Cheltenham kicks off the 2009/10 season tomorrow for the Showcase meeting. The Showcase is Cheltenhams opening meeting of the season and takes place tomorrow, Friday, October 16, and Saturday, October 17. Ferdy Murphy always relishes sending a raiding party to Cheltenham from his North Yorkshire base and the trainer has lined up a smart trio of marauders for tomorrows race. Three Mirrors will lead the assault against five rivals in the days feature contest, the 25,000 sportingbet.com Handicap Chase (4.05pm), while the progressive mare Elzahann is primed for the 19,000 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) (3.30pm) and Galant Nuit is set to shoulder top-weight in the 11,000 Softrack Amateur Riders Handicap Chase (5.15pm).
Murphy revealed this morning: All of ours will come on for a run but they have done a fair bit and have schooled very well. They all have high enough ratings so we have to go to tracks like Cheltenham to get runs into them, but they will all improve for the run.
Three Mirrors has been consistent - he won at Ayr a couple of years back and went up 15lb for that, but he went back and won the same race a year later. Good ground is the whole secret with him.
Three Mirrors, fifth in last seasons Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open, is yet to win over tomorrows extended three-mile trip, but proved his stamina when runner-up to Oedipe over three miles and a furlong at Aintree in April, 2008. The nine-year-old failed to hit top form last term but Murphy is hopeful for the coming campaign.
He said: The horse had a bit of an operation on his throat and it seems to have worked. Nathan Moscrop rides him at home all the time and he says that his wind seems to be a lot better. It was impairing him slightly in his races, not a lot but we always felt that he panicked a little bit, possibly because he was not getting enough air, so we have had a little tinkering job done and it seems to have helped him, so fingers crossed.
Murphy is hoping that Elzahann can continue the improvement she has shown to date when she contests the three-mile Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier), which has 14 horses declared, including Kayf Aramis and Buena Vista, first and second, respectively, in the Pertemps Final at The Festival in March.
The seven-year-old mare has won five of her nine career starts and will bid for a four-timer tomorrow, having won handicap hurdles at Hexham, Ayr and Haydock in the spring. The Wynbury Stables handler commented: Elzahann is a good mare and did very well for us last year. She just kept getting better and better as the year went on. She has done very well over the summer, although she will actually come on for the run tomorrow, and she looks like being very nice.
The Softrack Amateur Riders Handicap Chase has 18 declared runners and Murphy is looking to young amateur Nathan Moscrop to guide top-weight Galant Nuit to victory. The three-mile contest has also attracted three Irish-trained raiders, including the Nina Carberry-ridden Kells Castle from the Gordon Elliott stable.
Murphy said of his horse and rider: Galant Nuit won a four-year-old novice chase at Uttoxeter in December last year and, unfortunately, the handicappers dont take into consideration that four-year-olds have an allowance. He had an 11lb allowance that day and he got a 15lb penalty for winning, so in effect he was getting a two stone penalty on January 1, because he lost his allowance when he turned five.
He has struggled a little bit because of that but he ran a very good race at Aintree on his last run in May. Graham (Lee) was absolutely thrilled with him, he jumped fantastic and stayed on really well. He is a nice horse and has actually strengthened up a bit so is going to be a better horse this year, I think.
Nathan has been with us since he left school and was novice northern point-to-point champion. He is a very good lad and does a lot of work here on the difficult horses. It is only a matter of time - if he gets a couple of winners, he will fly through. He has a seven pound claim so if he gets a few winners on the track, he will do very well. He thinks about the game a lot. He is very fit, watches what he eats, goes on the right diets and we will give him a chance.