Saturday 10 December 2016

Empire strikes back at Cheltenham for Colm Murphy

Graham Clark and Ashley Iveson

Published 17/03/2016 | 17:22

Empire Of Dirt ridden by Bryan Cooper jumps the fence on his way to winning the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate during St Patrick's Thursday of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival
Empire Of Dirt ridden by Bryan Cooper jumps the fence on his way to winning the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate during St Patrick's Thursday of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival

Empire Of Dirt powered through the field to give Bryan Cooper his first winner of the meeting in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

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Cooper brought Colm Murphy's nine-year-old with a steady run on the outside to put in a challenge from two out. Empire Of Dirt (16-1), wearing the Gigginstown House Stud colours, kept on stoutly up the hill to beat Tango De Juilley by four lengths.

Kings Palace put up a solid performance to take third place a length and a quarter away, while Full Shift was fourth. There were several casualties, including Stilletto unseating his rider at the third, Darna falling at the eighth fence, bringing down Bear's Affair and badly hampering Fingal Bay, while Niceonefrankie came down at the fourth-last.

Cooper expressed delight at having secured his first Festival winner of the week. He said: "It's just a relief. I've had so many good rides, to be fair.

"I know the horses are running as good as they are - they are just coming up one or two better ones." Of Empire Of Dirt, Cooper said: "They went a good gallop and he won with a fair bit up his sleeve."

Murphy said: "I was a bit animated coming down to the last, it's fantastic. He's hit the ground a few times along the way but he's been a good buy and we gave him every chance today.

"He settled really well today, he has been hard on himself initially but he's starting to enjoy his racing now. It's nice to get a winner for Eddie and Michael (O'Leary) on Ryanair day."

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