Copperless to miss early season but has County Hurdle target

Olly Murphy’s Copperless will miss the early part of the new campaign after suffering a stress fracture – and may make his seasonal debut at the Cheltenham Festival.

Copperless was last seen winning the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May, an eight-and-a-half-length victory which was rich compensation for a penultimate-flight fall on his previous start when going well at Aintree.

The County Hurdle is now on the agenda for the six-year-old.

“Copperless is going to miss the first half of the season, because he has picked up a stress fracture,” said Murphy.

Copperless winning at Taunton last term
Copperless winning at Taunton last term (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The plan is to have him back for the second part of the season.

“He is going to miss a couple of months, and it is not ideal timing by any stretch of the imagination, but we will have him back for big festivals in the spring. I still think he has got a lovely mark.

“We might go straight to a County Hurdle – I would be looking at something like that, because I don’t think he would be ready much before that.”

Murphy’s Thomas Darby finished third behind Thyme Hill in the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree on his last outing and is likely to remain at the same three-mile trip, with Wetherby’s Grade Two bet365 Hurdle identified as his starting point at the end of this month.

“Thomas Darby goes to Wetherby for the West Yorkshire Hurdle, then we can look at Newbury for the Long Distance Hurdle or the Long Walk at Ascot,” said the Warwickshire trainer.

“He is in great form, and I couldn’t be happier with him. I’m really looking forward to carrying on over three miles with him.

Olly Murphy's Thomas Darby
Olly Murphy’s Thomas Darby (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“I don’t think his Aintree run was a fluke – I thought it was a hell of a performance.

“He came down to the last looking like he would win, but he just got out-battled up the straight by Roksana and Thyme Hill, so he is one to look forward to in that division.

“He has won and run well at Cheltenham, so I can’t see why he wouldn’t run up to form around there again. But that is still a long way off, and we have to get Wetherby out of the way first.”

Stablemate Brewin’upastorm tried his hand at chasing last term when running in both the Colin Parker and the Tingle Creek, but he quickly reverted to hurdling after finishing last on both occasions – and was subsequently a Grade Two winner when taking the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell in February.

The eight-year-old was then fifth in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle and is due to start his campaign back at the same track early next month.

“He goes to Aintree on November 6 for a two-and-a-half-mile conditions hurdle,” said Murphy.

Brewin’upastorm at Cheltenham
Brewin’upastorm at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“He wants two and a half miles, and that is what he will be aimed at throughout the season.

“I think if I did anything with him he would go up in trip, but I will stick to two and a half miles for the time being.

“He is in good form but he won’t jump a fence again. He did everything wrong at Aintree but still ran respectably in defeat.

“He got a terrible fright jumping a fence, and I don’t think there is any need at this stage of his career to go back and jump a fence.

“He is a good hurdler and he will pick up plenty of prize money jumping them.”

Olly Murphy rules Copperless out of Galway Hurdle

Copperless has been ruled out of the Guinness Galway Hurdle at Ballybrit next Thursday.

Trainer Olly Murphy has scratched the Swinton Hurdle winner from the valuable prize as he was not entirely happy with the six-year-old.

Murphy will now look nearer home for him to make his seasonal reappearance in the autumn, with the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in November a probable target.

“He doesn’t run in Galway, he was scratched today,” said the Stratford handler.

“He’s absolutely fine. I just wasn’t 100 per cent happy with him. Going over there you have to be on your A game.

“We’ll look back at the English programme now and look for a nice race in the autumn. The Greatwood could be very likely.

“He was a very impressive horse when he won his last start and I just want to run him in the right race. Unfortunately, Galway isn’t going to be the right race just the way he is at the moment.”

Copperless had been as low as 10-1 second-favourite with some firms for the Galway showpiece.

Copper strikes Swinton gold

Copperless could be heading for more competitive prizes after running away with the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.

The Galway and Greatwood Hurdles are already being suggested for the rapidly-improving six-year-old after he comprehensively disposed of 13 rivals to take this valuable prize.

Aidan Coleman took the shortest route on Olly Murphy’s charge before asking him for his effort. The 9-2 favourite was in command at the final flight and drew away to win by eight and a half lengths from Cormier.

Camprond was two lengths away third with Rowland Ward fourth.

