Timmy Murphy yesterday spoke of his delight at the prospect of riding triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate in the William Hill Chase at Exeter on Friday.

Henrietta Knight had ended speculation as to who would deputise for the injured Jim Culloty on the nine-year-old by announcing the name of the Irishman, who had made a trip to her Wantage yard to sit on the horse.

Murphy has been in phenomenal form lately, riding seven winners for his new boss Martin Pipe at the Open meeting at Cheltenham last weekend.

''I'm really looking forward to riding him, he's obviously a fabulous horse'' said the 30-year-old.

''His record says it all. It's a privilege just to be asked to ride him.

''Having also ridden Beef Or Salmon recently I will have been on the best two chasers around.

''I went down to Henrietta's on Saturday to sit on him and he was everything I expected him to be. I schooled him over a couple of fences, nothing too strenuous.''

Tony McCoy, who had ridden Best Mate twice before, including to victory in the 2002 King George VI Chase, was also believed to be in the running to partner the Jim Lewis-owned champion.

But even had Miss Knight's decision gone the other way, he would have been unable to take the ride as he will be on the sidelines after breaking his thumb.

Before the injury, Miss Knight said: ''We weighed up the pros and cons. Obviously Mr Lewis has a lot of loyalty to Tony McCoy, who has ridden winners for him in the past, but we decided that Timmy Murphy's style of riding would suit the horse better.''

Best Mate will face a maximum of six rivals in the £65,000 contest.

The race had been reopened until 9.15am yesterday after attracting fewer than eight entries on Saturday, but no further additions were made to the field.

The chief threat to the son of Un Desperado looks to be the Robert Alner-trained Sir Rembrandt, who has half a length to find from the Gold Cup in March and has a run under his belt already this season.

Henry Daly's useful Hand Inn Hand, who has also had a run, Frenchman's Creek, Upgrade, Seebald and One Knight complete the field at the five-day stage.

Miss Knight has been pleased with Best Mate's progress, but warned the near-three-mile contest in Devon would not be a stroll in the park.

He has also been entered in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Saturday, where he has reappeared for the last two seasons, although this is only as an option if conditions become very testing at Exeter.

''It will be a good race,'' she added. ''Hand Inn Hand ran a good race over hurdles the other day, and some of the others have had the benefit of a run.

''I am delighted with him and I have put him in at Huntingdon just as a precaution.''

Robert Alner feels Sir Rembrandt will have benefited from his debut, when he finished runner-up to Grey Abbey in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

''We're on course for Friday and the horse is very well indeed,'' he said. ''He'll have come on for his debut at Wetherby but I would like it to rain because that would help his chances and it may not suit some of the others.

''The theory was to get a run into him before we took on Best Mate, so we'll just have to see how it works out.

''I've not seen the final entries but obviously Best Mate will be the one we have to beat, and first time out may give us a better chance.

''The distance might be the one disadvantage as he stays very well.

''But it's an uphill finish and that should suit him.''

Hughie Morrison is happy with Frenchman's Creek, who has been given plenty of time to recover from a tendon injury sustained in April 2002 after he finished third in what was then known as the Attheraces Gold Cup.