Oisin Murphy will be the only jockey retained by Qatar Racing next year, providing the 20-year-old with an enviable opportunity to further his career. The news comes less than a fortnight after Andrea Atzeni decided to give up his position as Qatar’s first jockey in favour of a retainer with Sheikh Mohammed Obaid.
Atzeni had himself succeeded Jamie Spencer in the Qatar role, which has had a turbulent early history. Murphy is not to be seen as a direct replacement, however, as other jockeys might now be used from time to time.
“He will not be [described as] our first jockey as such but he will ride the vast majority of our runners in Britain,” said David Redvers, racing manager to Qatar Racing’s owner, Sheikh Fahad al-Thani.
“Colin Keane will ride most of our runners in Ireland. Colin is not retained by us but he’s Ger Lyons’s jockey and Ger trains most of our horses in Ireland. We’ll be using one or two French jockeys as well. Basically, we’re happy with the guys we’ve got and we’re sticking with them.”
Murphy has established himself with extraordinary speed, rocketing to prominence in 2013, his first season. He was given a ride in the Derby last summer, at a time when he was still a claimer, and won prize money by steering his 100-1 shot into fifth place.
He was appointed by Qatar Racing as second jockey to Atzeni last year and won the German Guineas for them on Karpino in May. While Atzeni will continue to ride for Qatar until the end of this year, Murphy will be alone in the job in 2016, as Redvers said no second jockey would be appointed.
“Oisin is showing already that he has a fairly rare talent,” Redvers added. “He’s a real team player, a very strong member of our team and the feedback we get from him is exceptional.”
Qatar Racing has yet to reap the rewards that might be expected from the sport, given the scale of Sheikh Fahad’s investment, but recently won their first British Classic with Simple Verse in the St Leger, even if the eventual victory required an appeal against the stewards’ decision to demote her for interference.
“The future’s pretty exciting,” Redvers added. “We’ll have a runner in every race on Champions Day on Saturday and two runners in some of them.”
The future appears less clear for another young Classic-winning jockey following the news that Joseph O’Brien has become a registered handler with the Irish Turf Club, meaning he can train horses to run in point-to-points. The 22-year-old O’Brien won last year’s Derby aboard Australia but has struggled with his weight and been displaced by Ryan Moore as first rider to the powerful Ballydoyle yard of his father, Aidan.
O’Brien Jr could have his first point-to-point runner on Sunday, when an unraced five-year-old called Minella For Me is entered to run at Loughrea in Galway. He took to Twitter on Wednesday night to say he would do less race-riding next year, though he plans to continue riding out at Ballydoyle every day. “We have a nice team of horses under all codes,” he said.
Don Cossack, who is currently second-favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, could return from his summer break at Punchestown on Thursday. The eight-year-old is one of five entered for the Daily Star Chase but connections will check that there is sufficient give in the ground before allowing him to line up.