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5 November 2011; Michael O'Leary, right, from the Gigginstown House Stud with trainer Colm Murphy after  Quito De La Roque won the JNwine.com Champion Steeplechase. Down Royal Racecourse, Lisburn, Co. Down. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

5 November 2011; Michael O'Leary, right, from the Gigginstown House Stud with trainer Colm Murphy after Quito De La Roque won the JNwine.com Champion Steeplechase. Down Royal Racecourse, Lisburn, Co. Down. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

5 November 2011; Michael O'Leary, right, from the Gigginstown House Stud with trainer Colm Murphy after Quito De La Roque won the JNwine.com Champion Steeplechase. Down Royal Racecourse, Lisburn, Co. Down. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Since Brave Inca beat War Of Attrition in the 2004 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, his trainer Colm Murphy has enjoyed going to Cheltenham with high-profile runners.

That famous win was Murphy's first runner across the water and every year since Murphy has made at least one trip across from his Wexford base and come home with some sterling in his back pocket every time.

Brave Inca and Big Zeb flew the flag the highest, but Voler La Vedette, Feathered Lady and Quito De La Roque were all campaigned to notably high levels.

Quito De La Roque is the only one of that group still in training and having struggled to find his form for a while, he bounced back to winning ways in a facile manner in the Kinloch Brae at Thurles recently.

It goes without saying that the drive out of Thurles that evening was a satisfying one for Murphy who admitted to the Herald: "It was the manner in which he won at Thurles that was most pleasing."

Gigginstown's stable jockey, Davy Russell, opted for Roi Du Mee on that occasion – he was the obvious choice of three for that ownership in that race, the obvious choice on recent form – but Quito De La Roque (14/1) threw the recent form-book into a Tipperary ditch en route to Thurles and decided to come back to winning ways, eased down by Paul Townend to beat Roi Du Mee by six-and-a-half lengths.

"It was stop-start with him last year and he never really got going. It was the same for a bit this season, but please God it is all systems go now and we get a clear run with him," Murphy continued.

There's an old saying for trainers in racing: 'Keep yourself in the best company and your horses in the worst', which doesn't really apply to Murphy and Quito De La Roque as the dual Grade One winner is too classy an individual to run in anything but good company.

However, as regards the near future, Murphy did state: "He will run wherever we feel he has the most realistic chance of winning.

"The Gold Cup looks a very competitive race this year and he probably has to improve again to be talking Gold Cups with him but he won as a novice around Aintree and the Betfred Bowl could be the race for him."

A lot will depend on the owners too. Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud have an array of ammunition for that range. Sir Des Champs, First Lieutenant, Bog Warrior and Roi Du Mee all come into the same sort of equation.

"We have been very fortunate up to now with the few good horses we had. It will be the first year in a long time that we won't have anything going to Cheltenham for any of the Championship races you might say, but I'm hoping we will still have one or two," added Murphy.

Barry Connell's Glam Gerry and the recent two-time winner Shariyan are two obvious candidates to be considered for Cheltenham handicaps next month.

"Glam Gerry will go back for the Byrne Group Plate which he was third in last year. He has ran twice around Cheltenham and ran well on both occasions so we'll be hopeful about him, whereas Shariyan has gone up 18lbs for his last two wins so I'm afraid the handicapper might be putting the anchor on him, although I'm hoping he's still improving.

"I will enter Shariyan for a couple of the handicaps over in Cheltenham but I don't know if he'll even be high enough to get in."

Reflecting on Big Zeb, who was third in last year's Champion Chase, and Voler La Vedette, who was second to Big Buck's in the World Hurdle, and are now both retired, Murphy admitted; "We won't half miss them."

"They were two great servants. For Big Zeb his little niggly problems just weren't going away so it was the right time for him and Voler La Vedette was such a valuable mare and that probably made the decision easier to retire her."

With JP McManus, Michael O'Leary and Barry Connell all rowing behind Murphy, as well as some long-serving loyal owners, the prospect of him returning to Cheltenham in the not too distant future with headline names is a likely scenario.

"We are very, very fortunate with the owners we have and we are all equally looking for that next flag bearer. We have a nice bunch of horses that have not ran yet and I am hoping something might come out of them."


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