Victory was handsome compensation for Copperless’ fall at Aintree last month when he looked certain to oblige.

“It was gutting what happened at Aintree. Obviously no fault of the young lad, (rider) Lewis Stones. He came to grief at the second last when looking to have the race at his mercy, but we’ve made amends today and he was quite impressive,” said Murphy.

“I was cursing the handicapper after he out him up 3lb for that, but how right he was.

“This horse is on an upward curve. I’m not sure where we go now, but today was a good pot and I’m chuffed.”

Copperless is co-owned by Murphy’s father Aiden and Alan Peterson.

“Dad is one of the unluckiest owners that’s ever owned racehorses, so I’m chuffed for him and chuffed for the Peterson family, who have supported me since I started training. It’s magic,” Murphy went on.

As for future plans, the handler added: “Whether he’d sneak into the Galway Hurdle at the bottom of the weights, I’m not sure. It’s certainly an option but the Greatwood is the obvious option at the moment. I’d say we’d stay hurdling for next season.

“I was very worried about the ground. If it had been a 20 grand race I’m not sure he’d have been here, but he handled the ground fine. It’s not as bad as you think.

“He was very impressive – he’s going to get clobbered for it, but he’s going to contest nice races from now on in.”

Dell’ Arca (11-1) came out of the clouds to snatch victory in the Pertemps Network Long Distance Handicap Hurdle.

The David Pipe-trained 12-year-old needed the long run-in from the final flight to reel in Trincomalee and score by a length in the hands of Fergus Gillard.

“I knew he would stay the trip and it was a such a long way from the last to the line, I needed every yard of it and he’s not stopped galloping,” said the 5lb claimer.

“When I won on Main Fact here it was a lot deeper. This place has done me good. Dell’ Arca is a lovely horse. I’m delighted for Caroline Tisdall (owner) and everyone at home. He’s such a yard favourite.”

Francky Du Berlais (4-1) capitalised on a mistake at the last by Fortified Bay to win the Pertemps Network Intermediate Handicap Chase.

Long-time leader Fortified Bay could not recover and Francky Du Berlais, trained by Peter Bowen and ridden by his son, James, moved ahead to gain a two-length verdict.

Francky Du Berlais had almost thrown away his chance with an error three out.

The winning rider said: “It didn’t do him any harm missing three out, otherwise I might have got there too soon. He’s won well.

“It all suited him. Two and a half (miles) is his trip and the ground was all right for him. He’s gone on worse than that.”

Exelerator Express (9-4) took advantage of Eamon An Cnoic’s blunder at the third last to comfortably win the Pertemps Network Handicap Chase.

Neil Mulholland’s seven-year-old went on and drew away to win by 10 lengths.

“He jumped well and was trying a bit further today which suited well,” said winning rider Sam Twiston-Davies.

“The race fell to bits a little bit and then when the Pipe horse made a mistake at the ditch, it put paid to his chances. Even so you’ve got to get it won and he’s done it nicely.”

Murphy has grounds for concern ahead of Copperless run

The prospect of a deluge over Merseyside could hinder Copperless’ bid for the Grade Three Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday.

Olly Murphy’s six-year-old was bidding for a hat-trick when contesting the Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle at Aintree on his last appearance, but the gelding suffered a fall when in contention only two flights from home.

Murphy reports to bay to be unscathed following that mishap, but his nemesis this time could be the inclement weather as a substantial amount of rain is forecast to fall on already soft ground.

“We were very pleased with the way he was going, he was travelling very well up until falling at Aintree on his last start,” the trainer said.

“But the heavy rain that’s been forecast would be huge concern for him.

“He’s in great nick and he really looks like he’s on a nice mark, he seemed absolutely fine after the fall he had, but if the forecast rain were to come, then that would be a concern.”

Benefiting from Copperless’ late Aintree fall was Stuart Edmunds’ gelding Rowland Ward, who went on to register a half-length success in the contest.

The five-year-old also takes his chance at Haydock at the weekend and will not be inconvenienced by soft going, with his trainer welcoming a fast-paced race to suit the horse’s running style.

“He is in great form and a strongly-run two miles really suits him as he travels so well in his races. The faster they go, the better it is for him,” he said.

“I think everything was perfect for him at Aintree as it was always going to be fast and furious.

