01 February 2023

Thomas Darby delights Murphy with Ayr chasing success

01 February 2023

Olly Murphy was “over the moon” to see his high-class hurdler and stable stalwart Thomas Darby open his account over fences after a thrilling battle with Gold Cup Bailly in the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Ayr.

It will be four years next month since Thomas Darby finished best of the rest behind Klassical Dream in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, after which an intended novice chasing campaign the following season was aborted after just two starts.

Now aged 10, the son of Beneficial has since plied his trade over the smaller obstacles – enjoying big-race success in the Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in 2020 and in last season’s Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Going back over fences for the first time since finishing a distant third at Kempton in November 2019, Thomas Darby was the outsider of four in Scotland, but proved he is no back number with a determined display under top-weight.

Gold Cup Bailly, bidding to make it four from four over fences and out to record a third successive win at the track, was the 5-6 favourite under Daryl Jacob and attempted to make all, with 15-2 shot Thomas Darby always his nearest pursuer in the hands of Sean Bowen.

The pair went at it hammer and tongs racing down the back straight for the second time, with no quarter given, but following a pulsating duel for home, it was Thomas Darby who claimed top honours by a length and a quarter.

Murphy said: “I thought he jumped unbelievably well for a horse who hadn’t run over fences for over three years and I’m absolutely over the moon.

“I hadn’t pursued his career over fences for one reason or another, but he got in a lovely rhythm and got a fantastic ride off Sean.

“It was a very competitive race for Ayr on a Wednesday and to win off 145 I thought was a good performance.”

Considering future plans, the trainer added: “I don’t know where we’ll go from here, but we’ll have a bit of fun with him over fences. We’ll maybe go and boss a few smaller fields somewhere and if there’s a sexier target towards the end of the season, then great.

“I won’t be getting too excited. We might just try to win something small under a penalty.

“For him and Itchy Feet to have won in the same week, it’s testament to all my staff at home. These horses have been on the go for a long time and they’re not getting any younger, but to keep them sweet and happy and enjoying their racing, I’m chuffed to bits.”

Bowen was completing a double on the card, having brought up his century for the season aboard John McConnell’s Jackpot De Choisel (30-100 favourite) in the Racing TV Juvenile Hurdle.

He made it a treble – and a double for Murphy – with Booster Bob (9-4) triumphing in the We’re Racing Next On 14th February Open National Hunt Flat Race.

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