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Johnny Murtagh: Patience, trust, and a mighty fine jockey. My advice for Richard Hughes as he hangs up the saddle and goes into training

Jockey turned trainer Johnny Murtagh has been there, done it, and presumably got an XXS t-shirt. Here's his advice for Champion Richard Hughes as he hangs up his saddle at Goodwood and concentrates on a career in training

by Johnny Murtagh | July 31, 2015

The biggest challenge for Richard Hughes now, is that the buck will stop with him. As a jockey you can get off the horse and you tell the trainer and the owners what you think, and if the horse has run badly you have the safety of the weighing room to get back to. But as a trainer it’s down to you. You’re the one who stays with the horse, you feed him, you see him every day and every night, you work with them. If they have run badly then it is down to you to figure out why.

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The other issue is that a jockey like Richard Hughes is used to riding winners every day. You come to expect it. Training is a very different game. As much as we’d like to see him have winners every day, it simply doesn’t happen as a trainer. There are some spells you go through were the winners are hard to come by. As a jockey you might jump on a horse whose stable is out of form, but in the next race you hop on a different horse for a different yard and it romps home.

The most important thing is to remain patient and have faith in what you’re doing. Trust in yourself and stick with it through thick and thin. The only way you learn in life is making mistakes and messing up and that’s the philosophy I brought with me into my training career.

If I was to sit down with Richard tomorrow and could give him one piece of advice, I’d tell him to get good people around him. Get a good yard built up, good staff and secure a good jockey. A jockey is important, as Richard will know.

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As a jockey you are the one in control for the last few minutes of a very long process, so the pressures are completely different now. As a trainer there is a lot of hard work in the weeks and months beforehand. All of that planning, all of the training, everything is handed over to the jockey, and for the two or three minutes of that race it is out of your hands as a trainer. Whereas Richard Hughes used to have all of the power and control during the race, now as a trainer for those few minutes he has none. When the hard work is done and the trainer hands over the reins to the jockey, they have to be confident in their man. If the right people are around Richard Hughes, he won’t lose.

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There’s no feeling like winning, but it’s probably a bigger buzz for a trainer. You put in so much work, so much preparation, you study the horse every day and every night, and when it wins it is so satisfying. Those months of work are justified. As a jockey, you probably take winning for granted sometimes. But as a trainer, jockey, owner, any connection to the horse, there’s no better feeling than bagging a winner. Richard is looking forward to it and I’m sure he will be a success.

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