Tag Archive for: Olly Murphy

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.”

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.

Brewin’upastorm too good for favourite McFabulous at Fontwell

Brewin’upastorm was an emphatic winner of Fontwell’s Loch Lomond Whiskies National Spirit Hurdle – at the chief expense of short-priced favourite McFabulous.

Olly Murphy’s eight-year-old, on his second start back over hurdles after two unsuccessful chasing efforts earlier in the season, followed up his impressive Taunton handicap victory in this Grade Two feature.

Brewin’upastorm, fancied for last year’s Arkle Challenge Trophy only to unseat his rider at Cheltenham, has no Festival entries this time round – and will instead be seen next in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle at the Grand National meeting.

In receipt of 6lb from 4-6 shot McFabulous, he demonstrated he is a major force to be reckoned with at around this near two-and-a-half-mile trip over hurdles – striking from off the pace under Aidan Coleman to win by five and a half lengths at 3-1.

Murphy said: “I’m absolutely chuffed with that – he’s a very, very talented horse.

“It’s great to have that winning form at graded level.

“He got a very, very bad fright over fences – and things certainly didn’t go to plan on those runs.

“But Taunton was a great stepping stone, and then to win with as much authority as he did today in that company was very pleasing.”

Paul Nicholls’ McFabulous, so impressive in last month’s rerouted Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton, rarely looked happy – making a minor early mistake and a second more significant one in front of the stands on the first circuit.

As he began to labour behind the front-running Molly Ollys Wishes, it was obvious Brewin’upastorm was going much better – and he was not hard-pressed to lead between the last two flights and move easily clear, with McFabulous having to settle for second.

“The penalties worked in his favour today,” added Murphy.

“But if they’d been reversed, and everyone was getting penalties off him, it would have made no difference.

“The way he won, he absolutely bolted up.

“He saw the two-mile-three out very well today, and the plan will be to go straight to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One there.”

The Warwickshire trainer has always had a high opinion of Brewin’upastorm, and is delighted to have had his faith repaid.

“He’s kind of knocked on the door as a novice over hurdles and over fences and never really won a nice race, so I was just chuffed for the horse that he’s won this race,” added Murphy.

“I’d say he’ll never jump a fence again. But if he can be a good hurdler that will suit me just fine.

“There’s plenty of avenues to go down there, and he’s one to look forward to now we’ve got his confidence back.”

Brewin’upastorm in good shape for National Spirit challenge

Brewin’upastorm is reported to be in top shape as he sticks to the smaller obstacles for the Loch Lomond Whiskies National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday.

The Olly Murphy-trained eight-year-old made successful return to hurdling with a convincing display at Taunton in January.

Before that his last run over hurdles was at Aintree in April 2019, when he was second in a Grade One contest to Reserve Tank.

He had been chasing exclusively since October that year and even ran in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December before connections decided to go back hurdling.

“He’s in good form. Obviously the revert back to hurdles worked well the last day,” said Murphy.

“The ground will suit and the small field should suit well. He gets 6lb off the majority of the field, so we’re looking forward to running him.”

Cornerstone Lad is another coming back to hurdles after finishing second in both his starts over fences.

Trainer Micky Hammond wants to save the 2019 Fighting Fifth winner for an uninterrupted chasing campaign next term.

“We feel at this stage of the season we’d like a full novice chase season next time around and hopefully without too much Covid-19,” said Hammond.

“He’s in good form at home. It was a choice of the National Spirit or the Morebattle Hurdle (at Kelso on March 6). The ground is beginning to dry.

“He likes a bit of dig in the ground which he’s sure to get on Sunday. We’re looking forward to taking our chance in what looks a very open race.

“He’s generally a good jumper so reverting back to hurdles shouldn’t inconvenience him.”

McFabulous is a major player in the National Spirit
McFabulous is a major player in the National Spirit (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

McFabulous goes for a third Grade Two success of the season after taking the Persian Novices’ Hurdle and the rescheduled Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton.

Paul Nicholls expects McFabulous to be hard to beat.

“This has been the target for McFabulous for a while and the drying ground over the past week is all in his favour,” the Ditcheat handler told Betfair.

