Olly Murphy will give Thomas Darby the chance to take the first step towards a potential outing in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March at Wetherby later this month.
The Wilmcote handler has earmarked the Grade Two bet365 Hurdle, better known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, on Saturday week (30th October) for the eight year old, who finished third in three of his four starts last season.
After filling the runner-up spot on his Festival debut in 2019 in the Grade One Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the Diana Whateley-owned gelding finished down the field on his return the meeting this year in the Grade Three Coral Cup.
Thomas Darby ended the campaign on a brighter note when saving his best performance until last on his first attempt over an extended three miles on his Grade One return when finishing third in the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree in April.
Murphy said: “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.
“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.
“Last season saying it was a mess up is the wrong way to put it but it is annoying that I got to April and found out that he wants three miles, so at least we know what we are doing.
“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.”
Murphy expects Brewin’upastorm to pick up plenty of prizemoney this season starting with an outing in next month’s Betway Hurdle at Aintree (Saturday 6th November). The eight year old ill drop down in class on his reappearance at the Merseyside track in the two and a half mile prize.
After failing to beat a rival in two starts over fences last season the Barbara Hester-owned gelding backed up his winning return to smaller obstacles at Taunton with a Grade Two success in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell.
Despite Brewin’upastorm only finishing fifth on his Grade One return in the Betway Aintree Hurdle in April, it was an effort that Murphy was far from disappointed with and one he hopes he can build on this campaign.
He said: “He goes to Aintree on November 6th for a two and a half mile conditions hurdle. 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.”
Murphy could head straight to the McCoy Contractors County Hurdle at The Festival™ with Copperless, who will miss the first half the season after meeting with a setback.
The lightly raced six year old gained compensation for his late fall at Aintree on his penultimate start with a runaway success in the Grade Three Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park in May.
He said: “Copperless is going to miss the first half of the season as he has picked up a stress fracture. 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 and I would be looking at something like that as I don’t think he would be ready much before that.”