Fry ready to Rock On in the Arkle Challenge

THE ONE TO BEAT: Ruby Walsh and Hurricane Fly on the gallops at Cheltenham yesterday morning, ahead of this afternoon’s Stan James Champion Hurdle

THE ONE TO BEAT: Ruby Walsh and Hurricane Fly on the gallops at Cheltenham yesterday morning, ahead of this afternoon’s Stan James Champion Hurdle

First published in Sport

HARRY FRY could not be happier as Rock On Ruby attempts to continue his excellent Festival record in today’s Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy.

The seven-year-old has finished in the first two in all his three previous visits, winning the Champion Hurdle on this day in 2012 and finishing runner-up 12 months ago, as well as going down by a short head in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2011.

Critics will point to the fact Rock On Ruby has only had the two runs over fences, winning both, but that was due to the trainer avoiding the incessant heavy ground during the winter.

With conditions drying out just at the right time, Fry goes to Prestbury Park full of confidence.

‘‘We couldn’t have wished for a better run-up on the weather front to Rock On Ruby going in the Arkle on Tuesday,’’ the Seaborough handler told his blog.

‘‘It’s been fantastic with all this warm weather. Drying ground is a huge positive for him and we’re really excited about his chances.

‘‘He schooled great on Friday. Noel (Fehily) came in to school all the Cheltenham runners and he looks fantastic thanks to Ciara’s (O’Connor) hard work.

‘‘His summer coat’s come through and he’s in as good as form as we’ve known him for a long time. We’re very positive about his chances.

‘‘It’s going to be a big stepup into top-level novice company over fences. He’s progressed nicely in his two runs to date and obviously they haven’t been overly competitive. But he could only beat what’s been put in front of him and he’s done that well.

‘‘We know he’s got a fantastic Cheltenham Festival record and he thrives at this time of year and it’s been exactly the same this time around. So it’s all systems go and fingers crossed it stays that way.

‘‘The favourite Champagne Fever is another horse with a fantastic Festival record. People are crabbing us for lack of experience only having had two runs and beating two horses basically, but Champagne Fever’s only had two runs and on his last start he made a Horlicks of one and got beat.

‘‘I’d far rather be coming into the race on the back of two good wins on an upward curve, but I think he and Trifolium are the ones to beat.

‘‘Champagne Fever will hopefully set a good gallop in front and that will suit us down to the ground. It’s going to be a fascinating race as always.’’ Champagne Fever has a perfect Festival record, winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2012 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year.

That is of more relevance to trainer Willie Mullins rather than the fact things have not gone to plan so far this term.

‘‘Things haven’t been clear for him this season, but he’s done that before and run well at Cheltenham,’’ said the County Carlow handler.

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