“He is a class act, won nicely at Kempton and though two miles and three furlongs is probably the minimum for him round this tight track he is in great shape and will hopefully take all the beating. Then he will bypass Cheltenham and wait for Aintree.”

Dan Skelton’s progressive mare Molly Ollys Wishes, Nicky Henderson’s Call Me Lord and the aofrementioned Reserve Tank from the Colin Tizzard stable make up the field of six.

Itchy Feet aiming to book Festival ticket at Haydock

Itchy Feet could earn himself a crack at the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle with a bold showing at Haydock on Saturday.

Olly Murphy’s stable star reverts to the smaller obstacles for the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle, having run exclusively over fences since October 2019, and also tests his stamina at three miles for the first time.

Earlier this season, the seven-year-old finished third in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree and second in the 1965 Chase at Ascot, before returning to the latter venue to finish second in a conditions chase a couple of months ago.

He suffered a broken blood vessel on his most recent outing, but Murphy expects to have a clearer idea of potential targets for the spring after this weekend’s Grade Two event.

He said: “He’s in good form and should handle the ground fine.

“Going over three miles for the first time is going to be a big question, but I think he’ll stay. I’ve wanted to run him over three miles for a while – he gets a nice weight allowance off a few horses in the race, and I’m looking forward to running him.

“He’d have to be running very well to warrant running in a Stayers’ Hurdle, but if he wins or runs very well that’s the route we’ll take.”

Itchy Feet is set to face seven rivals on Merseyside, including last year’s winner Emitom – who also switches back to hurdles following a spell chasing for Warren Greatrex.

David Pipe saddles bargain-buy Main Fact, who rattled off nine successive victories in 2020, the most recent of which came in the Grade Three Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle over this course and distance in November.

Main Fact has been a real money-spinner for his connections
Main Fact has been a real money-spinner for his connections (Tim Goode/PA)

The Pond House handler believes the eight-year-old is better than he showed when tailed off in the Long Walk at Ascot on his latest appearance.

“He’ll love the ground, and we think he might be a little bit better going back left-handed,” said Pipe.

“I’m not sure he ran his true race at Ascot, but he was beaten a long way. We’ll find out on Saturday if he’s better than that.

“It looks a competitive race, and there’s a few with question marks. Our horse is in good form at home, and it will be interesting.”

Rebecca Curtis will be hoping a wind operation can help last year’s shock Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar bounce back from a couple of ordinary efforts so far this term, with Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side another to consider in an open contest.

Ramses de Teillee in winning action at Cheltenham
Ramses de Teillee in winning action at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The most valuable race on the card is the £75,000 William Hill Grand National Trial.

Pipe is represented by top-weight Ramses De Teillee, who was last seen finishing down the field in the Welsh Grand National.

“He made a mistake at the first fence at Chepstow and was always on the back foot after that,” said the trainer.

“He’s won at Haydock before, and conditions will suit. He’s got a lot of weight – so we’re taking 5lb off, with Fergus Gillard on board.

“If he turns up on his A-game then he’s got an each-way chance.”

Other contenders include Welsh Grand National runner-up The Two Amigos, and a pair of course-and-distance winners in Lord Du Mesnil and Perfect Candidate.

Lord Du Mesnil was beaten a long way in the Welsh National, but trainer Richard Hobson is optimistic of an improved performance.

He said: “It doesn’t really matter how fast they go. The thing is when it’s heavy ground, nothing’s going to go faster than him anyway.

“Obviously, we’ve had a few issues with him since Cheltenham (last spring), but he seems to be going the right way now.

“If he gets his ground at the weekend, and the way he’s been working, I would say he’d have a big shout.”

Perfect Candidate loves Haydock
Perfect Candidate loves Haydock (Mike Egerton/PA)

Perfect Candidate is in the twilight of his career at the age of 14, but proved he is no back number when winning at Haydock for the second time in November.

Trainer Fergal O’Brien said: “We’re looking forward to running him. There can’t be many 14-year-olds rated as high as he is now.

“If he can get round then he won’t be a million miles away. I suppose it all depends on if he can keep up with them.

“He owes us absolutely nothing. He loves Haydock, and Paddy (Brennan) knows him very well.”