“Olly Murphy’s horse Copperless was still travelling well at Aintree behind us when he took a tumble and if he is none the worse for that, he could be thrown in against us.”

Rowland Ward’s Aintree performance has seen his rating rise by 10lb, an allocation his trainer feels is a fair reflection of his abilities.

“He has gone up 10lb, but you don’t mind that when you win a proper race at a big track,” he said.

“He would have barely got in this off his old mark.”

Haydock hosts races under both codes and the Swinton Hurdle is followed by the Pertemps Network Spring Trophy Stakes, run over seven furlongs on the Flat.

Six runners have been declared, with Adrian McGuinness’ Current Option heading the field after finishing runner-up in the Group Three Gladness Stakes at the Curragh on his last run.

Archie Watson’s Highland Dress brings his all-weather form to the table, having last competed on turf in November, with Karl Burke’s Lord Of The Lodge also switching from synthetic surfaces after a successful spell on the all-weather.

Richard Hannon’s Qaysar, Brian Meehan’s Raaeq and the Ralph Beckett-trained Tomfre round out the contenders.

Copperless continues on the upgrade at Taunton

Copperless defied top-weight to highlight an Olly Murphy double at Taunton in the Ray Wonnacott 80 And Not Out Handicap Hurdle.

Considered by Murphy as one of his nicest prospects, the 15-8 favourite was ridden confidently by Champion Chase-winning jockey Aidan Coleman.

Given plenty of time to warm to his task after being anchored at the rear in the early stages, the six-year-old made his ground up very quickly rounding the home bend to assume command between the final two flights and score by a length from Chez Hans.

Olly Murphy predicts a bright future for Copperless
Olly Murphy predicts a bright future for Copperless (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s a very nice horse and in a weak race I thought the only thing that might get him is lack of experience,” said Murphy.

“He has plenty of ability and will improve. He has to have good ground.”

Murphy was earlier smiling from ear to ear after Grandads Cottge provided him with a first winner for popular owner John Hales in the Taunton Branch RNLI Supporters Novices’ Hurdle.

The Harry Skelton-ridden winner engaged in a battle with Earth Lord and Time To Tinker up the final straight, with the former making a race of it but succumbing by a length to the 4-7 favourite.

Skelton – who later doubled up with the Jeremy Scott-trained Tactical Manoeuvre, matching the two winners for Brian Hughes at Wetherby – reported he felt Grandads Cottage will want three miles in time.

Murphy said: “I’m thrilled to have sent out my first winner in the famous Hales colours.

“This is a lovely horse, and dad (bloodstock agent Aiden Murphy) bought horses like Al Ferof and Nolan for John.

“I think he’s a horse for next year and is a lovely chaser in the making.”

Grandads Cottage clears the last en route to victory
Grandads Cottage clears the last en route to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Camprond appealed as one of the nicest horses on view and duly opened his account when wearing down market rival Defining Battle for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson in the Game And Wildlife Conservation Trust Maiden Hurdle.

The 2-1 shot made a couple of mistakes, but Johnson felt there was a genuine excuse for the errors, ones that failed to impair his momentum as he pulled a length and a half clear of his rival.

Hobbs’ wife Sarah said: “Richard said the horse was blinded at the first, which wasn’t his fault, and then two out he got blinded again when waiting to make his challenge.

“The important thing was that he is settling a bit better. He’s a lovely horse.”

Young O’Leary (9-2 joint-favourite) prevailed in a tight finish for the Invest Southwest Novices’ Handicap Chase from Tierra Verde.

David Prichard was on board for winning trainer Nigel Hawke, who said: “He’s got the job done, but was a bit short at the last.

“The ground was plenty quick enough as he’s a great big stamp of horse by Scorpion, but he could do no more than win.

“Although it’s late in the season we should all being well get a bit of rain so that I can run him again.”

Sumkindofking (left) on the way to victory
Sumkindofking (left) on the way to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Joint top-weight Sumkindofking ultimately ran out a wide-margin winner of the Newton King Estate Agents Handicap Chase, but until approaching the final fence veteran Regal Flow gave an immaculate jumping display which earned him almost as much glory as the 11-1 winner.

Trained by Tom George, Sumkindofking benefitted from the 10lb claim of conditional Thomas Doggrell and looks a horse that can win again on the better ground, having been out of sorts on winter conditions until now.