Tag Archive for: Chasing Fire

Olly Murphy looking foward to a big weekend

Stable stalwart Thomas Darby spearheads Olly Murphy’s bumper squad of horses on Saturday afternoon, with the trainer poised to saddle key runners across the country.

The 11-year-old is part of the furniture at Murphy’s Warren Chase base and was one of the horses who helped put the trainer on the map when finishing second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019.

Since then the seven-time winner has been a regular on the big days and counts victory in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle as one of his greatest accolades.

He will now seek another major prize in the rearranged Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Warwick, returning to the scene of his comfortable course-and-distance success in November.

“He’s in good form and obviously he’s off a lofty mark now but he has course-and-distance form round Warwick and seems in good order,” said Murphy.

“He was second in a Supreme behind Klassical Dream and has had success at a high level throughout his career.

“He has been a very good horse, just probably 7lb short of being a proper Grade One horse. But we’ve had some very good days. He’s won a Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and he’s run well on many occasions at the highest level so to win a nice handicap like this would be great.

“Harry Skelton rides him and if he gets into a good rhythm I don’t see why he wouldn’t have a good each-way chance in a valuable race.”

Sporting the same silks of owner Diana Whateley is Chasing Fire who has always threatened to be a quality operator and is upped in class at Wetherby for a shot at the Grade Two William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase.

“He definitely runs at Wetherby and is in good form,” continued Murphy.

“He’s a horse that hasn’t achieved what I think he should have achieved yet, but it is still really early days for him.

“It will be a competitive race, but we’re looking forward to it and Brian Hughes rides him.”

Meanwhile, Thunder Rock could be tasked with a stiff-looking recovery mission if taking his chance in Kempton’s Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase.

The eight-year-old fluffed his lines when sent off favourite for Cheltenham’s December Gold Cup prior to Christmas and with Murphy toying with the idea of reverting to hurdles, is keen to give his charge another chance to prove himself over fences back in a small-field contest.

“We’re short of options and running him back in a handicap is probably not the right thing to do with him at the moment,” explained Murphy.

“We would rather run in a smaller-field Graded race if possible, but options are far and few between.

“He’s in good form, he just got a terrible fright at Cheltenham last time. If he runs it will be very much a confidence boosting run.

“Unfortunately I think he’s rather well-handicapped but we’re not able to put that to good use just yet. He’ll have a run back over fences whether that is Saturday or not and see how we go, and if it doesn’t work out we’ll go back over hurdles.”

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Thunder Rock ready to step up for Festival test

Thunder Rock will be tested over three miles for the first time when he lines up in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Olly Murphy-trained seven-year-old made a fine start to the season, winning his first two chasing appearances by a combined 13 lengths. But his progress was halted by the pre-Christmas cold snap, meaning he missed an intended engagement at Ascot and was rerouted to the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

On that occasion he was a staying-on third behind The Real Whacker having jumped without his usual zest and it was a similar tale at Sandown in the Scilly Isles, when he filled the same bronze medal position behind Gerri Colombe.

Owned by the McNeill Family and Ian Dale, Thunder Rock has just over five lengths to find with Gordon Elliott’s general 7-4 favourite for the Festival’s three-mile novice chase, but Murphy is hoping the slower pace of the extended trip can allow him to jump with more fluency and therefore close the gap on some of his old rivals.

“He will run in the three-miler,” said Murphy. “He’s in good form and we’re looking forward to stepping up in trip. He’ll be ridden cold and hopefully will be able to come home strong.

“He would have an each-way chance, but would have a bit to find with Gordon’s horse (Gerri Colombe).

Thunder Rock ridden by jockey Adrian Heskin winning over hurdles at Ayr last year
Thunder Rock ridden by jockey Adrian Heskin winning over hurdles at Ayr last year (Steve Welsh/PA)

“He doesn’t work like he wants three miles, but probably jumps like he does, so hopefully this will just slow the emphasis on speed in the race and hopefully it won’t put as much pressure on his jumping.

“On his run with The Real Whacker (in the Dipper), he looks a big price at double figures when The Real Whacker is 5-1. I felt we should have finished in front of him the last time we met, so we’re looking forward to having another go and he’s an each-way chance.”

Murphy is in the process of putting the finishing touches to his Cheltenham squad’s preparations and has a couple of aces up his sleeve for the Festival opener, where his duo Chasing Fire and Strong Leader are swimming under the radar.

