The Big Question: More Cheltenham glory for Rock On Ruby?
Only nine runners have been declared for the Arkle Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. This will be good news for Harry Fry, who saddles Rock On Ruby with just two victories in minor novice events under his belt.
Although Rock On Ruby was officially in the care of Paul Nicholls when winning the Champion Hurdle, much of the credit for his victory went to Fry. He trained the horse under his own licence the following season and he made a bold bid to retain his title, finishing second to Hurricane Fly.
Fry took the bold decision to put blinkers on that day and the move nearly paid off. Rock On Ruby will not be wearing the headgear on Tuesday as he lines up for his first serious test over fences.
The nine-year-old faced just two rivals for his debut over fences at Plumpton in December. That was reduced to one when Lambs Cross unseated Patrick Corbett at the third and he was never seriously pressed to beat Lindsay’s Dream by four lengths.
Fry’s stable made a minor mistake at the fourth last but was never off the bridle as Noel Fehily coasted to victory. The win put Rock On Ruby in line for a £60,000 bonus if he can win at the Cheltenham Festival.
The trainer was desperate to avoid the soft ground and had to wait until February before he could run Rock On Ruby again, this time with just Mr Mole in opposition at Doncaster. Once again he made only one or two very minor mistakes but comfortably accounted for his rival by 10 lengths.
Any concerns over his lack of competitive action over fences will have been eased by the small field. Rock On Ruby was around a stone better than his rivals over hurdles and the evidence suggests that he will not be far short of that mark over fences.
What the race lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality with Champagne Fever, Dodging Bullets and Trifolium all in opposition. Grandouet was also a top class hurdler while Alan King relies on Valdez instead of Balder Succes. Ted Veale, Brick Red and Western Warhorse complete the field.