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Arkle on the agenda for Rock On Ruby after smooth chasing debut

It’s not often that Plumpton sees a Champion Hurdle winner but that was the case on Monday as Rock On Ruby began his own route to the Arkle – for which he is 16/1 – with a bloodless victory.

Harry Fry’s stable star only had two rivals to beat and that task was made simpler when the front-running Lamb’s Cross unseated his rider at an early stage.

The 1/10 favourite then only had the 98-rated hurdler Lindsay’s Dream to beat but he did have one moment of worry.

The son of Oscar hit the fourth-last fence very hard but didn’t lose any momentum and jockey Noel Fehily only had to let out an inch of rein after the last to record a four length success.

Bet on Rock On Ruby to win the Arkle at 16/1

What was pleasing for Arkle punters was the way that he was clever at a couple of his fences and also how his serious error – at a tricky fence it should be said – didn’t knock his confidence for the remaining three obstacles.

Fry said: “He did what he had to do. The ground is much too soft for him, but I thought he was clever at a couple of them when he had to be, which is a good sign.

“Hopefully we’ll get him through to March and then we have options like the Jewson as well as the Arkle.”

Those comments might sound a word of warning to those taking the 16/1 about the Arkle, however the latter looks the obvious race.

Rock On Ruby won the Champion Hurdle in 2012

The 2012 Champion Hurdle winner was also second in that race last season and his record at Cheltenham – which reads 1-2-2-1-3-2 – is phenomenal.

He was second in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle as a six-year-old when he was worn down near the line and a truly-run two miles is his perfect distance.

He hasn’t raced over 2m4f since finishing a well-held third to Oscar Whisky at Aintee in April 2012 and his Arkle price is much more appealing than those quoted for the Jewson.

Dawn Run won the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup

Dawn Run won the Champion Hurdle and then the Gold Cup but no Champion Hurdle winner has ever gone on to win the Arkle.

The last Champion to try fences was Hors La Loi III.

He won his first novice chase but didn’t win again, finishing his career with a well-held sixth in the novices’ handicap chase at the Festival.

Like several who have tried – including 1993 winner Granville Again and 1996 winner Collier Bay – connections have waited until things turned sour before sending their horses over fences.

Not so Rock On Ruby, who let’s reiterate was second in the Champion Hurdle last season.

Connections of the horse should be lauded for putting their horse over fences quickly; they took the view that the horse’s reappearance when he was beaten by The New One at Kempton was proof that he could not regain his Champion Hurdle crown.

Rock On Ruby is by the same sire as Champion Chase winner Big Zeb

He’s also bred for the job.

His sire Oscar has produced top-quality chasers, including 2010 Champion Chase winner Big Zeb.

Fellow first-season chasers Oscar Whisky and Felix Yonger are also by the French Derby runner-up and the Arkle could be a very exciting race for those at Oscar’s base at Grange Stud.