Conor stays Focus-ed after ‘unbelievable’ win

It says a lot about a man who has just scooped over €1.5m when he says his Ford Focus will do fine for another while, he’ll continue his 6am work regime, and he has no intention of packing up the arduous hours of a stable lad.

Such is the endearing attitude of Ballineen, Co Cork’s new racing millionaire, Conor Murphy.

Murphy, 28, who works for trainer Nicky Henderson in Lambourn, picked up the cash after correctly predicting the winners of five Cheltenham races — all trained by Henderson.

The windfall offers West Cork a second reason to remember the 2012 festival, following Castletownkinneigh’s Noel Fehilly’s win on board Rock on Ruby in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle.

“It’s unbelievable,” Murphy beamed last night. “You can understand that it hasn’t really sunk in yet and probably won’t for another few days. How could you think you’d ever be lucky enough to win it anyway?”

Murphy, a horse racing enthusiast since he could reach up to stirrups recalled of his extraordinary week.

“Sprinter Sacre won on the Tuesday in the Arkle, he was our best chance of the week so when he won I wasn’t really thinking any more about it. It’s tough enough to get one winner at Cheltenham but going there on Wednesday, we did fancy Simonsig a lot as well, but the other three were going to be the tougher.

“Bobs Worth obliged in the RSA Chase but Finian’s Rainbow in the Queen Mother was going to be difficult. I do a lot with him, I ride him every day and I was fairly nervous. When he won, it was the highlight of the week, the highlight of my racing life. I was so happy with that I wasn’t even thinking about the accumulator but later on that evening, it occurred to me that Riverside Theatre was the only one left.”

Unbelievably he obliged too. “When he won, I dunno, it’s impossible to put into words the feeling.”

Conor was quick to distribute praise to where he feels necessary, and none more so than the pilot who made it happen, Barry Geraghty.

“I owe that man a night out on the town because the ride he gave that horse Wednesday [Riverside Theatre], you won’t see a better ride anywhere.

“When he’d won I just thought, this can’t be. You just don’t think about it because you say it’s not going to happen first of all. You’re not going to win that much money and you don’t think you could have that much luck with one horse, not to mind five. I’ve really had the most unbelievable week you could ever have.

“A few of the lads knew that I had the bet on and they were all ringing me so I said I’d better ring the mother before she found out off someone else.

“I rang her and said, ‘Mum, I presume you’ve heard about me’? ‘No, she replied’, ‘well I’ve won a few quid’ I told her.

“She asked how much and I said I’ve won a million. She obviously thought I was joking.

“It’ll take another few days to sink in all the way. I’ll be coming home now in a couple of weeks and we’ll have a right old session.”

The fairytale story began on Dec 23 when Murphy said he’d take a chance on the horses he believed represented Henderson’s best five. It’s always been like that. If we had a horse running that we fancy I’d put a few [pounds] down but I wouldn’t be a big punter so, you know 50 quid, for the sake of it, I said it was worth a shot.”

As regards his future, which he admits he “hasn’t thought about”. Murphy is adamant he’ll stay right where he is.

“I did the Irish National Stud course when I finished St Brogan’s [in Bandon], it’s a six-month thoroughbred breeding course, very hands-on so you’re working during the day, with a little extra in the afternoon. It’s a great grounding for anyone who wants to get into thoroughbred racing. After that I got a scholarship here in England to work with Nicky Henderson. I came here and ended up staying for two years and then went to America and came back here in 2008. I’ve been here since.

“I’ll definitely stay working. I’ve made no plans because I never thought about this happening. But I’ll be having a nice long holiday in the summer anyway. I might have a few.

“I’ve a Ford Focus there and she’s ticking over like a mouse’s heart so I’ll be happy out with her for another while. I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas. I might go to Barbados for a while, I’ll keep my options open.”

Hailing his stable hand’s “amazing” foresight, trainer Henderson said: “Everybody here is absolutely thrilled for him.

“It was just an amazing piece of foresight. Just the chances of all five getting to Cheltenham and all of them running in the right races, that would be long odds, particularly as with Simonsig we didn’t even know what race he would be running in until the other week.”

Mr Henderson added: “He’s in work this morning — he is one of the linchpins here. He’s the most lovely man though, a fantastic guy and very quiet. He rides out Finian’s Rainbow every day of the week and he would probably know more than anyone else in the world about that horse. Finian’s is very special to him.”

Bookmaker Paddy Power said the odds of the horses in December, when the bet was placed, were Sprinter Sacre (10/1), Simonsig (14/1), Bobs Worth (10/1), Finian’s Rainbow (8/1) and Riverside Theatre (9/1).

A spokesman for Paddy Power said: “That comes in at odds of 163,350/1. I’m glad we dodged that one.”

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