’. He knows the horse inside and out. He knows how to read a race. It’s a big thing for me to be even riding at Ayr in the big race and it was a great feeling to reward the boss by winning at the Leger meeting.
“It gives you a lot of confidence. Jack Dexter is top weight in the Gold Cup and the horse that wins should, hopefully, be a Group horse in the future. Let’s hope it is Alben Star.”
Though Garritty’s father, now assistant to Middleham trainer Patrick Holmes, was a popular figure on the jump racing circuit, and earned the reputation of being “the professional’s professional”, he did not force his son into a riding career.
“I didn’t start riding until I was 14,” said the younger Garritty who studied at Ryedale School. “I went riding at David O’Meara’s near York and he got me going. Though dad helped teach me the basics, I felt it was important that I did it on my own and not because of him.
“I then went to Mr Balding’s for a year-and-a-half. I was on my own. It made me independent and taught me how to conduct myself.
“Being around Oisin (Murphy) and all the other lads, you feed off each other – you spur each other on.
“Oisin hasn’t looked back since his four-timer at Ayr last year and is now with Qatar Racing. I have always wanted to ride for Mr Fahey, and an opportunity came up. It feels like moving from a big yard to an even bigger yard.”
Garritty knows he has his work cut out – the trainer’s Musley Bank stables are already home to some of the best young riders in the country, including the in-form George Chaloner who rides Supplicant in the Ayr Gold Cup. They’re all motivated by a strong desire to follow in the footsteps of Paul Hanagan, who became champion jockey in 2010 and 2011 thanks to his association with Fahey.
“My agent got me a couple of rides with Mr Fahey and it took off from there,” added the jockey whose punishing fitness regime enabled him to ride at 7st 13lb yesterday.
“Dad’s pleased. He says I’m light enough, there’s more racing on the Flat and it is safer. If I can achieve half as much as him, I will have done all right. I didn’t see him much growing up – he was riding and I was at school. Looking back, I’m really proud of him and what he achieved – it makes you realise what a tough game it is. I don’t think a lot of northern jockeys get the respect that they deserve.
“People like Danny Tudhope are very good – he struggles with his weight but he is very talented. Paul Mulrennan, Graham Lee. Dad rode against Graham. I’m loving it. It’s a learning curve – but an enjoyable learning curve.”
Top jump jockey Jason Maguire returns to the saddle at Newton Abbot today – six months after undergoing life-threatenig surgery.
He had to have part of his liver cut away after being kicked in the stomach following a fall at Stratford on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival.
His first ride back will be on Donald McCain’s Mr Satco.
“I’m obviously thrilled to be back,” said Maguire.
“It’s a novice chase but once you’re back, there’s no point picking and choosing. When you are out that length of time it makes you appreciate what you have, riding for a powerful stable.”
Top chaser Cue Card is back in training and pleasing trainer Colin Tizzard after undergoing a breathing operation. Haydock’s Betfair Chase in November is the horse’s early season target.
Bookmakers are to contribute £74.3m to horse racing’s coffers under the 2015-16 Levy Scheme that was signed off yesterday.