sport

O'Brien leads Murtagh praise

Aidan O'Brien and Frankie Dettori were among those to pay tribute to Johnny Murtagh after the jockey announced his retirement from the saddle.

Murtagh, 43, is widely regarded as one of the greatest riders of the modern era and partnered over 100 top-level winners at home and abroad during a stellar career.

He was stable jockey to O'Brien's powerful Ballydoyle operation between 2008 and 2010, riding such greats as Henrythenavigator, Duke Of Marmalade and incredible four-time Gold Cup hero Yeats.

O'Brien said: "Johnny was a wonderful rider and we had great years together when he rode for us.

"He will be a great trainer and we would like to wish him, Orla (Murtagh's wife) and all the family every success in the future."

The rider also had a successful spell with Sir Michael Stoute, while Jeremy Noseda, James Fanshawe and Motivator's trainer Michael Bell were others to call upon his services.

Bell said: "He was a very gifted jockey. I'll be forever grateful to him for his input - not only on the racecourse but his advice having ridden work which played a huge part in Motivator's three-year-old career.

"It was very hard for him to combine both jobs (riding and training), so I'm sure it was the sensible thing to do."

Murtagh also enjoyed a fruitful association with the Aga Khan, riding as his retained jockey until August 2012.

The owner's stud manager Pat Downes said: "He was one of the great, great jockeys and he had some fabulous days with the Aga Khan.

"He was a great man for the big occasion and a great man for the small occasion too. He was good at bringing young horses along and identifying horses he liked particularly at an early stage.

"He was an all-round jockey. We all know what Ascot brought out in him, but he was just a great man to have on your side on a big day

"He knew how to make a plan on how to ride a horse to big effect on a big day and was a great person too.

"He'll probably have it a little easier now. It wasn't easy for him riding way below what was his natural weight. He found it tough going, but he was very dedicated and I think he's going to have a great training career now.

"He's made such a wonderful start and I look forward to seeing the next chapter."

Frankie Dettori, who like Murtagh has been in the upper echelon of Flat jockeys for a number of years, paid tribute to his great friend and former colleague.

Dettori said: "Johnny is probably one of the best judges of pace I've ever come across and one of the most hard working and talented jockeys I've ever ridden against.

"I'm genuinely upset that he will no longer be in the weighing room when I go in there."

Eddie Lynam provided Murtagh with a number of big-race victories, with the jockey producing a typically brilliantly judged ride to get Sole Power up in the last stride of last summer's King's Stand at Royal Ascot.

The jockey's last ride was on the same horse in the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin in December.

"He's been a great jockey. It's a big loss to me, but we'll have to get on with it," said the County Meath handler.

"I was talking to him on Monday and wished him a happy retirement. He's going to be a good trainer now, so we will have to compete against him.

"He gave Sole Power a fantastic ride in the King's Stand. It was best summed up by James Willoughby that day. He said Johnny sold lengths when they were expensive and bought them when they were cheap.

"A top man, a very good jockey and I wish him well in his retirement."