Hales delighted with winning start for Omar Maretti

Omar Maretti justified stable confidence when making an impressive debut over hurdles at Catterick on Friday.

A dual winner in the point-to-point field, the seven-year-old was a 15-2 chance on his first start for trainer Alex Hales in the Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Maiden Hurdle.

With even-money favourite Ripper Roo back in third, Omar Maretti engaged in a ding-dong battle with Barrichello halfway up the straight before pulling six lengths clear in the hands of Kielan Woods.

Hales said: “He’s a lovely horse – I’m delighted with him.

“The owner has a lot of point-to-pointers with Dale Peters near Huntingdon. I’ve had him about six weeks, but Dale has done all the prep work with him. He’s a good amateur rider and has a good nursery, so he deserves a lot of credit.

“The owners very kindly sent him to me as obviously there’s no point-to-pointing at the moment and he hasn’t put a foot wrong since he arrived. I’m not saying I knew he would win today, but I knew he wouldn’t be very far away.

“We think a lot of him and hopefully he’ll be able to win under a penalty somewhere.”

Tinnahalla clears the final flight at Catterick
Tinnahalla clears the final flight at Catterick (Tim Goode/PA)

While out of luck with Ripper Roo, trainer Olly Murphy did not leave the North Yorkshire circuit empty handed, having earlier saddled Tinnahalla to win the opening Millbry Hill Juvenile Hurdle.

Fourth and second in his two previous starts over jumps, Aidan Coleman’s mount made it third time lucky with a near three-length verdict over fellow 13-8 joint-favourite Homme Public.

Murphy said: “He’s a grand horse who probably hadn’t done a lot wrong in two starts at Newbury and Kempton.

“He got the run of the race today and did it well.

“He’s a horse who can hopefully keep progressing.”

Silver In Disguise proved too much good for his rivals
Silver In Disguise proved too much good for his rivals (Tim Goode/PA)

There was a thrilling climax to the kingmakerracedays.co.uk Celebrate Mary Harle’s 101st Birthday Handicap Hurdle, with Sue Smith’s 7-2 favourite Small Present responding generously to Ryan Mania’s urgings to see off Small Present by a head.

The Tim Vaughan-trained Silver In Disguise (5-1) ran out a 21-length winner of the kingmakerracedays.co.uk Working With Kenny Johnson Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase under 5lb claimer Charlie Price, before Venetia Williams and Robbie Dunne teamed up to land the mares’ handicap chase with Quick Wave (4-1).

The final two races went to William Bethell’s Newberry New (13-2) and Ex S’elance (4-1) from Micky Hammond’s yard.

Brewin’upastorm set for National Spirit date

The National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell is next on the agenda for Olly Murphy’s Brewin’upastorm.

Having disappointed on his first two starts of the season over fences, the eight-year-old was switched back to the smaller obstacles at Taunton last month and could hardly have been more impressive.

Murphy has not given his charge any entries for the Cheltenham Festival at this stage – and hopes to have a clearer idea of where his charge might head in the spring after he tests the water at Grade Two level on February 28.

He said: “The plan is to go for the National Spirit at Fontwell next. He is in good form and he has come out of Taunton really well – hopefully that will have done his confidence the world of good.

“We will stay hurdling for the time being and see how high we can go over hurdles.

“We know he has a good level of ability, but it was a good performance at Taunton.

“He is not a very big horse, so I was impressed with him carrying that sort of weight in a handicap.

“He did beat older horses, but the manner in which he did it was smart and he can only improve from that.”

Murphy still has faith in Itchy Feet

Olly Murphy still retains full faith in Itchy Feet, despite his winless first half of the season.

The seven-year-old provided his trainer with the first Grade One win of his career in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase in February – but not much as gone right since.

He was an early casualty in the Marsh Novices’ Chase – and while there have been flashes of promise in three runs this season, he has yet to win.

He did have a valid excuse when a closing second in a Graduation Chase at Ascot most recently, however.

“He obviously burst a blood vessel at Ascot, and we’ve checked him over,” said Murphy.

“I’m not sure where we are going to go with him, but he’s in good form and is back in work.

“We’ll look for something in a fortnight or three weeks.

