Monday 18 November 2019

Farewell to Ferdy

Wexford-born trainer had great career

A young P.J. McDonald and Ferdy Murphy celebrate Hot Weld’s win in the 2007 Scottish Grand National
A young P.J. McDonald and Ferdy Murphy celebrate Hot Weld’s win in the 2007 Scottish Grand National


Ferdy Murphy, who died last week at his home in France at the age of 70, was one of the most successful jumps trainers of the last 40 years, with twelve Cheltenham Festival winners.

A farmer's son, he was born at Forreststalstown, Clonroche, on November 6, 1948, and his funeral takes place in St. Clement's Church, Cloughbawn, at 12 noon this Thursday, followed by burial of ashes in the adjoining cemetery.

Ferdy rode over one hundred winners in his young days, many as stable jockey to the great Paddy Mullins, but he was better known as a trainer, with three wins in the Scottish Grand National, as well as the Irish Grand National and many other major races among more than 700 winners in total.

During the week warm tributes have been paid to the genial Wexford man by many of the jockeys who worked for him over the years, including Adrian Maguire, Davy Russell, Graham Lee, and Taghmon man P.J. McDonald, who won the Scottish Grand National for him on Hot Weld in 2007 before he turned to the flat on Ferdy's advice.

McDonald went over to Ferdy in England after failing to make a major impact here in Ireland, and he credits him with setting him on the right course. They had maintained contact over the years since, with messages of congratulations coming in from Ferdy after notable successes.

Ferdy became a key man in the Paddy Mullins yard in the 1970s, as a rider and head lad for six years. The highlight of his riding career was Punchestown festival winner, Artistic Prince, in the John Jameson Cup in 1977.

His first two Cheltenham winners were not in his own name as he was employed as a private trainer for Bill Durkan in Dublin and Geoff Hubbard, and they were credited with Anaglogs Daughter. In the summer of 1990 Murphy took out a trainer's licence, and he was not long making an impact, Sibton Abbey winning the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury in 1992 at 40/1, edging out Gold Cup winner, Jodami.

Ferdy settled into his own stables at West Witton in early 1997 and ended up with over 700 winners, including ten Cheltenham winners in his own name, with the likes of Paddy's Return, French Holly and Truckers Tavern, second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Sixty-eight was his best seasonal tally in 2001-'02 but he was a consistent winner.

He always aimed to bring his best horses to their peak for the Cheltenham Festival, often picking up handicaps at huge prices, such as Joe's Edge at 50/1 under Davy Russell in 2007.

In the summer of 2013, Murphy transferred his operation from North Yorkshire to France.

He moved to Lisieux in Normandy, where his daughter Caroline lived, and then to Senonnes in the Loire Valley where he died last week after a battle with cancer.

His son, Barry, said: 'He was a pure genius and he was a master of getting one well handicapped for Cheltenham…He was brilliant at producing a horse for a big day.'

He leaves his long-standing partner Janet Morgan and five children - Barry, who assisted his former partner, Liz Doyle, at her Crossabeg yard, and is still in the business at Forrestalstown; 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.

Ferdy Murphy is sure to get a large and well-deserved send-off back on Wexford soil on Thursday.

Wexford People