Champion jump racing owner David Johnson yesterday evening signed up 29-year-old Irish jockey Timmy Murphy as his retained jockey for the rest of the season.

Champion owner David Johnson, champion trainer Martin Pipe and champion jockey Tony McCoy have enjoyed several seasons success together, which is set to end with Tony McCoy’s transfer to Jonjo O’Neill’s stable at Jackdaws Castle, where he will be the contracted jockey of Irish multi-millionaire J P McManus. McCoy’s transfer has sparked all sorts of speculation as to which jockey is in line to take up the enviable vacancy at Pipe’s stables at Pond House.

Timmy Murphy’s new retainer is likely to make him a prominent candidate, and although David Johnson has stressed that the arrangement is between him and Timmy Murphy, and not between Martin Pipe and the jockey, Murphy rode some of the trainer’s other horses at the weekend, and was due to ride more this week had he not broken his collarbone in Ireland on Saturday.

Murphy, however, stressed that he had not had any discussions with Martin Pipe on the subject of taking over the reins from Tony McCoy at Pond House:

“It was only David Johnson who approached me, and although I’ve ridden for Martin Pipe several times before, there hasn’t actually been an offer from that quarter.”

David Johnson has made it clear in the past few weeks that he was not prepared to settle for second best. He wanted to have one of the best jockeys signed up to ride his horses because otherwise, for the big races, none of the best jockeys are available as they are riding for other trainers or owners. Although this privilege is likely to have cost him, neither party would give any indication as to the size of the deal.

Chris Broad, Timmy Murphy’s agent refused to divulge the size of the retainer, commenting simply that it would “pay Timmy’s TV licence.”

He went on to say that he was delighted by the agreement. “Anyone who follows racing will realise Timmy’s ability, and it is testament to his immense quality that he has been signed up by the champion owner.”

Meanwhile, Timmy Murphy was most encouraged by the top-class rides the agreement would give him access to. Indeed, with as many as 50 horses in training with Martin Pipe, including Cheltenham and Aintree winner Well Chief, and prospective Cheltenham Gold Cup candidates Therealbandit and Our Vic, David Johnson could be Murphy’s key to the jockey’s championship.

Timmy refused however, to be distracted by any such distant dreams. His mind was fixed firmly on the matter in hand – that of returning to the saddle once his broken collarbone has healed “hopefully in three weeks” – and he is looking forward to the beginning of a fruitful partnership.

“It’s the opportunity to ride some very good horses, and obviously that is the most important thing to me,” he said.