Oisin Murphy to return to saddle in ‘top spirits’ following some dark days during ban

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy has admitted that he came close to quitting racing after a positive drugs test.
Oisin Murphy remains Qatar Racing's retained rider.Oisin Murphy remains Qatar Racing's retained rider.
Oisin Murphy remains Qatar Racing's retained rider.

He was banned for three months in November after a racecourse test, taken at Chantilly in July, found traces of cocaine in his system.

Having always strenuously denied he had taken any drugs, Murphy requested a B sample, and upon receiving the results, France Galop held a hearing where the rider’s defence of environmental contamination from a sexual encounter and scientific hair test evidence was accepted.

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Murphy’s three-month suspension took into account his defence and is due to expire on March 11.

Oisin Murphy is the two-times champion Flat jockey.Oisin Murphy is the two-times champion Flat jockey.
Oisin Murphy is the two-times champion Flat jockey.

He will then be free to return to the saddle and build on an illustrious career that, to date, has seen him win two jockeys’ championships, a first domestic Classic on Kameko and Group One races around the world.

Speaking on the My Sporting Mind podcast, the 25-year-old explained the turmoil he has endured. He said: “The first time I realised I was facing a suspension was August, and I didn’t know when I was going to be suspended and for how long, so that was quite stressful.

“I didn’t ride very well. On average I ride between 15 and 22 per cent rides to winners, in August that took a major dip and as a result my confidence and my whole outlook on life did as well.

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“I remember not sleeping for days on end – I might get an hour here and wake up there, your mood changes and you don’t want to speak to anybody.”

This was Oisin Murphy winning last year's 2000 Guineas on Kameko.This was Oisin Murphy winning last year's 2000 Guineas on Kameko.
This was Oisin Murphy winning last year's 2000 Guineas on Kameko.

At that stage Murphy was still leading the British Flat jockeys’ championship, a coveted title he first won in 2019. However, rivals William Buick and Tom Marquand quickly closed the gap.

“I had led the whole way from the flag fall in this jockeys’ championship, which means so much to me,” he said.

Ultimately Murphy did triumph, riding eight more winners than Buick. “I thought the season was going to be defined in one of two ways – if I didn’t win the jockeys’ championship, it was going to be a season where I had allowed what was going on around me to defeat me,” said Qatar Racing’s retained rider.

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“If I could get it over the line, I’d prove that when most people would have crumbled, when most people would have thrown in the towel, I picked myself up off the floor.”

Despite the victory, Murphy still harboured doubts over whether he would return to racing at all once the ban had expired.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ride again or when I wanted to race-ride again,” he said in a candid interview.

“I felt the world had turned against me over something I didn’t mean to happen. I spent a couple of weeks thinking about what I should do, when I say I wouldn’t get back on a horse, I’d still watch showjumping and ride as a hobby, but (I wondered) whether I wanted to race-ride again.

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“I wasn’t entirely comfortable – the higher you climb, the further you fall.”

However, Murphy was supported in his decision to return by his idol Frankie Dettori, who himself served a six-month ban following a positive test for cocaine in 2012.

“When he came back, the racing public, and I can say this because I was there, they’d written him off,” Murphy recalled.

“I remember walking into Lingfield Park one day, he was sat with his legs crossed, he was overweight, he didn’t look like a jockey, he was miserable, he wasn’t speaking to anybody, he was very low. Then a couple of months later he turned his career around.

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“The last three years he’s been the number one jockey in the world and he’s the face of world racing, so I really admire him and really draw on him for inspiration sometimes.”

Not only has Murphy resolved to return, he is also intent on reaching the same heights he has scaled previously. “I’m in top spirits, but I need to achieve again, I can’t just roll back into the jockeys’ room and go around riding five horses a day and maybe winning on one,” he added.

“If I make it my intention to come back, then I really have to do well. Now it’s the chance to come back and try to prove myself to people again and say ‘Don’t write me off, please. Give me another chance’.”

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