Jockey turned trainer brings prospect to Block House

Published 9:25 am Friday, April 22, 2011

Trainer Cyril Murphy (right) with jockey Roddy McKenzie. (photo submitted)

Maryland-based steeplechase trainer Cyril Murphy says you have to start somewhere. And when Murphy saddles newbie jumper “Inti” on April 23 for the 65th running of the Block House Steeplechase, it will hopefully be a day of “firsts,” and not just at the finish line. For Inti, it will be his first time racing over fences and Murphy’s first time watching the races from the tower, instead of riding in them.
The Irish native was the winner of the 2001 $150,000 Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase on Quel Senor. His last trip to Tryon was in 2006, when he blew away the competition in the The Bright’s Creek Race on the scopey jumper, Brave Intent. Murphy went on to place second that day in the Budweiser Cup and the Carolina First race.
Having ridden and worked for some of the greatest racing legends in the sport, in America and the UK, Murphy has learned from the best. A graduate of the British Racing School, his first job as a jockey was under the tutelage of Sir Mark Prescott, hailed in the UK as one of the top trainers in flat track history. In 2000, Murphy came to the United States and got his first break riding for the National Steeplechase Association’s all-time leading trainer, Jonathan Sheppard. Now it’s Murphy’s turn to take what he has learned and put it to work on Inti.
While the 6-year-old thoroughbred may be new to jumping, he is no stranger to winning. Owned by Meritage Racing, a thoroughbred horse racing syndicate out of Southern California, Inti was born in South America and raced as a 4-year-old up and down the East Coast. Last year, owner Brook Smith of Louisville, Ky. thought it was time for Inti to pursue a new career and sent him to Murphy to learn the art of jump racing.
“From day one, he was a perfect gentleman,” explained Murphy. “Inti is a very talented, powerful horse, yet gentle enough that we can lead my daughter around on him with a halter and lead rope. That is a rare combination in a race horse. But make no mistake; it is in his nature to try his heart out.”
Coming off impressive wins on the flat at the Montpelier Hunt Races last November, Inti took first place in March at the Green Spring Valley Point to Point at Shawan Downs, where Murphy served as both trainer and jockey. But on Saturday, Murphy will turn the reins over to Champion Apprentice Jockey, Roddy McKenzie, for Inti’s maiden voyage over fences.
“Roddy won on him in Virginia and we’re hoping he will get the horse around safe and strong on Saturday,” said Murphy. “I have no trouble trusting him to give Inti a good ride.”
Because Murphy has firsthand experience as a jockey riding the Block House course, he feels he has insider knowledge of the course’s lush turf, tricky turns and infamous hill.
“I’ve schooled Inti up and down hills and his last two races have been on soft turf, which he likes,” Murphy said. “I’m hoping the mountain ground will be to his liking. He has never put a foot wrong since I’ve trained him. He’s just a straightforward, kind fellow and I wish him the best.”

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