“He’s been running remarkably well, considering how he’s been going through his races. He’s well able to jump at home, but he’s been sloppy on the track.

“I’m looking forward to getting him back on track. Ascot was a remarkable run. He finished off ever so well considering he burst a blood vessel – if he can get his act together he’s got a good race in him.”

Murphy eyeing three-mile test for Itchy Feet

Itchy Feet is likely to return to Ascot for a first attempt at three miles next month after chasing home Imperial Aura at the Berkshire circuit on Saturday.

Having finished third on his seasonal reappearance in the Old Roan at Aintree, Olly Murphy’s charge was the outsider of four runners in the Grade Two Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase.

While ultimately no match for Kim Bailey’s impressive winner, Itchy Feet stayed on strongly to fill the runner-up spot, despite a couple of significant jumping errors at the business end of the race.

Murphy said: “He ran well. It was only his fourth completed start over fences, so he still lacks a bit of experience and I think that showed from four out to three out, where he made two bad mistakes, which really put him on the back foot.

“He stayed going well and I thought he ran a big race considering the two mistakes he made. I’m not saying we would have beaten the winner, but we would have finished an awful lot closer to him if we didn’t take the fourth last with us!”

While Murphy feels the six-year-old is now ready for a step up in trip, he has all but ruled out a tilt at the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, instead favouring Ascot’s Dave Dawes Silver Cup a week earlier.

He added: “He’s come out of the race fine and there’s a three-mile handicap chase back at Ascot on December 19. There’s a two-mile-five graduation chase on the same day, but I want to go up in trip, so I’d say we’ll probably look at the three-mile handicap.

“I don’t think we’ll be going for the King George – I just think everything would happen too quickly for him round Kempton.

“He’s a good horse and had a good horse in Real Steel behind him the other day – I just think he wants three miles and soft ground.

“He’s a horse who is going to compete at the highest level, I’ve no doubt.”

Main Fact out to cap sequence with ninth successive win

Main Fact bids to extend his remarkable winning sequence to nine in the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.

Since finishing a close-up third on his first start for David Pipe at Exeter in December, the seven-year-old racked up five successive hurdling wins before reverting to the Flat to complete a hat-trick.

He steps up in distance and class for his return to the jumping game in a race his trainer has won three times over the last decade with Grand Crus (2010), Dynaste (2011) and Gevrey Chambertin (2013).

Pipe said: “It’s going to be a lot tougher for him now off a mark of 147, but he’s well and Fergus (Gillard) takes 7lb off.

“We’re trying three miles for the first time. He gives the impression he’ll get it – he’s been winning over two miles on the Flat, which usually means they’ll get three miles over hurdles. That is not always the case, but hopefully it will be on this occasion

“This is a good race to go for, and if he gets the trip he has a chance.”

On bidding for a ninth successive win, Pipe added: “I think dad (Martin Pipe) might have won eight in a row with Indian Jockey (in the 1990s) and I remember Marcel winning a lot of races in a row as well.

“We might need to go one better!”

Ronan McNally (left) and Paul Townend with The Jam Man after winning the Troytown
Ronan McNally (left) and Paul Townend with The Jam Man after winning the Troytown (PA)

Ronan McNally is hoping his contender The Jam Man can bag his second major prize in the space of a fortnight, following a wide-margin success in the Troytown Chase at Navan.

Irish amateur Maxine O’Sullivan takes over in the saddle from champion jockey Paul Townend, with McNally keen to find out whether his charge is worth a tilt at Grade One glory in the Marsh Hurdle – better known as the Long Walk – at Ascot on December 19.

“He seems in good form. He had a week off after Navan and has done a couple of light canters this week,” said the Armagh-based trainer.

“It’s always a worry coming back so soon, but the race on Saturday ties in nicely if we want to go to Ascot for the Grade One – I could have waited for a race at Newbury next week or a race the week after back at Navan, but I wanted a month between the two races.

“I suppose the race at Haydock will tell us if we’re even good enough to go to Ascot or not – at least we’ll have a few answers.”

The Jam Man is joined on the trip across the Irish Sea by former Champion Bumper winner Relegate.

Now with Colm Murphy, having previously been trained by Willie Mullins, the seven-year-old blew away any cobwebs when fourth in last month’s Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.

