A large attendance from the world of horse racing and the wider community is expected to pay a dignified and emotional final tribute to Ferdy Murphy, whose Funeral Mass takes place in St. Clement’s Church, Cloughbawn, at 12 noon tomorrow (Thursday) followed by burial of his ashes in the adjoining cemetery.
Ferdy, late of Forrestalstown Stud, Clonroche, and West Witton, North Yorkshire, passed away at his home, Sennones, The Loire Valley, France, on Tuesday, September 3rd.
Renowned racing journalist John Randall described Ferdy Murphy as “one of the most successful jumps trainers of the last 40 years,” and the editor of the Racing Post magnified those sentiments many times when he ran it as a quote on the heading of last Wednesday’s issue.
Born on November 6th 1948 at Forrestalstown Stud, Ferdy Murphy left school to became an apprentice jockey to Phonsie O’Brien in Tipperary and also built up a successful relationship with the legendary Paddy Mullins at Goresbridge, Co. Kilkenny, before establishing himself as one of the great trainers of his generation.
Ferdy Murphy had a very successful training career with 12 Cheltenham Festival winners to his credit. As a professional jockey he won more than 100 races, many of them for Paddy Mullins, for whom he acted as head lad and stable jockey for six years. Mullins’ best-ever Flat winner was Hurry Harriet, who upset the great Allez France in the 1973 Champion Stakes.
Murphy’s biggest winner for Mullins was Desu Barker in the 1974 Downshire Hurdle, but the highlight of his riding career was another Punchestown festival winner, the Billy Boyers-trained novice chaser Artistic Prince in the John Jameson Cup in 1977.
He then joined Durkan at Sandyford, County Dublin, and supervised the training of his horses, although Durkan held the licence. Their star performer was Anaglogs Daughter, who in 1980 won the Arkle at Cheltenham in dazzling style and four days later was ridden by Murphy himself to an all-the-way success in the Aynsley China Cup at Chepstow.
In the autumn of 1985 Murphy moved to Suffolk to take up a similar role – unofficial private trainer – with Geoff Hubbard, a businessman who was setting up his own stables at Worlingworth Hall, with himself as permit-holder. The partnership scored a Cheltenham Festival victory in 1987 with Gee-A, ridden by Gee Armytage, in the Mildmay of Flete Chase.
In the summer of 1990 Murphy was granted a trainer’s licence, so he now started to receive the official credit for his winners. His first winner as a licensed trainer, Sibton Abbey, went on to land the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury in 1992.
Earlier that year Gee-A, the only horse still nominally trained by Hubbard, had won the Aintree Fox Hunters’ Chase, ridden by Murphy’s second son Paul. Much later he described that as the best day of his racing life.
Murphy left Suffolk in 1994 and set up as a public trainer – first at West Buckland in Somerset, then at Middleham, before splitting with his landlord Robert Ogden and making the short move to Bill Kettlewell’s Wynbury stables at West Witton in early 1997.
Soon after becoming his own boss he acquired Paddy’s Return, who turned out to be the best hurdler he trained. Paddy’s Return won the Triumph Hurdle in 1996 and developed into a double champion at three miles, winning the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown and Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in 1997.
His other top-class hurdler, French Holly, scored a runaway victory in the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1998 and was third to Istabraq in the following year’s Champion Hurdle. He was later killed in a schooling fall at home.
The stable achieved an unusual National treble with novice chasers in 2000, landing the Midlands Grand National with Ackzo in March, the Scottish version with Paris Pike in April, and the Kerry National with Mac’s Supreme in September.
After his Cheltenham Gold Cup ambitions for Paddy’s Return, French Holly and Paris Pike had come to nothing, the trainer went closest to victory in the race with Truckers Tavern, who as a 33-1 shot came second to Best Mate in 2003.
His stablemate Granit D’Estruval won the Irish Grand National in 2004, and in the Scottish equivalent five days later was upsides the winner when falling at the final fence.
Ferdy’s Cheltenham Festival dozen winners (including as unofficial trainer) Anaglogs Daughter (1980 Arkle Chase), Gee-A (1987 Mildmay of Flete Chase), Stop The Waller (1996 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase), Paddy’s Return (1996 Triumph Hurdle), French Holly (1998 Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle), You’re Special (2006 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase), Hot Weld (2006 National Hunt Chase), Joes Edge (2007 William Hill Trophy Chase), L’Antartique (2007 Jewson Novices’ Chase), Naiad Du Misselot (2008 Coral Cup), Poker De Sivola (2010 National Hunt Chase), Divers (2011 Centenary Novices’ Chase).
Most wins in a season was 68 in 2001-02, while the highest position in trainers’ championship was 8th place in the 2006-07 season.
He leaves his longstanding partner Janet Morgan and five children – Barry, who assisted his trainer-wife Liz Doyle before they parted; Paul, who trained near his father at Middleham for five seasons; Caroline, wife of French bloodstock agent Guy Petit; Zoe Winston, racing secretary to Gordon Elliott; and Rees, who rode some of his father’s winners in France. R.I.P.