HORSE RACING - Chasing Fire fuels festival dream for Murphy following Sandown Park success - The Stratford Observer

HORSE RACING - Chasing Fire fuels festival dream for Murphy following Sandown Park success

Stratford Editorial 8th Feb, 2023   0

OLLY Murphy hopes Chasing Fire can help him complete unfinished business in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next month after maintaining his unbeaten record in impressive fashion at Sandown Park last Saturday, February 4.

Having saddled Thomas Darby to finish second in the 2019 renewal of the Grade One prize for Grahame and Diana Whateley at The Festival, the Wilmcote handler hopes the gelded son of Maxios can go one better for the same owners on March 14.

Arriving on the back of a brace of victories at Market Rasen the 4-6 Favourite completed the hat-trick when seeing off recent Taunton scorer Iliko D’Olivate by six lengths under Aidan Coleman in the opening Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle.

Murphy said: “I think he is good, but I don’t know how good he is. His main attribute is that he has got the most unbelievable way of doing everything.

“He is the most laid back horse you will ever set your eyes on. He is in the Supreme and I would [like to have a go at it].

“He would be a 12 or 16-1 chance for the Supreme and if I didn’t go there I would be all but favourite for a Grade One at Aintree and that would be the Gold Cup of his novice career. He is going to be a very good chaser next season.

“I’ve had some good two milers and I’ve been second and third in the race (Supreme) but I’ve never had a horse to win a Supreme or be a champion but he is unbeaten and he does what he has to do.

“He is a lot more laid back than Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet, and I know they are a bit longer in the tooth now than this lad, but his work at home has always been exceptional. I hope he can be good but he has got to take that next step up again now.”

Murphy feels that a Grade One victory at The Festival for Chasing Fire would be the perfect way to thank the support he has received from the Whateleys, who saw Thomas Darby carry their colours to glory at Ayr earlier this month.

Murphy added: “They are massive supporters of mine and massive supporters of National Hunt racing and it is important they get a good horse.

“You have to chuck money at this game and you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince Charming.

“They are my number one fans and supporters and to potentially have a good one for them is great.”

Owner Mike Newbould saw his wait to celebrate the 100th winner of his career finally come to an end after Third Time Lucki (5-1) appeared to benefit from the application of hold up tactics when coming from last to first in the Virgin Bet Dolos Handicap Chase.

Without a victory since tasting Grade Two glory at Doncaster last January, the eight year old, who is trained in Alcester by Dan Skelton, finally got his head back in front when forging on close home in the two-mile prize to defeat early leader Fast Buck by a length.

Newbould said: “It has been a long time waiting. We had Kracka Nut win at Market Rasen in October and Dan went on television and said that is Mike’s 99th winner, watch this space as in the next couple of weeks he will be on 100 and that was three months ago!

“He has been a lovely horse. Last season he won twice early on at Cheltenham then won the Lightning at Doncaster and he then lost his way a little bit after that. We saved him for Aintree and we came up against Gentlemee De Mee and Edwardstone.

“He hasn’t been right this season but hopefully we have turned a corner. I like the look of the Grand Annual but it depends what the handicapper is does to him. I think Dan would be keener to go to Aintree for the Red Rum on a flat track.

“One thing the horse has got is speed, he has always been quick and on better ground he would be a better horse.”

Victory aboard Third Time Lucki, who was clipped into 9-1 from 10-1 for the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase by Paddy Power, also marked a first at the course for winning rider Kielan Woods.

Newbould added: “I’ve been looking forward to that one. I’ve never ever ridden a winner here and I’d say I’ve had more seconds than anybody.”

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