Murphy hopeful festival runner-up Thomas Darby can go to the top over fences
Supreme Novices' Hurdle runner-up Thomas Darby will make his novice chasing debut next month as trainer Olly Murphy plots a route back to Cheltenham for the Arkle Chase.
The Diana Whateley-owned six-year-old signed off last season by finishing second to Klassical Dream at the Cheltenham Festival in March and is set to return at Market Rasen.
Speaking at an owners' morning at his Warren Chase yard near Stratford, Murphy said about his stable flag-bearer: “We have a little plan with him and he will start off in a beginners’ or novices’ chase at Market Rasen in the third week of October, as long as ground conditions are fine.
“He handled the soft going at Cheltenham but I've always thought that the better the ground, the better he was. We're taking it one race at a time at this stage, but obviously we all hope he progresses and can become a live contender for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham next March.”
Stablemate Itchy Feet excelled himself to finish third in the same race before disappointing at Aintree and Murphy is hoping he can also make his name over fences.
He said: “Itchy Feet ran very flat at Aintree and it just wasn’t him. He could start off in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las or a Listed hurdle at Kempton in mid-October.
“If he runs well, then we have the option of staying over hurdles, but he's more likely to go chasing as I've always considered that would be his future; but we're keeping plans fluid with him until after he has run.”
Murphy has made no secret of the fact that he holds Brewin’upastorm in the highest regard and the six-year-old finished fourth at the Cheltenham Festival before filling the runner-up spot at Aintree.
“He's a lovely horse and did everything but win a Grade 1 last season," said Murphy.
“He's had a little wind operation over the summer as he wasn’t really seeing it out over 2m5f because of his breathing and he'll now be tried over fences in the middle of next month. There's a 2m novice chase at Warwick and after that we have the choice of stepping him back up in trip if necessary.”
Murphy also had an update on Hunters Call, who gave him his first big race success when landing a valuable Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Ascot in December 2017 but has been sidelined since with a tendon injury.
“He is now back in full training and could be one to keep an eye out for in another decent handicap hurdle as I still think he is well handicapped. We have to play it one day at a time with him because of his problem, but he will be ready to run later in the autumn.”
MURPHY IN NUMBERS
2017-18 47 winners £382,935
2018-19 82 winners £662,549
2019-20 (to date) 22 winners £190,457
Last year was Murphy’s first full season as a trainer and he has been busy at the sales over the summer buying new horses for his current roster of owners, including Grahame and Diana Whateley, Barbara Hester, JP McManus and Max McNeill, as well as new faces in the yard such as John Hales and Tim Syder.
The trainer said: “I am lucky enough to train for some lovely owners and all I have to do now is train a good few winners for all of them. I think and hope we have the best team of horses at the yard since I started back in the summer of 2017 as some of the youngsters are showing plenty, even though they have yet to be fully put through their paces.”
Of the horses coming through the ranks Murphy was very keen on I K Brunel progressing this autumn and winter and said: "We like him a lot as he won a bumper at Carlisle, then went on to run well behind Elixir Du Nutz at Cheltenham last December. He has strengthened up a lot and is one to look forward to in novice hurdles.
Murphy named Gunsight Ridge, Finawn Bawn and Dundrum Wood as three horses to follow over the season and said: “Gunsight Ridge bolted up in his point-to-point in Ireland and was later bought privately. He will make his bumper debut for the stable in November and we will take it from there.
“Finawn Bawn ended up a 136-rated novice hurdler and he wants three miles and a fence, so hopefully he can become an RSA Chase contender, while I could not believe Dundrum Wood got beaten on his bumper debut for us; he should put matters right over hurdles.”
Murphy nominated Fusionice for Racing Post readers as a horse to keep on the right side. The four-year-old was the subject of plenty of racecourse whispers before his debut third in an Irish point-to-point and has shown the right attitude since being transferred to his yard.
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