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  • Published: 15 March 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784162160
  • Imprint: Black Swan
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99


Shortlisted For The William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017

The stunningly evocative and extraordinary memoir of the jockey who came back from the dead, of memory, loss, and the bond between man and horse.



Coping with your own death, when you are not yet dead, is a strange thing...

A natural on a horse since he was able to walk, and imbued with a pure love of riding, Declan Murphy became one of the most brilliant jockeys of his generation before his world came crashing down at the final hurdle of a race at Haydock Park. His skull shattered in twelve places, he was believed to be dead, the last rites were read and the Racing Post prepared his obituary. Miraculously, and the word is not used lightly, he survived and defied medical thinking in recovering to the extent that eighteen months after his fall, he was able to saddle up for one more race. As usual, he won.

For 23 years, Declan has been unable to tell his story, to bring to words existence on the frontier between life and death, to describe the incredible bond between man and horse. But now, in an extraordinary collaboration with Ami Rao, she has helped him find those words, a way to piece together what happened before, during and after, what it all meant and what it means to us all. It is a story of triumph, fear, love and loss, by turns primal, heartbreaking and inspirational, and ultimately, it is the story of hope, and of life.

  • Published: 15 March 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784162160
  • Imprint: Black Swan
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99

About the authors

Declan Murphy

Declan Murphy was born in rural Limerick on 5 March 1966. Like most of his seven siblings, he took to riding horses from an early age and after being spotted by Ireland's top trainers became a leading amateur jockey while at school. He then moved to England and rode a host of winners in races as prestigious as the Champion Chase and Mackeson Gold Cup, as well as two Irish Champion Hurdles, before a near-fatal accident on Arcot at Haydock Park in May 1994. Eighteen months later he rode a final winner, Jibereen, at Chepstow.

Ami Rao

Ami Rao is a British-American writer who was born in Calcutta and has lived and worked in New York City, London, Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ami has a BA in English Literature from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. As a self-proclaimed foodie, she has written before for Tim Hayward's Fire & Knives. She has always been 'absolutely horse mad' and rides regularly in her spare time. Centaur is her debut book.

Praise for Centaur

Beautifully written and genuinely revealing. It is brilliant. A work of art, Centaur has a rhythm all of its own but more than that, it has an immense depth of soul and spirit. Declan has been brave enough to show himself raw, at his most vulnerable, and Ami has been clever and empathetic in her telling of the story. Together they have made magical music. The rhythm of the prose reads like a Declan Murphy-ridden race: beautiful and steady, balanced and spiritual before unleashing its dangerous sprint to the line.

Clare Balding

Emotional and honest, Centaur is an unflinching look at how Murphy 'came back from the dead' and the heavy price extracted for doing so. Centaur is a book haunted by ghosts: lost careers, lost memories, lost friendships and, most devastatingly of all, lost love... Not only a certain candidate for the William Hill sports book of the year but also sure to be on many non-sports fans' end-of-year lists.

Sarah Hughes, Observer

A magnificent piece of work: never less than enthralling... a thing of dramatic beauty.

Mail on Sunday

Deeply powerful, [told with] grace and poetry... an entirely gripping drama.

Sunday Express

Brilliant, bold, at times brutal.

Sunday Telegraph

Heart-rending... a page-turner.

The Times

Riveting... At times, it's an uncomfortable read, but the journey from awakening from a coma and trying to piece together the absent parts of his life is truly heart-rending.

</i>Robert Cooper, <i>Racing Plus

Extraordinary... It is a miraculous tale, recounted with searing honesty. Here is a book that goes way beyond the normal ambitions of the sporting autobiography and clears those limits with room to spare.

Scott Burton, Racing Post

‘Really, really beautifully written… the most riveting description. Extraordinary, quite brilliant… it’s an amazing read.’

Sarah Brett and Nihal Arthanayake, BBC Radio Five Live Afternoon Edition

Wonderfully written... very moving.

Brough Scott

Primal, heartbreaking and inspirational. The story of triumph, fear, love and loss, it's a remarkable testament to beating the odds and reclaiming a life in the most dire of circumstances.


Extraordinary: an outstanding book. Superb.

Matt Williams, BBC Radio 2

You can read and enjoy Centaur simply as a thrilling account of an elite sportsman who nearly died, but lived to ride again. There are beautiful insights too into the relationship between rider and horse. But it is also a book about how stories get told.

Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

A stirring story.

The Sunday Times

With lovely descriptions, so very frank. Wonderful. It's a truly amazing story.

Libby Purves

Extraordinary... Centaur defies all the usual definitions of biography/autobiography/memoir because Ami has worked in an area that sometimes sounding-board, sometimes investigator, sometimes therapist and her ability to read and authentically express emotion has made it possible to bridge gaps in Declan's life - to create a coherent version of the story that's going to blow readers away. It has almost as much potential outside of the sporting world as within it. Ami has taken a 'sportsman's memoir' with all the attendant concentration on performance and motivation and translated it into something with the broadest human relevance.

Tim Hayward


Irish Independent

Extraordinary... one of the most incredible and brave memoirs. Beautifully written and worthy of the highest plaudits.

The Last Word


Irish Examiner

Mesmerising, haunting and beautifully written.

Lauren St John

An extraordinary story [and] a wonderful read... even if you've never read a book in your life, even if you don't normally read, people will really enjoy this.

RTE Radio 1, Today with Sean O'Rourke

A remarkable man with a remarkable story.

BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday Sequence

Absolutely amazing... it offers a fascinating insight into how the brain works.

Newstalk, Off The Ball

If this book isn't prominent in the best of not just sports books but books of the year, and if it's not sweeping awards come Christmas then there's something massively flawed with the process. This isn’t a racing book, this is a remarkable personal story, a brilliant read. I’ve not read a book in a long time that has affected me as much as this book, it’s unbelievable… if you have an interest in human life, if you have an interest in human psychology, in the will the survive, if you want to hear about bravery, about overcoming challenges, that's the book to buy. It’s as motivational a book as you will get.

2FM, Game On

Sensitively ghosted by Ami Rao, Centaur is a meditation on what constitutes self and what happens when 'time becomes an abstration'.

Telegraph Books of the Year

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