The simple answer is yes, they are. Oisin Murphy, who became British Champion Jockey for the first time in 2019 is, in fact, the nephew of Jim Culloty, best known as the jockey of three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate and Grand National winner Bindaree.
Raised in Killarney, County Kerry, in southwestern Ireland, Murphy originally harboured an ambition to become a showjumper. However, at the age of 14 he began riding in unsanctioned horse races, colloquially known as ‘flappers’, contested by bona fide racehorses, but ridden by children. By his own admission, race riding did not come naturally to the young Murphy and, on reviewing the races in which he had ridden, alongside his uncle, was often reduced to tears by the pitiless criticism of his riding ability.
Nevertheless, Murphy perservered as a jockey and, in 2013, became apprenticed to Andrew Balding at Park House Stables in Kingsclere, near Newbury, Berkshire. That September, Murphy hit the headlines by riding a 9,260/1 four-timer on Ayr Gold Cup Day, including the winner of the Ayr Gold Cup itself, Highland Colori. In 2016, Murphy succeeded Andrea Atzeni as the only jockey retained by Qatar Racing and it is in the familiar claret with gold braid colours that he has enjoyed his finisest moments. Indeed, it was in those colours that he rode his first Group One winner, Roaring Lion, in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park in July, 2018.
Despite repeated calls from animal rights groups, including Animal Aid, to ban the use of the whip in British horse racing, on the grounds that whipping is cruel, painful and intimidatory, the modern jockey’s whip is a far cry from the traditional, leather riding crop. Nowadays, the regulatory body for horse racing in Britain, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), has strict rules regarding the construction and dimensions of whips permitted in racing, not to mention number of times and manner in which whips can be used.
The current design of the whip, developed in association with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), is intended to create a loud noise and encourage a horse to move forward, without creating discomfort or injury. The modern jockey’s whip consists of a composite backbone, surrounded by polymer, or plastic, and encased in thick, high-density foam padding. At the time of writing, ProCush, which makes whips by hand, to custom specifications, is the only accredited supplier of whips for use in British horse racing. Furthermore, whips are inspected by the Clerk of the Scales when jockeys weigh out for each race to ensure that they conform to the appropriate standards and remain fit for purpose.
Nowadays, Jim Crowley is best known as first-choice jockey to leading owner Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, having replaced Paul Hanagan in that role in November, 2016. His appointment came shortly after he had been crowned Champion Jockey for the first and, so far, only time the previous month.
However, while Crowley began his career as an amateur, riding on the Flat for the like of John White and Ron Hodges, in the late Nineties he switched his affiliation to National Hunt racing. Riding predominantly for West Yorkshire trainer Sue Smith, Crowley racked up over 250 winners in that sphere and once rode in the Grand National, albeit parting company with his mount, 150/1 outsider Art Prince, at the very first fence.
In 2006, at the behest of his father-in-law, Guy Harwood, Crowley switched back to the Flat and began riding for his sister-in-law, Amanda Perrett, based in Pulborough, West Sussex. In 2007, Crowley rode 92 winners, nearly double his previous seasonal best under National Hunt Rules, 47, recorded in 2004/5, and rode over a hundred winners in 2008 and 2009, before joining Ralph Beckett as stable jockey in 2010. He recorded his first Group One winner, Prohibit, trained by Robert Cowell, in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011 and went freelance in 2014.
At the time of writing, Tom Marquand has recently hit the headlines by riding his first Royal Ascot winner, Who Dares Wins, in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, just 24 hours after his partner, Hollie Doyle, did likewise on Scarlet Dragon, in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, for the same connections. Earlier in 2020, with British racing suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Marquand continued to ply his trade, behind closed doors, in Australia. Indeed, on March 20, he recorded his first Group One victory on Addeybb, trained by William Haggas, in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill and his second, on the same horse, in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick the following month.
Winning trainer William Haggas said of Marquand, ‘…I’ve said several times I believe him to be a future champion over here. I hope he stays in England to prove it.’
Born on March 30, 1998, so still only 22, Marquand has enjoyed a spectacular rise through the ranks. A graduate from the field of pony racing, he became apprenticed to Richard Hannon in 2014 and rode the one and only winner of his debut season, the two-year-old Mecado, in a four-runner selling stakes race at Kempton in December that year. However, less than a year later, in October, 2015, Marquand was crowned Champion Apprentice, edging out his nearest rival, Jack Garrity, 54-52 on the final day of the season.