6:20pm Wednesday 25th April 2012
By Danny Hall
FOSSEBRIDGE jockey Timmy Murphy maintained his remarkable run in the Coral Scottish Grand National on Saturday when winning on Merigo for the second time in three years.
There was added pleasure for Murphy as his 11-year-old mount – who was also runner-up in the race in 2011 – is owned by his father-in-law Raymond Anderson Green.
Merigo, trained in Lockerbie by Andrew Parker, is understandably popular with Scottish punters and was backed into 15-2 second favourite.
He became the first horse for 27 years – since Androma in 1984 and 1985 – to win the Scottish National twice and took his career earnings to almost £350,000.
Merigo looked booked for second when two lengths behind the Sue Smith-trained Auroras Encore at the last fence, but he battled back to win by a head.
The gelding is clearly one of Murphy’s favourites.
“He’s a superstar,” said Murphy. “Andrew knows him better than anybody and I think he just comes to himself at this time of year.
“The choke was out for a long way and all credit to how deep he dug for me. I couldn’t go any quicker and his jumping was keeping him in it.
“I have ridden better horses than Merigo but none that try harder.
“He might have won three Scottish Nationals in a row but the year he was second, he was 6lb out of the handicap.”
Murphy has built a modern training facility near Fossebridge, which is being used by his tenant Fergal O’Brien.
But the 38-year-old jockey, who has been closely associated with some of the masters of the training profession like Martin Pipe and Paul Nicholls, maintains he has no plans to take out a training licence himself.
“There is just not the level of prize money to make it worthwhile over here,” he said. “I am happy preparing horses for training.”
As a previous Aintree Grand National winner (with 2008 hero Comply Or Die) Murphy has a fascinating take on the recent angry debate in the light of the two equine deaths in the 2012 race.
He suggests that the various recent makeovers at Aintree, including levelling off the famous drop fences in an attempt to make the race safer, may have had the opposite effect.
“I rode in the Grand National before any of the changes and in those days you used to ride to get round,” he said. “Now jockeys are taking a lot more chances.” But he admitted: “You can’t go back.”
Murphy, one of an elite group of jockeys to have ridden more than 1,000 winners ended last week in better humour than he had started it.
Injuries can happen to horses in the most innocuous of circumstances and last week top racehorse Great Endeavour (winner of the Byrne Plate and Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham), who was enjoying his summer holidays at Murphy’s Cilldara Stud, had to be put down.
“He was turned out in a field with one other horse – it was as ‘back to nature’ as you can get – and yet we found him with a fractured leg.
“Accidents happen; it is part of life.”
There was more success at Ayr last weekend for local yards when the Barbury Castle (Wiltshire) stable of Alan King picked up the other big race on the Ayr card, the Isle of Skye Blended Whisky Scottish Champion Hurdle with Raya Star.
It was something of a homecoming for trainer King.
“It’s great to come back home and have another winner here after a long losing run,” said King, who stayed with his parents for the weekend.
“I was born in Lanark about an hour away but was brought up in Hamilton and I worked across the road from here at Cree Lodge for about a year when horses like Harry Hastings were around.”
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group