John Oxx – The Quiet and Respected Trainer Leaves the Stage

There are a few race horse trainers who not only have the ability to train and place horses to their best advantage, but also have extraordinary wisdom in what they do. John Oxx, who has recently announced his retirement, is one.

John Oxx was born in 1950. His father John Oxx Snr, was also a very well respected trainer of the time, successfully training the winners of eight Irish Classic races. It was also in 1950, that Oxx Snr brought stables near the Curragh racecourse, Currabeg Stables.

As a student, John Oxx attended Dublin University where he read veterinary medicine before returning to Carrabeg stables as assistant trainer to his father in 1973. Six years later John Oxx took over the trainers license from his father and has remained as the master of Currabeg Stables ever since. In 1974, Oxx married Caitriona and has three children.

It was not long before Oxx had a success on the board with Orchestra, his first Group winner. Over the next few years Oxx sent out winners with continued regularity and in 1987, he achieved his first classic success with Eurobird, taking the Irish St Ledger.

Sinndar – winner of Derbys and many Group 1 races

In 1989, the well-known owner/breeder, The Aga Khan had had a little local difficulty with the English Jockey Club following the disqualification of his three year old filly Alysa after she won the Epsom Oaks. Neither the Aga Khan nor The Jockey Club could find ground upon which they could agree which resulted in the owner removing all his horses from any British based trainer. This was the start of a very fruitful relationship between Oxx and the Aga Khan who sent him some his best homebred horses. The first mile-stone was John Oxx winning the Group 1 National Stakes for the Aga with Manntari a couple of years later. The winners kept on coming during the following years with Timarida’s win of the Irish Champion Stakes and the following year, the win of the Irish Oaks with Ebadiyla. The partnership was at its most potent when Oxx trained Sinndar to win both the Epsom and Irish Derbys. If this was not enough, the horse also won the Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe in the same year, the first time that a horse had collected those three races in a single season.

Other notable successes for the Aga Khan included Alamshar, winner of the Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elisabeth Stakes at Ascot and Azamour, who won the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Irish Champion Stakes among others. In 2009, the final winner at Group level for the partnership was Alandi, who won the Prix du Cadran, at the same meeting as Sea The Stars on Arc day, giving Oxx a doubke for the day.

Sea the Stars at Epsom after winning the Derby with Michael Kinane and the trainer on the left

The Aga Khan was not the only owner to send Oxx decent horses. The most notable, and probably the most famous horse trained by him was the superstar Sea The Stars in 2009 when the horse won six consecutive races. The classics, Newmarket 2000 Guineas, The Epsom Derby and The Prix De l’Arc. The colt was said to be the best ever by many aficionados  in the bloodstock world. He is still Japanese owned by The Tsui Family. In an interview following the success of Sea The Stars, the understated Oxx said  “You can’t give them ability they don’t have.  Really, it’s just a case of not messing it up – not to overtax the horse too soon, or ask it to do stupid things as a two-year-old. If you mind him sufficiently when he’s young, hopefully his ability will blossom.”

John Oxx was not afraid to take on the world with his runners. He won races in The United States with Ridgewood Pearl (The Breeders Cup) and Timarida, with whom he took the E.P Taylor Stakes in Canada.

John Oxx having a quiet moment at Epsom

It was no secret that John Oxx started to go through a quiet period, as do so many trainers at some stage in their careers, however illustrious. However, both The Aga Khan and the Tsui Family removed their horses which proved a devastating blow for Oxx. He has never sent out a pattern race winner since. However, despite disapproval of his treatment by many in the industry, John Oxx never once complained or said anything about his misfortune.

His respect within the industry cannot be underestimated. He has twice been the chairman of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and served as the chairman of the Irish National Stud for five years from 1985. In 2008, he was awarded the Hall of Fame Award for services to Irish Training.

Jonny Murtagh – won many top races for John Oxx

Of his retirement, John Oxx, in his usual quietly spoken and considered way hoped that his loyal staff would be able to get further employment and that he would be able to rent out his stables and ‘keep his eye in’, but at 70 years old, he felt it was time to retire. The two main jockeys, who rode for him in pattern races, Jonny Murtagh and Michael Kinane were quick to praise Oxx on the announcement of his retirement. Michael Kinane, rider of Sea The Stars said “He’s a fantastic trainer and an outstanding gentleman. I loved every minute I spent with him.” And Jonny Murtagh, who has just followed in the maestro’s footsteps in having horses from the Aga Khan from 2021 said of Oxx “It’s the end of an era, I rode for him for many years and he was just a brilliant trainer. When he got those good horses he was able to keep them on the boil for the whole season – more importantly he was just an absolute gentleman. He was a father figure to me, someone I looked up to. As a jockey I was privileged to ride for him and when I set up training he was a big influence on how we set up our business.”

Images courtesy of Daniel Hambury, Andy Gatt and Irish News

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