Murphy said: “She seems good. I’m hoping the step back up to three miles should really benefit her.

“It was all happening a bit quick for her at Navan over two and a half miles. I think three miles will be more up her alley.

“It’s a nice pot, and we’re hoping she’ll run well.”

Collooney (white cap) in action at Fontwell
Collooney (white cap) in action at Fontwell (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Olly Murphy relies on the JP McManus-owed Collooney after I K Brunel was withdrawn on account of the ground.

Murphy said: “Collooney is in good form, and we’ve been happy with him since winning at Fontwell last time.

“I think a bit of soft ground and stepping up to three miles will suit, and he has an each-way chance.”

Other hopefuls include Fergal O’Brien’s pair of Imperial Alcazar and Ask Dillon, Amy Murphy’s top-weight Kalashnikov and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Wholestone.

Haydock and Cheltenham options for Itchy Feet

Olly Murphy is considering options at Haydock and Cheltenham for Itchy Feet following his promising return to action in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree.

The six-year-old was a leading contender for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, having won his first two starts over fences, but stumbled badly and unseated Gavin Sheehan after the sixth fence.

He was well fancied to make a winning reappearance on Merseyside last month, and while he came up a little short – finishing third behind surprise winner Nuts Well – Murphy is confident there is a lot to look forward to.

“He’s come out of Aintree absolutely fine. There’s a graduation chase on Betfair Chase day at Haydock (November 21), or we might look at the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham (December 12), so we’ve got a couple of options,” he said.

“He’s in good nick and ran a good race the other day. He just lacked a little bit of experience and had a good blow from the back of the last – like all of mine, he’ll come on for the run.”

The Warren Chase handler is similarly optimistic about the future for Champagnesuperover, despite his odds-on defeat at Stratford last week.

The high-class bumper performer was long odds-on for his hurdling debut, but was beaten into second place by When You’re Ready.

“Two miles on good to soft ground at Stratford wasn’t ideal for him and he had a blow,” said Murphy.

“He wants to go to a big track over two and a half miles and have real soft ground.

“There’s no big trophies won at Stratford in October – it’s a long season.”

Imperial Aura aiming to build on Festival success

Cheltenham Festival winner Imperial Aura is one of six runners declared for Sunday’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

The two-and-a-half-mile Listed contest has an illustrious roll of honour, with subsequent Grand National hero Many Clouds (2014), the top-class Waiting Patiently (2017) and last year’s Betfair Chase scorer Lostintranslation among the recent winners.

This year’s renewal promises to be as informative as ever, with Kim Bailey’s Imperial Aura the top-rated runner on his first start since winning the novices’ handicap chase at Prestbury Park in March.

“He’s in good form and ready to go,” said Bailey.

“He’s in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham (November 14), but we’ll see how he goes on Sunday before deciding what we do.

“He’s in good shape.”

The Olly Murphy-trained Brewin’upastorm had a less favourable experience at Cheltenham last season, unseating Richard Johnson four fences from home in the Arkle Trophy.

The Milan gelding made a successful start to his chasing career at this venue last October and Murphy is looking forward to his return to action in Cumbria on Sunday.

Murphy said: “He’s in good form and will handle the ground fine – probably some of his best form is on soft ground.

“It’s very much a race to try to get his confidence back, as he obviously didn’t have a great time of it at Cheltenham and gave himself a bit of a fright.

“I’m really looking forward to running him and it looks a good starting point for the year. If he ran well, I thought we might look at something like the Peterborough Chase.”

Black Op has not been seen since filling the runner-up spot behind Slate House in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day of last year, with the outbreak of coronavirus putting paid to planned runs at the spring Festivals at Aintree and Punchestown.

Trainer Tom George said: “It will be good to get him back on track as he hasn’t run since last Christmas. We purposely missed Cheltenham, waiting for Aintree and Punchestown with him, and we ended up missing them all.

“This is a good starting point for him. The target is the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and he needs to have a run before then, so we thought this race would put him right for that.

“He’s in good form and we’re happy with him, but this is a stepping-stone.”

Anthony Honeyball’s Sam Brown, the Brian Ellison-trained Windsor Avenue and Ardlethen from Dan Skelton’s yard complete the quality sextet.

