When Darren Hope took a knee to disallow the Gordon Elliott-trained hotpot Minella Crooner in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Chase at Punchestown in November, Bob Murphy earned instant fame after a lifetime of involvement in horses.
It was the biggest success of the three-horse trainer’s career, a career that has always been focused on racing the mares he produces, a hobby in itself.
Milking 100 cows at Cappuquin was a day job until last March, but like his Villierstown neighbor Paddy Corkery, he became an overnight sensation thanks to one success – in Corkery’s case the Grade 1 Faugheen Chase at Limerick on St Stephen’s Day 2021 – and an interview classified as colorful.
This is the trend nowadays, especially when people from rural settings behave normally and are new to the viewer. Due to lives spent outside the day-to-day grind of the racing bubble and operating away from any sort of spotlight or crowds, Murphy and Corkery eschew cliches and codes and speak from the heart. They also saw that it meant something to them, and of course it did.
Something must be happening at Blackwater, and the pair’s success is based on a racing dream. In fact, they are more remarkable than ever given their increasing rarity. Like Corkery, Murphy has been breeding for years, doing well for Darren Hope’s half-brother and Harry Fry, a five-time winner for Acting Lass, as well as his connections to Julie Stowaway.
Darren’s Hope was born, raised and trained here and still has his dam, Darren’s Lass, who has a mature eye on development.
“When our son Darren was a baby, we called the mare Darren’s Lass,” he says. “She’s 27 now. She’s flying around. I’ve had three weddings to her now. I have Walk in the Park and another Oscar (a full-sister to Darren’s Hope), Darrence Diamond. She has Walk in the Park There’s a colt to walk with and again there’s a colt to walk in the park with. Hopefully this year I’ll be able to get a colt to sell, but we’ll be keeping all the stuffed kids.”
Darren’s Hope is just about to exercise when Murphy takes the opening call on Thursday and, thankfully, the mood is good when we meet in Portlaw to chat right on the way home from Lord Waterford’s Curraghmore estate gallops.
“She does a lot of work, but I gave her a bit of a break after Punchestown, so we are building her back up now. We know from this stage that she is ridden when she is ready, so it doesn’t matter Doesn’t matter who she’s working with.
“Punchstown was great. I knew there was something big in her. She didn’t run a race in the Munster National, but she hated being restrained. She would only do what you asked her to do, and if you didn’t ask her, she Won’t do it. But she tries so hard… She’s a wicked honest mare. She’s a big mare, so she wants soft ground. She has 17 hands. There are very few mares like her across the country. Across the country People from all over the world are coming to see her. Even Gordon (Elliot) came to see her one day. He said she was one of the finest mares in the country. Willie Mullins said the same thing last day.
Darren’s Hope needs some horses to go in the Thystes Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday. It is a race with a rich tradition and one Murphy would love to take part in. Potential testing conditions will suit him, but not every horse may allow him to sneak in.
Another potential fly in the ointment is the availability of Danny Mullins, whose Uncle Willie may need his services. “If she doesn’t come in, she’s ready to run, so she’ll go elsewhere very quickly. If Danny isn’t available, I’ll run her into someone else too. Danny’s a great guy with speed, and It suits him. I think he’s a great rider. Not many people judge from the front like he can. He loves the mare too; he’s crazy about riding her, and hopefully that it will be available.
Beyond next week, the Irish Grand National has been penciled in. And then, there’s the task of carrying on a carefully cultivated ancestral line.
“I would say this year could be her last year, and we will breed her. She is nine now. She will either go abroad or a walk in the park, one or the other. I am now trying to do the best I can along that line. Going on and will continue to make it.
“We were always looking at Thyestes; It would be great to win, and she’ll have a good chance if she gets in. Then we’ll probably look at the Irish Nationals. The horse (Frontal Assault) who defeated him at Galway in October was second in the Irish National. If she can do that, she will be fit to run well.
hope springs eternal.