AP McCoy heaps praise on retiring Derby great Johnny Murtagh
AP McCoy last night described Johnny Murtagh as one of the best jockeys he has ever seen, following the triple Epsom Derby winner's announcement that he is retiring from the saddle to concentrate on training.
Crowned Irish champion jockey on five occasions, the 43-year-old is widely regarded as one of the greatest riders of the modern era and partnered numerous big-race winners in all corners of the globe.
"Best wishes 2 @JohnnyMurtagh in his retirement, top bloke, one of the best jockeys I've ever seen & has already proven himself a top trainer," tweeted Ulster great McCoy, last month named Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year.
Murtagh bows out after an incredible 2013 in which his triumphs included Novellist's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes success and four Royal Ascot wins.
In a 26-year career the Meath native won three Derbys, four Irish Derbys and five Gold Cups, including two on the great Yeats.
"I went for a run the other day and during it I started to think about the amount of effort that I have to put in and I just don't think I have the time to give to being a jockey any more," said Murtagh, who started training last year in Kildare.
"We have a lot on this season, with 24 new stables here and 45 horses riding out. I didn't want to give riding 30 per cent and training 70 per cent. All my life it has been 100 per cent or nothing," he said.
"The training side of things is getting bigger all the time. It's the right time to call it a day with the riding and put everything into the training side."
Top jockey Frankie Dettori was among those who paid tribute.
Murtagh and Dettori enjoyed many thrilling battles down the years and the Italian admits Murtagh will be missed.
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."
Leading trainer Aidan O'Brien was full of praise for Murtagh, his former stable jockey.
O'Brien said: "Johnny was a wonderful rider and we had great years together. He will be a great trainer."