As Oisin Murphy prepares for his return, the stakes could hardly be higher.
Oisin Murphy’s stunning victory on Marche Lorraine in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar in November 2021 is one of my fondest racing memories. He had defeated William Buick, a rival in the weighing room, in a titanic battle for the British jockeys’ championship on the final day of Ascot. However, the champion was given a 14-month ban for violating Covid protocols and drinking alcohol.
On February 16, Murphy will be able to resume racing. For the former champion, nothing could be more important. Qatar Racing, his primary employer, has remained supportive of the jockey throughout his treatment for addictions.
Throughout his suspension, he has continued to ride only in Berkshire, partnering Andrew Balding’s top colts The Foxes and Chaldean in gallops at Kingsclere and riding for Ed Walker and Archie Watson of Lambourn.
Murphy was always good on horses and loved showjumping as a kid. Consequently, he recently won a class representing Ireland in the Sunshine Tour showjumping series in Spain.
The day after he failed a pre-race breath test at Newmarket on October 8, 2021, his girlfriend Lizzie Nielsen, the daughter of Stradivarius’ owner and breeder Bjorn, committed himself to his rehabilitation. Lizzie Nielsen has stood by him and supported him throughout the process.
When I met Murphy at George Boughey’s Newmarket stable, where he rode Missed The Cut, an intended runner in Saudi Arabia’s The Neom Turf Cup at the end of February, he appeared relaxed and focused. The jockey has recently lost 10 pounds, reaching a weight of 9 stone.
He is prepared to fight for his championship back and restart his career.
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