Donn's Articles » Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy has been thinking for a while now that Swamp Fox was a Cesarewitch horse.  The only question was, which Cesarewitch.

The Irish Cesarwitch at Navan today is worth €59,000 to the winner; the English Cesarewitch at Newmarket next Saturday is worth over £150,000 to the winner.  Both are highly competitive handicaps, the former over two miles, the latter over two and a quarter.  Swamp Fox is fully deserving of his place in either. 

“He’s rated 90, so he would have had 9st 4lb at Navan,” says Murphy.  “He’ll have 8st 6lb in England, maybe 8st 9lb if the weights go up.  But the English one is worth over a hundred grand more to the winner, and that swung it in the end.”

Swamp Fox is well.  Swamp Fox has been well all season.  He won over hurdles at Balinrobe in May and he won over hurdles at Killarney in July, and he got ready for Galway: the featured Connacht Hotel Handicap on the Monday evening, a race that he had won in 2016, and the Galway Hurdle on the Thursday.

“It was always the plan to run in both races at Galway.  He’s versatile and he’s tough, and he has no problem running twice in a couple of days.  He had done it before.  We were very hopeful going to Galway.”

Swamp Fox ran a big race on the Monday, staying on well to take second place behind Whiskey Sour.  He finished second again in the Galway Hurdle, but that was different.  He looked the winner when he hit the front after the final hurdle, but was just worn down close home by Tigris River.

“Put it this way,” says Murphy thoughtfully, “we had the race won for three seconds.  Of course we were disappointed at the time, but we were delighted too that he had run so well.  And when the dust settles, you have your horse home with you safe and sound.  That’s the main thing.  There’s always another day.”

Murphy has had plenty of days.  He has been sending winners out from his Crampscastle yard in Fethard in County Tipperary since 1977, and he has never been afraid to reach for the stars when he has a horse he thinks can get there. 

Ardbrae Lady finished second at 50/1 in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2006 before going and winning the Group 3 Park Express Stakes the following season.  Euphrasia won the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes in 2013 at 33/1, beating Group 1 winner La Collina and Group 2 winner Princess Highway into second and third places respectively.  Only Mine won the Group 3 Lacken Stakes last year at 16/1.

Only Mine has been a star.  Bought for €80,000 by Murphy with Tom Egan at Goffs as a yearling in 2014, she won a listed race at Newmarket as a two-year-old, she won that Group 3 race at Naas as a three-year-old and, this year at four, she has won two listed races and finished second in a Group 3 and a Group 2.

“I think she’ll be even better next year,” says her trainer.  “She was disappointing at Naas last time behind Quiet Reflection, but she was just going in her coat.  She had done a super piece of work the week before that.  We had hoped to go to Ascot with her for British Champions Day, but she has her winter coat now and she’s off for the season.  She has been a great filly for her owner Mrs Regalado-Gonzalez, she could do very well as a five-year-old, and she will make a super broodmare.”

It is not always easy for the smaller trainers to compete on the flat in Ireland but, ably assisted by his son Joseph, Murphy has had a fine season so far.  Shekiba was a game winner of her maiden at Galway in August and she ran well in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes last time.  Deep Breath won two of his three races, Born To Play was beaten just a head by Homesman in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes, and Silverkode rattled off a hat-trick before finishing second in the big seven-furlong handicap at Leopardstown on Irish Champion Stakes day.

“Silverkode was well beaten last time at Tipperary,” says Murphy, “but we blame ourselves.  We shouldn’t have run him. The ground was just too soft.  We’ll keep him for Group races next season.  He’s a horse to look forward to in the long term.”

In the short term, attentions are focussed on next Saturday’s Cesarewitch at Newmarket.

“Swamp Fox is such a laid back horse, he won’t mind travelling.  Those long distance races suit him well, and he’s versatile, he won’t mind a bit of an ease in the ground. I always felt that there was plenty of improvement in him.  We’re hopeful.”

© The Sunday Times, 8th October 2017