JOCKEYS Davy Russell and PJ McDonald have led the tributes to top North Yorkshire trainer Ferdy Murphy, who has died after a long battle with cancer.
The winner of multiple major races at the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown festivals, he also derived as much pleasure from the successes achieved by the riders that he nurtured at his West Witton stables.
Russell, who has won the last two Grand Nationals on the iconic Tiger Roll, told The Yorkshire Post: “Without Ferdy, and without his influence and, most importantly, his loyalty, I would not have had the success that I have enjoyed.
“His loyalty was second to none. He was a very loyal man. His loyalty gave me a lot of confidence. He was a great worker. Never afraid of hard work, he instilled that into a lot of people. He was a very good trainer but his work ethic was second to none. I owe him a lot.
“It was also very special to win at Cheltenham for him on Joes Edge and Naiad Du Misselot. My job was easy – he did all the hard work and he couldn’t have got the horses any fitter.”
This assessment was shared by McDonald, who won the 2007 Scottish Grand National on Murphy’s Hot Weld – the horse won Sandown’s end-of-season Gold Cup seven days later – before he switched to the Flat.
Now a multiple Group One-winning rider, McDonald said his friend and mentor always used to fill riders with confidence – and could train a horse for a race “eight months away”.
“He always looked for positives. If you were beaten, but the horse jumped brilliantly, he focused on that. If you fell at the fourth, he focused on a brilliant recovery at the third,” added the jockey. “He helped a lot of people and was a very, very fair man.”
Born in County Wexford, Murphy benefitted from the tutelage of Phonsie O’Brien and Paddy Mullins. He trained for owner Bill Durkan, most memorably winning the 1980 Arkle Chase at Cheltenham with Anaglogs Daughter, before taking out his own licence.
Murphy, who is survived by his partner Janet Morgan and five children, won multiple Grade One races with horses like French Holly, Paddy’s Return and Kalahari King. As well as 10 Cheltenham Festival winners, he won many of racing’s major handicaps after landing the 1992 Hennessy with Sibton Abbey.
Murphy sold Wynbury Stables in 2013 before moving to France where he bought and sold horses in retirement. His eldest son, Barry, said: “It’s a sad day, but he’s in a better place. We had some amazing days. He had some amazing horses over the years, even when they were running in Geoff Hubbard’s name and before that with Bill Durkan – horses likes Anaglogs Daughter.
“He was a pure genius and he was a master of getting one well handicapped for Cheltenham, which is very hard to do. He was brilliant at producing a horse for a big day.”