FERDY Murphy, one of Yorkshire’s most successful most successful jump trainers, has died after a long battle with cancer.
He passed away peacefully this morning at his home in France where he has lived since 2013. He was 70.
“They say you never meet your heroes – but he was my hero,” said his son Paul, himself a former trainer.
Murphy, who had five children, turned Wynbury Stables in West Witton into one of the North’s top National Hunt stables.
He spent a lifetime in racing, initially under the tutelage of legendary Irish trainer Paddy Mullins.
Yet, after a riding career, Murphy excelled as a trainer after saddling his first winners in the 1988-89 seasons.
He won many of the top jumps races – including the 2002 Hennessy Gold Cup with Sibton Abbey - and won multiple Grade One hurdles with the ill-fated French Holly in an era dominated by the mighty Istabraq.
A multiple winner at the Cheltenham Festival thanks to an uncanny ability to prepare horses to perfection for the major Spring meetings on both sides of the Irish Sea, he won the Scottish National and Sandown’s season-ending Betfred Gold Cup with Hot Weld in successive weeks in 2007.
And Murphy’s final Grade One winner was Kalahari King’s success at the 2009 Grand National meeting.
Never short of an opinion, he was particularly proud of the jockeys he nurtured during his training career – notably Adrian Maguire, Andrew Thornton, Graham Lee, Keith Mercer, PJ McDonald and Davy Russell, the jockey now associated with dual Grand National hero Davy Russell.
In his last interview, Murphy spoke of his pride watching Russell ride Tiger Roll, the history-making horse.
Off the racecourse, he could be outspoken and would not hesitate to stand up for Northern racing.
Those paying tribute included 2013 Grand National-winning trainer Sue Smith who said: “He was a great supporter of the North and had an excellent record in all the big races.
“He and Harvey worked together a lot for racing in the North. He always had a story to tell and will be much missed.”
Andrew Thornton steered French Holly to each of his eight victories over obstacles, which also included the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in 1998.
Thornton said: “The first time I rode for him was on French Holly in a good novice hurdle at Ayr as all the big boys were at Cheltenham. They were looking for a jockey in the top six and they thought I would suit him as French Holly was a big horse and I was tall with long legs.
“Ferdy said to me ‘remember he’s a good horse’ and I won on him.
“Adrian (Maguire) was Ferdy’s stable jockey, but he left me on his best horse. That tells you the kind of man Ferdy was and it makes you feel six foot tall.
“I had a few more rides for him through the years, but French Holly was the one and he made my career.
“For getting horses ready for Cheltenham, there was no-one better. His clock was set round 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.”
In 2002, Murphy brought a leading point-to-point rider named Davy Russell across the Irish Sea and provided him with his first winner as a professional jockey at Sedgefield later that year.
Russell’s spell as Murphy’s number one rider was relatively brief as he returned to Ireland in 2004, but not before teaming up with the likes of Truckers Tavern - who was runner-up to Best Mate in the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Despite their parting of ways, Russell went on to ride two Cheltenham Festival winners for his former boss in Joes Edge in the 2007 William Hill Trophy and Naiad Du Misselot in the 2008 Coral Cup.
Now a three-times champion jockey in his homeland, Russell recalls his days with Murphy fondly.
He said: “We had some great days together and Ferdy was a fantastic mentor to me.
“When I came over to England, I was a long way from the finished article and he moulded me into a better jockey and took my career down a totally different path.
“He was also a very good friend and I owe him a lot.
“I was delighted to ride a couple of Festival winners for him after returning to Ireland.”
Grand National-winning rider Graham Lee also enjoyed a spell as Murphy’s stable jockey from 2006, before switching codes to become a full-time Flat jockey in 2012.
“Ferdy was a brilliant fella and a brilliant trainer,” said Lee.
“I was very lucky to ride some big winners for him on the likes of L’Antartique, Kalahari King, Aces Four and Another Promise, who won a Grade One at Punchestown.
“They were great times and all my thoughts are with his family.
“God rest him.”