Exciting prospect Chasing Fire is one of two on course to appear in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle for Olly Murphy at the Cheltenham Festival
Exciting prospect Chasing Fire is one of two on course to appear in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for Olly Murphy at the Cheltenham Festival (Steven Paston/PA)

Both are said to be in good form ahead of their Prestbury Park assignment in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – a race in which the Warren Chase handler saw Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet finish second and third respectively at big prices in 2019.

“I’m looking forward to running the pair of them, Chasing Fire and Strong Leader,” continued Murphy.

“They are both unbeaten but both now have to step up in grade and hopefully they go there with each-way chances and, with a bit of luck on their side, can run well. They are both in good form, but you would be hopeful more than confident.”

The aforementioned Itchy Feet has been with Murphy since the beginning and, now nine, has bounced back to his best returned to hurdles of late.

A winner at Huntingdon on his penultimate outing, before finishing a close second in the Rendlesham at Haydock, he is a best-priced 25-1 for the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final on day three of the Festival.

“I’m a little bit worried about how well he will handle a big field, but he’s still handicapped to run well on the best of his chase form and has been in good form,” explained Murphy.

“Going back over hurdles has certainly helped him. He’s just been a lot more comfortable and shows he retains plenty of ability and we will look forward to having a go at the Pertemps with him.”

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Chasing Fire has sparked Supreme ambitions for Murphy

Exciting prospect Chasing Fire is on course to appear next in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Olly Murphy-trained six-year-old took his record over timber to a perfect three with victory at Sandown on Saturday, to stay unbeaten in his career to date having also won a bumper and his point-to-point.

Sent off the 4-6 favourite for what was a step up in class in the Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle, he handled it with ease to account for market rival Iliko D’Olivate – to whom he was giving 4lb – by six lengths.

“I was chuffed with him, he did really well. He was given a mark of 136 and I’m going to go straight to the Supreme with him, all being well,” said Murphy.

“He’s done everything right and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.

“He’s on track and we’re looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, Murphy could step Thunder Rock up in trip for his next outing following his good third to Gerri Colombe in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase on the same Sandown card.

Having won his first two starts over fences, he lost his unbeaten record to The Real Whacker at Cheltenham on his penultimate run and filled the same spot on his first test in Grade One company.

Thunder Rock, owned by the McNeill family and Ian Dale, had travelled well at the back of the seven-strong field before making stealthy headway approaching the second-last in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, only for Gerri Colombe to find plenty.

In finishing five and a half lengths adrift of Gordon Elliott’s impressive winner, Murphy was more than satisfied with the run.

He could swerve both respective Cheltenham engagements, the Brown Advisory and Turners Novices’ Chases, however.

“I was delighted with him. I thought he was going to win at the second-last, but he just kind of flattened out,” said Murphy.

“I would imagine we will step him up to three miles, which I never thought I’d be saying. I’m not sure where he is going to go, but he might just be less likely, rather than more likely, to go to Cheltenham now.

“Whether we freshen him up and go straight to Aintree for the three-mile race (Mildmay Novices’ Chase) or give him a race in between and go to Cheltenham, there’s still a lot to be discussed with owners and internal race managers.”

Murphy’s string has been in fine form of late and he added: “I built myself up and genuinely thought he’d win on Saturday.

“He has run very well and he was an 11-2 shot. He has probably run to his odds, if you look at it from that point of view.

“We just fell short with him, but he is a good horse and he is going to win a lot of races. He’s rated 149 and he will have another race or two as a novice. He is going to be an exciting horse to go to war with next year.”

Murphy also suggested a return to a flatter track might suit.

He added: “I didn’t think the ground was too bad on the chase track. I think he was as good as he was on the day and I don’t think there was any excuse. He got into a nice rhythm and got a good ride from Adrian Heskin.

Olly Murphy could swerve Cheltenham with Thunder Rock
Olly Murphy could swerve Cheltenham with Thunder Rock (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“At the second-last I thought he was going to take off, but the leader pulled away. He ran very well and I’m very proud of the horse, and he has been a star for the last year and a half.

“Arguably his best runs have been on flat tracks, that’s the only thing I’d say.

“He was very impressive round Wetherby when he beat a horse of Ben Case’s (Cobblers Dream) who won the Lanzarote Hurdle afterwards. He was very impressive at Ayr, he won round Musselburgh, and arguably he might be a better horse on a flat track. I might be completely wrong, though!”

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