HORSE RACING - Murphy hopes Thunder Rock can deliver early Christmas present at Cheltenham - The Stratford Observer

HORSE RACING - Murphy hopes Thunder Rock can deliver early Christmas present at Cheltenham

Stratford Editorial 14th Dec, 2023   0

OLLY Murphy hopes Thunder Rock can vindicate the financial punt his joint owners Max McNeill and Ian Dale took to secure his services by delivering the pair an early Christmas present at Cheltenham on Saturday (December 16) in the Virgin Bet December Gold Cup.

The progressive seven-year-old, recommended to Murphy by Cheltenham Festival-winning rider Derek O’Connor, will face arguably his sternest test to date over fences in the £130,000 Premier Handicap chase at the weekend.

And while the Shirocco gelding would now have a queue of potential suitors to snap him up the Wilmcote handler admits it was a very different scenario upon his arrival to his yard following his purchase at the 2020 Goffs UK Summer mixed sale.

Murphy said: “I couldn’t get him sold for ages and Max and Ian were the lucky people that ended up buying him. He is by Shirocco, which wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

“Max came for a wander round one day to see his horses and I said that lad there you should buy him.

“He went had a look at him and then later on he rang me back and said, ‘I will take him’. That was the long and the short of it.

“He is a horse most people would like to own and hopefully he has not done progressing just yet.”

Thunder Rock will enter the extended two and a half mile contest on the back of making a triumphant return to action in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle last month.

Murphy added: “It was a good performance at Carlisle and Sean (Bowen) got on well with him. Getting that little bit more experience over fences before we tackle a handicap like this was important.

“I actually thought he ran very well over course and distance last season in the Dipper. He handles the track fine, and I don’t think there is going to be a massive field looking at the entries.

“We looked at the Peterborough Chase, which was sadly called off, and if he was going to win a race like that then he must have a very good chance of winning a handicap off a mark of 146 for a lot of money.

“He has got plenty of experience over fences now, all be it in smaller fields, but hopefully that will stand him in good stead having his first run in an open handicap over fences.”

Equally excited about Thunder Rock’s next assignment is his groom, and Murphy’s head lass, Ceris Biddle.

She added: “It will definitely be one of my biggest days on track, especially going to a meeting like this at Cheltenham with a horse that is really fancied.

“I ride some nice horses here, but Thunder Rock is definitely the main man.

“I go with him for all his races, and he is usually the only one I go to the races with as I’m often busy on the yard, but I make an exception for him.

“He showed he has improved again at Carlisle and hopefully that continues at Cheltenham. I’m very excited for this race and I can’t wait.”

Booster Bob (5-6 favourite) ensured Murphy’s fleeting visit to Sandown Park last Saturday was a successful one after securing a hard-fought length and three quarters success in the Listed Claremont Novices’ Hurdle.


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