Whittington relies on Rouge Vif for Cheltenham double

Rouge Vif will bid to provide Harry Whittington with back-to-back victories in the Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

The Wantage trainer saddled stable star Saint Calvados to land the feature event on day one of the season at Prestbury Park 12 months ago, and Rouge Vif lines up with similarly strong claims on Friday.

The six-year-old kept good company as a novice over fences last season, enjoying big-race success in the Kingmaker at Warwick in February before finishing third in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival on his most recent outing.

Whittington said: “Rouge Vif has done very well during the summer. He’s only a six-year-old, so he was entitled to improve physically, and I think he has – he’s in really fantastic shape.

“I think he’s going into the race in great form. He’s rated 156 – so he has plenty of weight, and there are one or two unexposed horses in there, so it will take a very good performance to win.

“But I don’t think I could have him in better form, and we’re very much looking forward to running him.”

Rouge Vif is one of 13 runners declared for the £48,000 contest, with the weights headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Dolos.

On The Slopes rounded off last season with successive wins at Kempton – and trainer Chris Gordon is looking forward to seeing him return to action in the Cotswolds, ground permitting.

He said: “I’m going to walk the track on Friday morning and just make sure the ground is on the easy side of good. If the ground isn’t suitable, we’ll wait for the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.

“He seems very well at home. What I would say is he’s a horse who looks like a three-mile chaser at home, but on the track we’ve had to keep going back in trip – and I can’t really believe he’s ended up running over two miles.

“He’s a very different horse on the racetrack to what he is at home – it’s like he gets to the racecourse, spins round in a phone box and puts his ‘superhorse’ outfit on!

“Fingers crossed he runs a good race.”

Other contenders include Neil Mulholland’s Scardura, Dan Skelton’s pair of Hatcher and Azzuri and the Gary Moore-trained Beat The Judge.

Proceedings get under way with the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, for which Ask For Glory is likely to be the hot favourite – representing the formidable combination of Nicholls and Harry Cobden.

Solider Of Love bids for a fifth successive win for the same team in the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Novices’ Chase, but he is unlikely to have things all his own way, with two Irish raiders in the Charles Byrnes-trained Doctor Duffy and Gordon Elliott’s Galvin in opposition.

Mossy Fen, who was last seen finishing fifth behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, makes his chasing debut in the same race for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.

Part owner Carl Hinchy said: “Mossy Fen is in fine form. He’s a point-to-point winner and he has schooled very well.

“We are excited about getting his season under way.”

Fergal O’Brien’s Ask Dillon and Ruth Jefferson’s mare Clondaw Caitlin complete a six-strong field.

Nicky Henderson’s pair of Fix Sun and Hijack and Dr Richard Newland’s Captain Tom Cat are among those worth considering in a fiercely competitive squareintheair.com Handicap Hurdle.

The Catesby Estates Maiden Hurdle is another intriguing affair, with Henderson’s Pipesmoker – who showed high-class form over obstacles last season – taken on by Olly Murphy’s bumper graduate Champagnesuperover.

“He was a smart bumper horse last season, and any more rain they get will definitely be in his favour,” said Murphy.

“He’s going to be a nice horse in time, and we’re hoping he’ll take high rank in the novice-hurdling division this year.

“This looks a nice starting point for him.”

The Two Farmers Crisps Novices’ Chase sees Henderson’s Fusil Raffles lock horns with Nicholls’ Getaway Trump, while the card comes to a close with the Back And Lay At Matchbook Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Hopes high as Ribble Valley returns to action at Carlisle

Nicky Richards has never hidden the regard in which he holds the promising Ribble Valley, who reappears at Carlisle on Thursday.

Winner of four of his six races under rules, he met with defeat when last seen at Ascot behind Master Debonair on heavy ground.

He had a wind operation following that run in December, before his season was cut short by the pandemic.

“Hopefully we don’t get too much rain and it will be just good to soft ground. It was nice ground there the other day,” said Richards.

“He had a little wind op when things at Ascot didn’t work out quite right, but we were toying with that idea before.

“We had that done with the view we were probably going to go to Aintree or Ayr for the Scottish Champion, and then we know what happened.

