Former champion jockey Johnny Murtagh has described his split from the Aga Khan last season as “a horrible moment” in his career.
Murtagh was the retained rider for the Aga Khan until a shock split last August which was officially due to “differences between the two parties”.
Murtagh was sidelined by injury at the time of the event that caused the split. The former champion jockey owns stables on the Curragh from where Tommy Carmody is based, and the split came just days after Carmody’s Ursa Major beat the Aga Khan-owned and John Oxx-trained Hartani in a Curragh Group Three.
Murtagh’s loyalty to the Prince was called into question after the race. The split came as a major shock to the Irish racing industry as it is a role that Murtagh has held exclusively since parting company with Ballydoyle in 2010 and the relationship between Murtagh and the Aga Khan spans back almost two decades.
“John Oxx’s horse was hot favourite and ours was seven or 8-1. I thought he might run a place and it just happened that Ursa Major came and pipped the Aga Khan’s horse,” he told RTE 1′s Ear To The Ground programme.
“What made it worse that I was there with him (Ursa Major). I was just delighted that the horse won. Beating John Oxx’s (horse) wasn’t great, but I was out injured at the time and my loyalty was not broken in any way.
“I felt that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I got a call straight away and I was asked to speak to the (stud) manager and that was it. I look back on it now from the other side of the fence and I suppose I was probably naive, but I was only trying to show everybody what I could do.
“I felt very sad. It was a horrible moment in my career, but when I look from the other side, maybe I should have seen it coming a bit earlier.”
Murtagh recently returned to action after recovering from a skiing injury and he is looking forward to the upcoming campaign, in roles in and out of the saddle.
Murtagh said: “I can see myself being busy, both as a jockey and assistant trainer to Mr Carmody.
“We’ve a lot of nice horses this year, and hopefully we can build on what we did last year.
“I think the best is yet to come.”