Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fethard’s Sea Warrior

Fethard’s Sea Warrior

By Stephen Dwyer

At last count, there were 60,000 families in Ireland with the surname Murphy. This easily makes it the most common surname in the country. In the USA, the latest census revealed five times this amount of Murphy’s in the 52 states; all in all it is the 58th most common surname in America. There are believed to over a million Murphy’s worldwide, the name means “Sea Warrior” in ancient Irish. Within Ireland as you would imagine, Joseph Murphy is vastly popular name. For the sake of clarity, Tipperary-based trainer Joseph Murphy is registered with Horse Racing Ireland as Joseph G. Murphy. But to those involved with the horse racing industry and around his home base in Fethard, County Tipperary he is simply known as Joe Murphy.

Joe Murphy’s training facilities are situated just outside the town of Fethard. The town itself is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Ireland. It was originally settled around 1200AD when a Norman Lord, William de Braose chose the then green field site for its rich pastures and fertile, arable lands. Today, with a population of 3,500, the area is home to key bloodstock and training operations including Coolmore, Ballydoyle and Joe Murphy’s Crampscastle estates.

Holder of both a national hunt and flat training license, Joe Murphy has established himself as a thorough professional and an expert in his field. Over the past four decades he has achieved an excellent reputation as a trainer and purveyor of top quality young horses. Joe’s interest in racing stemmed from his father, Joseph senior, a highly respected and proficient owner who had several high profile winners. Among these included Smooth Dealer who won ten times and claimed the much-coveted Thyestes Steeplechase in Gowran Park. Joe later emulated his father’s success in the Thyestes, this time when training Felicity’s Pet, a classy mare by No Argument who won six races including the Thyestes.

At the age of eighteen, Joe Murphy formally entered the training world at Maddoxstown, Co. Kilkenny. His first success, Vibrax, quickly followed and shortly after, a 75 acre farm was acquired just outside Fethard. The farm was carefully developed and now boasts immensely impressive training facilities. During the development of the training base, such was the priority of ensuring that the horses’ needs were met that Joe and his devoted wife Carmel, lived for three and a half years in a mobile home by the yard.

Today, the attention to detail and the amenities within Crampscastle are outstanding. There are two grass gallops including a one mile, a one hundred yard gallop and a five furlong woodchip gallop. The woodchip straight is remarkable. It has been specifically designed to improve the speed and balance of horses and the undulating camber mimics that of Epsom and the Curragh.

Upon the gallops, the horses are subjected to interval-training and Fartlek methods for conditioning and speed. There are twenty five horses currently in training at Crampscastle, there are thirty four boxes (including four isolation berths) situated around a carefully-planned three sided paddock. Non-slip rubber tiling is laid across the yard and within stabling boxes and all horses are allowed a number of hours of undisturbed rest and recuperation each day. Joe insists this is as much for their mental recovery as for the physical, a belief that works well as the horses are very well settled within the yard.

There are now eighty acres at Crampcastle, among these are fifteen one-acre grass paddocks assigned for fillies. There are also immediate plans to develop a five furlong grass gallop which will be installed by spring 2011. More often than not it is Joe, rather than the groundskeeper who will replace any divots that appear in the grass post-workout. He has concocted a secret recipe (grass seed, sand, clay and turf mould) to restore any damaged grass. The woodchip is also raked daily and topped up regularly, an example of the dozens of small measures in Crampscastle which, when added together, bring out the best in horses trained there.

For the past number of years, Joe’s son, Joseph ably assists his father in the day-to-day running of the yard. Having spent over two years at Versailles, Coolmore’s Kentucky base, he brings a complimentary approach to the horses. Joseph shares his father’s position of maintaining an operation with a sense of honesty, accomplishment and transparency, a position which is valued by Joe’s long-standing owners.

Among the yards many training successes include Ardbrae Lady, a distinguished high-class filly who finished second to Nightime in the 2006 Irish 1,000 Guineas, nine lengths ahead of Sir Mark Prescott’s Confidential Lady (by Singspiel).

Such was the class of this race that Prescott’s filly subsequently won the French Oaks, the £800,000 Group 1 Prix De Diane Hermes in Chantilly. Also finishing behind Ardbrae Lady in the 1,000 Guineas was Aidan O’Brien’s Queen Cleopatra (by Kingmambo) who had already claimed the Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial. By the time Ardbrae Lady was retired, she had won over €250,000 in prize money for her connections, an outstanding training result as the filly had initially been purchased for 20,000 guineas. Interestingly, her first foal, a colt by Galileo and subsequently named Jackaroo, was purchased for 230,000 Guineas by Coolmore chief, John Magnier. Jackaroo, a sound, precocious type has already won his maiden at the first time of asking.

Rose Hip, (Rossini – Rose Tint by Salse) is another mare that has also heralded much success, bred by Ballyhane Stud, Rose Hip previously won four valuable handicaps before gaining her first success in a Listed race in June 2010. Defying a large weight, Rose Hip won the nine furlong Class 1 Nijinsky Stakes at Leopardstown when beating the favourite, Jim Bolger’s Shintoh, a Giant’s Causeway half-brother to War Chant and Ivan Denisovich.

Joe Murphy is also the owner of Rose Hip; she is one of seven stakes winners by the Group 2 winner, Rossini. Rose Hip realised €10,000 as a yearling and although still in training, she should make an excellent broodmare with her progeny bound to be very popular at the sales and another success for the Crampscastle team.

Joe Murphy’s ascendancy into the top twenty flat trainers in Ireland has been built upon decades of experience and an ability to exceed expectations. His yard is renowned for dependability, value for money and results; it is a synergy of success and readiness. In an area of Ireland bejewelled with industry-leading training facilities, Joe Murphy’s is resplendent yet unobtrusive, without question, a testament to an honourable, gentleman trainer.

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