01 February 2023

Murphy mulling Cheltenham and Aintree choices for Strong Leader

01 February 2023

Olly Murphy is considering both Cheltenham and Aintree options for his promising hurdler Strong Leader.

The six-year-old has been beaten just once in five career starts, his sole loss being a second-placed run in a Cheltenham bumper in October.

After that the gelding made a seamless transition to hurdling, winning his debut at Uttoxeter before going on to land an Aintree novice by eight lengths from subsequent wide-margin winner Etalon.

Next came a Southwell novices’ hurdle on Sunday, a race in which Murphy’s charge cantered home to win by an easy 15 lengths under a penalty.

Strong Leader holds an entry for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and could head there next, but Murphy has an alternative plan that involves targeting the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton and then aiming for Aintree instead.

“He came out of his run well, we haven’t quite decided what we’re going to do,” he said.

“We’ll either go to the Dovecote and go to Aintree, or go straight to the Supreme.

“It’s just a little bit frustrating that he hasn’t gone up in grade at any point, just to dip our toe in the water and see where we are.

“There haven’t been options for him and he’s a horse who doesn’t want heavy ground, so that’s limited were we’ve been able to go, It is what is is and it’s the way the programme book works over here.

“The form has all worked out well, albeit I’d have loved to have run him in a graded race before going to Cheltenham, if that’s where we’re going to go, but he’s gained some more experience and he looks to be progressing nicely.”

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