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Ciaran Murphy determined to enjoy National challenge

Ciaran Murphy is hoping Enjoy D’allen can help take his training career to the next level with victory in the Randox Grand National at Aintree.

The Mullingar-based handler may only have held a licence for little over a year, but he is certainly not a newcomer to the sport after spending well over two decades as assistant to Dot Love.

Having been a key part of the team that prepared Liberty Counsel to spring a surprise in the 2013 Irish Grand National, Murphy took over the reins at Charlestown Stud in Mullingar following Love’s retirement in January 2021, and has ambitious plans.

“I’ve been here with Dot for the last 25 years, building up the business with her,” he said.

“We’ve done a lot of point-to-pointers and breaking of young horses for Gigginstown and Paul and Clare Rooney and various other people, as well as training horses for ourselves.

Liberty Counsel (centre) winning the Irish Grand National
Liberty Counsel (centre) winning the Irish Grand National (Julien Behal/PA)

“Liberty Counsel won an Irish National for us and that was a lovely boost for the yard at the time.

“Since I took over we’ve gone more towards having horses to run and we’re just trying to up the quality and having nicer horses to run and compete in Ireland.

“That’s what we’re striving for – to get more numbers and more quality and go and compete. You don’t want to be sat at home when Cheltenham and Aintree and Punchestown are on – you want to have runners.

“Winning the Grand National would be a good leg-up!”

It did not take Murphy long to make his mark, with Enjoy D’allen making a successful debut for the yard in a novice chase at Fairyhouse within a couple of weeks of getting his name on the door.

He went on to win again in handicap company at Thurles and rounded off his campaign by being beaten just over four lengths into third in the Irish National – and Murphy has had his sights set on Aintree ever since.

He added: “We earmarked this horse as a National-type horse a good while ago. He was third in the Irish National last year and it was always the plan to go for the English National after that.

“He won twice after I’d taken out the licence and has been a good horse for us so far.

“He ran over hurdles in Fairyhouse first time up this season and we were delighted with his run to finish third in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

“After that he had a nice run in the big handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival and it was always the plan after that to keep him fresh for Aintree.”

JP McManus has bought Enjoy D'Allen
JP McManus has bought Enjoy D’Allen (PA)

Enjoy D’allen will carry new colours in the great race, with JP McManus having made the Railway View Stud Partnership an offer they could not refuse.

“I have to thank the previous owners for sending him to me. He came from Peter Fahey’s going the right way and he’s just improved and continued to mature,” said Murphy.

“It’s great for us to have JP McManus come on board. We’ve had an Irish National winner before and we’re very confident that with the right horse we can do that again.”

Murphy’s trip to Aintree will be a family affair as he is set to be joined by twin brother Joseph – a successful event rider who competed for Ireland in 2012 Olympics – and younger brother Aaron.

“Aaron rides in point-to-points and is my head lad, so he’ll travel over with the horse and Joseph will join us on the day of the race,” Murphy continued.

“Joseph is a professional event rider. I started off eventing myself originally, but then I went riding and training a few point-to-pointers and worked my way up that way.

“We all started from nothing really and built our way up and we’ve ended up here. We really appreciate where we are now and work hard for it, so we’re going to make the most of it.”

Ahead of his bid for National glory, Murphy is taking inspiration from Gordon Elliott, who had not even trained a winner in Ireland when striking Aintree gold with Silver Birch in 2007.

He said: “I think the Grand National is on everybody’s radar growing up – and I suppose when you see Gordon Elliott winning it as a young lad, it shows it can be done.

Gordon Elliott with Silver Birch
Gordon Elliott with Silver Birch (Niall Carson/PA)

“Gordon started with nothing and to see what he’s achieved is remarkable. Watching Silver Birch win proved that it is an achievable goal if you get lucky and get the right horse.

“Gordon achieved that with a very small number of horses and it’s something I haven’t forgotten as it shows it is doable with a small yard of horses – that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

Given Enjoy D’allen will head for Merseyside as a leading contender, Murphy could be forgiven for feeling the nerves – but he is doing his best to keep his feet on the ground.

“It’s obviously very exciting for everyone concerned,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be a nervous type. I’d like to think myself that I’ll be able to take the pressure, but this is a different kettle of fish!

“You’re going to an English National with a very nice horse who you’re hoping will run a massive race, so I’m sure it’s going to have a different effect on me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“We do think he’s a National horse. If he jumps the first two or three fences and takes to it well, you know you’ve a half-decent chance.

“After that, if we get a bit of luck on the day, you never know what might happen.”

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