Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power have both paid tribute to John Oxx as the legendary trainer prepares to retire at the end of the season.
Oxx, who saddled 33 Group 1 winners during a 41-year training career, is most famous for his handling of Sea The Stars during a spectacular 2009 campaign that saw victories in the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, the Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
However, Ruby’s favourite memory of the great man’s career is slightly more low key and centres on the Galway Handicap in 1996.
Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s twice-weekly From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, our resident jockey-turned-pundit fondly recalls how he avoided a telling off from Oxx before riding Garaiyba to his first big victory.
Ruby Walsh: My highlight of John Oxx’s incredible career most certainly will not be his highlight! My highlight was riding the winner of the big amateur handicap in Galway for him back in 1996!
I won on Garaiyba. I had ridden her at the Curragh before, giving her a pretty ordinary ride, and in typical John Oxx fashion he didn’t give out to me after the race.
Johnny Murtagh had to correct me about it in Galway so I changed the tactics and she won the big amateur handicap carrying top weight. As an amateur then, I was claiming 5lbs off her in 1996.
That was definitely my highlight of my association with John Oxx, as it was a race that I had won – but my dad had never managed to win – although he did win what we now know as the Amateur Derby for John Oxx when it was run at Fairyhouse, back in the day.
John Oxx trained Sinndar to win the Irish Derby the same year I won the Aintree Grand National aboard Papillon. Obviously, years later, Sea The Stars was the horse of a lifetime and John Oxx is the only trainer to ever win a Newmarket Guineas, the Epsom Derby and an Arc with the same horse in the same season.
Paddy echoed Ruby’s thoughts, with the main man praising Oxx for the consistent performance of his horses and their ability to compete around the world.
Paddy Power: Sea The Stars trumps everything for me. It can’t just be luck to get the horses sound for a race every time. To keep a horse humming for that long through a season, as well as going abroad and travelling all the time, is special.
We’ve talked about the comparison with Frankel, saying he didn’t have to travel, and the away game is always harder. That one particular horse, Sea The Stars, is a testament to a man who didn’t have as big an operation as Coolmore etc but was still able to do it.
To be a trainer you need lots more than just a knack with horses. You need to be able to run a yard and plan a programme for all the horses in your yard so its a big, complex operation. For someone to do it as calmly and as gentlemanly as John Oxx always has is quite something.
I’ve met him many times over the years, as he was good friends with my mum and dad, and he is very quiet, but what a gentleman. Just a lovely, lovely man and I wish him all the best in his retirement. He is a man full of integrity, and that is something very important.
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