OISIN Murphy and Cieren Fallon received the accolades before the racing action began on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot, as the were crowned top flat jockey and apprentice respectively.
Murphy took the apprentice title just five years ago and has developed into one of the best jockeys in the business, while Fallon was the surprise package of the fledgling ranks at the start of the campaign.
At the age of 24, Murphy, is the youngest to win the senior title since Ryan Moore lifted the title at 23 in 2006. The Irish-born rider has only been in action in Britain since 2013 – but his rise to stardom has been startling.
Following an excellent grounding at Andrew Balding’s Kingsclere stables, Murphy is retained by Qatar Racing and is an ambassador for Qipco, improving his seasonal tally year on year.
For the actual duration of the championship that began on Guineas weekend at Newmarket in May, Murphy finished well clear of his closest pursuer Danny Tudhope.
He was handed his trophy by world heptathlon gold medal winner Katrina Johnson-Thompson.
“I’m both relieved and delighted I managed to do it, as I set my stall out to be champion and it has been a lifelong ambition. I’m delighted,” he said.
“I’d love to win another jockeys’ championship one day, but it won’t always go as well as it has this year and whether I can do it again next year, I don’t know.”
His family from Killarney were out in force and his mother, Maria, said: “It is absolutely amazing and beyond everyone’s expectations. It has been a hard slog, but he has got there in the end. Now it is all over we can breathe.
“It has been tough going on him physically and emotionally, but his driver and his agent have taken so much of the pressure off him.
“He has had wonderful support from owners and trainers. Without all that he couldn’t be where he is.
“He was 17 before he got his licence, which is quite old, but with his determination when he was allowed to take it all he wanted was to ride at the best of his ability and with that came the winners.
“His determination and ambitions have always been huge and that has played a huge part in it.
“He travels the country taking all these rides as he wants to improve all the time. This is hopefully the start of many, but he will have set another goal for next year.
“The Group 1s were a bit thin on the ground and I’d imagine more of them will be in the goals for next year.”
Murphy is the nephew of Jim Culloty, rider of triple Cheltenham Gold Cup-winner Best Mate. He was there to join in the celebrations, and said: “It’s been a great year for him and a fantastic result for sure.
“He has worked very hard and it has paid dividends. He has been a lot more successful than I ever was.
“He is highly talented and very bright. He has got all sides of the business covered. As well as being a great rider he is a very pure man that gets on with people and works hard.
“He gets on well with trainers, is polite and has all the attributes you need to succeed. He is one of those fellows that would be good at whatever he did, as he is bright and hard working and talented.
“I’m extremely proud, as are the whole family, as he is a nice lad with everything – with all the success, he is very grounded and there is no big-headedness.
“Fingers crossed it will be the first of many, but with the flat jockeys they usually have to make a choice of wanting to be champion jockey or win big races.”
Rookie to champion
Cieren Fallon was certainly born to be a jockey, being the son of six-times champion Kieren and retired successful rider Julie Bowker, but no one expected him to go from complete rookie to head the apprentice ranks in just 12 months.
From just four winners in 2018, the 20-year-old’s progress has been nothing short of remarkable as he chalked up 58 winners to seal the honours and take his claim down to just 3lbs.
Fallon, who is attached to William Haggas’ yard in Newmarket, said: “Amazing. It’s only just sinking in. It’s a great feeling.
“I couldn’t have imagined his 12 months ago. It’s been a real surprise to me and the family, but I’ve had a lot of help along all the way and I’m delighted that I’ve finally achieved this.
“It’s going to push me on for next year to go for it again. It will be a big ask, but hopefully I can do it again next year.”