Murphy's Quito De La Roque may yet line up for Gold Cup attempt

Quito De La Roque could yet get the chance to stake his claim for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Quito De La Roque could yet get the chance to stake his claim for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho


RACING:Quito De La Roque bounced back to winning form last month and could yet get the chance to stake his claim for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in just over three weeks’ time.

The Colm Murphy trained dual-Grade One winner was a leading fancy for steeplechasing’s blue riband at one stage last season but missed out on the festival due to a sinus problem. After almost a year on the sidelines, Quito De La Roque returned to action in the JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal that he’d won a season previously.

In the interim, other Gigginstown Stud-owned stars such as Sir Des Champs and First Lieutenant passed him out in the Gold Cup reckoning, but Murphy’s stayer indicated he is no back number with a convincing success in the Kinloch Brae at Thurles on his last start.

Big-race options

Quito De La Roque is currently a 50/1 outsider in most ante-post lists for the Gold Cup, just one of a list of big-race options he has which also include the Grand National. However, Murphy is just glad that his horse appears to have turned a corner.

“Thurles showed us he is back on track and coming to himself again,” the Co Wexford trainer said yesterday. “I thought he ran a blinder on his first race back at Down Royal and things didn’t happen for him at Leopardstown in the Lexus. Take that out and we’d have been very happy with him.

“But he is in good form and there are a lot of options there including the Gold Cup. The owners will be juggling things and I don’t know what we’ll be doing yet,” Murphy added.

Sir Des Champs has only Bob’s Worth ahead of him in betting for the Gold Cup while First Lieutenant is also prominent in ante-post lists.

Brave Inca and Big Zeb headlined Murphy’s Cheltenham ambitions in the past and he will go to the festival hopeful of more success in the Byrne Group Plate with Glam Gerry.

The horse was third in the race last year and Murphy said: “We were much happier with his jumping in the Leopardstown Chase compared to the Paddy Power and I think he would have been involved at the finish but for interference at one of the bypassed fences. He is rated 130 so hopefully he will be able to sneak into the bottom of that race.

“We also hope to get Shariyan into one of the handicaps. He might not get into the Coral Cup but he is also entered for the Martin Pipe conditional jockeys race.”

Hurricane Fly is a general 6-4 favourite with most firms to regain his Champion Hurdle crown in three weeks time after Ruby Walsh’s confirmation he will maintain his partnership with Willie Mullins’s star.

Attracted backing

But it was the unbeaten Our Conor who attracted backing yesterday and was backed into 5/1 favouritism for the Triumph Hurdle with Paddy Power.

“Our Conor looked a Rolls Royce at Leopardstown, where he dismissed Diakali, himself previously unbeaten, with consummate ease,” a spokesman for the firm reported. The money we’ve seen would suggest he will be one of the Irish bankers at Prestbury Park.”

Rebel Fitz missed out on Saturday’s Red Mills Trial at Gowran but remains a possible starter in the Champion Hurdle for Cork trainer Mick Winters. “You don’t wish anything bad on any horse, but if Hurricane Fly couldn’t go to Cheltenham, we might just be on the boat,” Winters said yesterday.

“We don’t really know what to do yet. If all the big boys turn up we might give it a miss and stay at home.

“He might just come up a bit short against the top boys and you wouldn’t want him to go over to Cheltenham and have a very hard race and then bottom him for the rest of the season.

“There is a nice, valuable race in Cork the week after Cheltenham we could go for instead and there is always Punchestown and Aintree later on,” he added.

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