Johnny Murtagh has opened up on the secrets to his recent success after the jockey-turned-trainer secured his first Group 1 victory in the training ranks with Champers Elysees on Saturday.
The 50-year-old was in the stands at Leopardstown to see his charge win the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes, and Murtagh feels that triumph has been a long time coming.
Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s now twice-weekly From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, the Curragh conjuror explained that the key to training is in the detail – while he also admitted he is often harder than he should be on his jockeys.
“I think now it’s not just that I hear ‘oh his stable’s really in form this year’,” he said. “If you look back at our stats over the last couple of years, we have been very consistent.
“You know the horses can win in March, they can go right through the season running well and they can also win in November.
“We’re not doing anything different – I think we have a better calibre of horse, but, of course, health is everything in Ireland.
“I think anybody can get them fit – it’s just managing them, their minds, freshening them up between races, getting them up, letting them down – that’s the key for me and I think we have done that really, really well.
“We’ve a good system here. We have paddocks out the back so horses can go out for 15 or 20 minutes after they ride out. I think they enjoy that – it’s the little details that you have to pick up on.
“And I feed them every night at half nine – it’s a brilliant time to see the horses. You go out there, you’re on your own, you see them in their real comfortable environment and the signs are there.
“I know by the way I feed them how they are, if that makes sense to you? You just know by looking at them.”
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Murtagh enjoyed a stellar career in the saddle, winning all the Irish Classics, UK Classics, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as well as all the Group 1 races at Royal Ascot and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.
Such success means he sets high standards for his staff to match, and jockeys would do well to avoid him in the aftermath of a bad result.
“I’m very tough but I’m very fair on my staff, I think,” he said.
“I tell them exactly how it is – I don’t want any surprises. If there’s something going on, I should know about it.
“I try and step back – let any new people get involved and let them see what the guys that have been here all the time do. And you know after a week or two if they’re going to stay with you or not.
“In fairness to the jockeys, I’m probably a little bit harder on them, than I should be.
“I was talking to Ruby Walsh about this and I was saying: ‘why don’t they do this or why don’t they do that? “They should know this or they should know that.
“Not all of them do, but I’m very happy with the riders we have at the moment.
“If I am annoyed [with them], I just say ‘don’t say anything, just look at the video and ring me on the way home.
“I think the lads are getting to get to know me now.”
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