Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 12 December 2017

O'Grady mulls over Champion Hurdle option for Kitten Rock

Kitten Rock with Mark Walsh up
Kitten Rock with Mark Walsh up

Marcus Armytage

When it comes to training Cheltenham Festival winners, few men have either the experience or the success of Edward O'Grady and that is one reason why the Champion Hurdle outsider Kitten Rock, unbeaten in four starts this season, should be taken seriously if owner JP McManus gives him the nod to carry his silks along with Jezki three weeks tomorrow.

Only four current trainers have trained more Cheltenham winners than O'Grady, whose first of 18 Festival winners was Mr Midland in the 1974 National Hunt Chase.

Probably his greatest service to racing was giving JP McManus his first Festival winner when Mr Donovan landed the 1982 Neptune Hurdle and he has three times been joint leading trainer at the meeting.

On Saturday, Kitten Rock sauntered to a 12-length success at Gowran after Abbyssial, his only danger, fell at the second last, delaying the moment of truth for the five-year-old.

"He ticks all except one box; no one can put a figure on how good he is," said O'Grady yesterday. "I'm not suggesting he's the second coming, but until he gets beaten - he had legitimate excuses last season - we don't know. I don't want to know how good he is because the day I find out is the day I'll be disappointed. He's a lazy devil when he hits the front and thinks 'I've arrived - I don't care any more'. We had a five-point plan for him and he's won four of them. Am I brave enough to keep going and have one crack at the Champion, or do we take the conservative route and go to Fairyhouse?

"Down the line, I could see Kitten Rock as a Gold Cup horse, that's what I'm hoping. He's just short of 17 hands and I hope, with another summer on his back, he'll progress again." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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