Johnny Murtagh and the 30-question HRI challenge

Johnny Murtagh and the 30-question HRI challenge

Meath Sportsperson of the Year in 2009, Bohermeen man and former champion jockey now training and living in Kildare Johnny Murtagh took the Horse Racing Ireland 30-question challenge for the Meath Chronicle in the seventh of our series.


Not exactly a big race but a big race for the Murtagh clan in 2005 as the aptly-named Dream Catch and Johnny Murtagh won a 40-70 handicap at Fairyhouse and was welcomed into the winners' enclosure by a happy owner and wife Orla Murtagh and her father the legendary Michael 'Babs' Keating.


1. What was your childhood ambition?

To be a Meath footballer

2. Growing up, who was your sporting hero?

Michael Jordan

3. Do you have a mentor?


4. What or where is your happy place?

Being at home with my family

5. What sparked your love of racing?

Watching the 1981 Epsom Derby. Shergar won it, ridden by the nineteen-year-old Walter Swinburn

6. What horse put you on the map?

Sinndar. Trained on The Curragh by John Oxx.

He ran eight times and won seven races including giving me my first wins in the English Derby, the Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2000. We had a brilliant season together.

7. Your favourite horse?

Too many to mention – I have been very lucky to ride some amazing horses.

8. What was it like to ride in your first race?

It was over too quickly

9. How long does it take to learn race-riding tactics?

You develop your skills over time, but you are always learning.

10. Describe the feeling of riding/training your first winner?

Huge relief followed by huge satisfaction!

11. What is your most memorable racing moment?

Arc day in 2000. I won three Group 1 races including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sinndar.

12. Your favourite Irish racecourse?

The Curragh

13. If you weren’t a trainer what would you be?

Anything to do with sport.

14. If you could ride/train one horse, what would it be?

I’d love to have ridden Frankel and train André Fabre’s Earthlight.

15. How do you cope with pressure?

I don’t do pressure; I love the competition.

16. What mental preparation do you do for the big days?

As a jockey, I always tried to enjoy it and always had a mental picture of winning the race.

17. How do you stay motivated?

One more winner!!

18. How do you deal with dips in form?

I always try to stay positive

19. Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?

Watching my children compete in all the sport they play.

20. Can you give us a Netflix/film recommendation?


21. What is your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate from the fridge and a cup of tea

22. Desert island discs – name your favourite three songs?

Anything from Ed Sheeran

23. What person do you admire the most and why?

My wife Orla. We are still together after 25 years

24. Favourite dinner?

Steak and chips

25. Where is your favourite place to go on holidays?


26. What ambitions do you still have?

To keep improving on my trainer statistics

27. What is the hidden gem of Meath?

Headfort Golf Club in Kells – gorgeous!

28. When you think of your home what immediately springs to mind?

Homely, comfortable and all my family around us.

29. If you had one piece of advice for everyone during these worrying times of covid-19, what would it be?

Stay positive and enjoy the easy things in life. Your health is your wealth, so stay safe.

30. If you were to go back to when you were 20 years old and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stay humble, work hard and believe in yourself.

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