“He’s in grand fettle, ready to run and get his season started and take it from there.

“He’ll jump fences fine when the time comes, we’ll see how he gets on his next run or two before we decide when that’s going to be.”

His main rival in the in the Watch Irish Racing On Racingtv.com Intermediate Hurdle appears to be Olly Murphy’s Nickolson, winner of two of his three races to date.

“If Nicky Richards’ horse is as good as they say he is then we might struggle to beat him,” said Murphy.

“My lad has been in good form at home, he’s training well and whatever he does he will improve upon.

“I know we are getting a little bit of weight, but if Nicky’s is as good as they say then it looks like we might be facing a tall order.

“He’s a nice horse for the future in any case.”

Murphy sends Notre Pari north for the Introducing Racing TV Beginners’ Chase, which also looks competitive.

“This looks a good starting point for him, coming back down in trip to two miles on a stiff track on some nice ground,” said Murphy.

“He was a decent novice hurdler, but I’m keen to see how he’ll get on over fences.

“He’s ready to go but will improve on whatever he does.”

Peter Niven’s Malystic, Sandy Thomson’s Elf De Re and the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat will ensure there is plenty of strength in depth.

Coleman straight back to winning ways on comeback ride

Aidan Coleman had more than one reason to celebrate the victory of Here Comes Johnny at Fakenham on Friday.

Not only was it the Grade One-winning rider’s first success after returning from a fractured arm sustained in July, but it was also his inaugural triumph since being appointed stable jockey to winning trainer Olly Murphy earlier this week.

Having finished second on his stable debut in a bumper at Market Rasen, the 6-5 favourite had little trouble in going one better on his first start over hurdles, winning by 11 lengths in the Champions Day On Sky Sports Racing “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.

Coleman said: “It is great way to start everything really, as it is my first ride back in three months.

“I got a very good first ride. The horse took no riding at all. He jumped super and he was very straightforward. It is a great way to start the new partnership with Olly.”

Coleman was quick to praise those who enabled him to return to action so quickly.

“Thanks to everybody at Oaksey House and Geoff Graham (specialist) and Jerry Hill (British Horseracing Authority chief medical adviser),” he said.

“My recovery wouldn’t have been as straightforward if it wasn’t for their help, as it was quite a nasty injury. The fact I’m back riding winners so soon is a testament to them, not me.”

Grade Two-winning hurdler Wolf Of Windlesham (11-1) put in a near-foot perfect round of jumping to make his debut over fences a triumphant one in the Breeders’ Cup On Sky Sports Racing Novices’ Chase.

Trainer Stuart Edmunds said: “He had good form as a juvenile hurdler and he won a Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham. He still retains plenty of zest and has schooled very well over fences.

“It was lovely to see the old boy back, but he had run well on the Flat. I don’t have clue what to do know as I didn’t expect to win this!”

Jonjo O’Neill saw his plan for Carys’ Commodity (4-1) come together in perfect fashion after the five-year-old claimed the Champions Day Form Study On attheraces.com/Ascot Handicap Hurdle by 14 lengths.

Jonjo O’Neill junior was on board and said: “We thought he was a galloper and he probably is at this sort of trip (two and a half miles). He travelled well the last day over three-miles-one at Cartmel, but he just ran out of steam.

“We had planned this race out the day after Cartmel so it has been on the agenda for a while and it was good planning by the team.”

Sir Jack Yeats (4-1) made it two wins from three starts at the Norfolk track to complete a double for jockey James Bowen when taking full advantage of the final-fence fall of leader Fixed Rate to land the Download The At The Races App Handicap Chase by a neck.

Richard Spencer said of his nine-year-old: “We were a lucky winner and I think if the other horse had stood up we would have been a decent second.

“He is a bit quirky, but the turning track here is to his likely. If he is OK he might go to Cheltenham next week for an amateurs’ race.”

Jubilympics (9-4) got the ball rolling for the former champion conditional jockey when getting the better of odds-on favourite Bit On The Side in the Sky Sports Racing Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Bowen said of the Emma Lavelle-trained winner: “She jumped really well, but she is not the biggest. I had one go at her (Bit On The Side) at the last and she stuck on all the way.”