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Double life of horse racing hero

By Paul Gittings, CNN
updated 6:06 AM EDT, Fri July 26, 2013
  • Johnny Murtagh is one of the most successful jockeys of modern era
  • 43-year-old Irishman won both the Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2000
  • Murtagh has been granted a license to train and has already had winners
  • Was leading jockey at Royal Ascot this year

Editor's note: Winning Post is CNN's monthly horse racing show. Click here for program times and latest features.

(CNN) -- Johnny Murtagh has a simple philosophy which has served him well during his glittering career as one of the leading jockeys in the world of thoroughbred racing.

"I just want to win and make my horses go as fast as they can for as long as they can," he told CNN's Winning Post.

The 43-year-old Irishman can mount to an ever-growing list of Group One triumphs as proof of his success in the saddle, but is now also saddling up winners in his dual career as a trainer.

Murtagh was granted his license earlier this year and has a string of horses in a stables at the home of Irish racing in the Curragh, which he owns.

During his short training career, Murtagh has already turned out a steady flow of winners and given his pedigree it is hardly surprising he has set his sights very high.

"My training ambitions are big," he said. "I start off and look at my horses and think all of my horses are Group One horses."

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Former jockey Tommy Carmody also operates out of the stables, training the horses of influential owner Andrew Tinkler, a rich businessman who has invested heavily in Irish and English racing.

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The stables had their first Group One success in the Irish St. Leger last year and others are predicted to challenge the likes of the Ballydoyle operation of all-conquering trainer Aidan O'Brien.

Murtagh was surprisingly dropped as retained jockey to owner the Aga Khan -- he described it as a "horrible moment" -- amid reports that the decision centered on the jockey's close relationship with a rival stables.

In a prestigious race at the Curragh last year, Carmody's Ursa Major beat the John Oxx-trained Hartani for the Aga Khan.

Three days later came news of the parting of the ways.

But Murtagh has continued to ride winners, finishing as leading jockey at this year's Royal Ascot, with his latest success at top level coming on French challenger Chicquita at the Irish Oaks.

Read: Racing's battle of the sexes, on four legs

When I was just a jockey I always thought I liked horses, but I can now see why trainers love their horses
Johnny Murtagh

It was Murtagh's sixth victory in the prestigious race and underlined again his dual life is not hampering his abilities.

"It's usually when you retire you pack up your bags and start training, but I'm still riding well," he said.

Murtagh has had three wins in the Epsom Derby with Sinndar, High Chaparral and Motivator. He doubled up with Sinndar in 2000 to take the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's most prestigious race.

He believes his intimate knowledge of riding the best horses in the world give him a unique insight as a trainer.

Read: Royal Ascot Enclosure: My Lords and Fair Ladies

"You can't beat sitting on them yourself to get the feel of them and to see what suits them best."

But he admits that gaining his training license has made him appreciate his horses even more.

"When I was just a jockey I always thought I liked horses, but I can now see why trainers love their horses, they are part of your family and you just want to do the best for them."

Murtagh told CNN that training was a "real eye opener" and clearly believes he has plenty to learn, but having worked as a jockey for masters of the craft like O'Brien and Oxx, will surely learn the ropes quickly in his new training career.

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