Fruity O’Rooney gets ticket to Festival

Fruity O'Rooney
Fruity O'Rooney
The start of racing on Washout Wednesday / Picture by Malcolm Wells

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Fruity O’Rooney has made the cut and will star on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

Heart of the South Racing (HOTSR), who own the 11-year-old son of Kahyasi, had a nervous wait ahead of final declarations yesterday morning.

But at 10am they found out their star chaser will feature among the 24 contenders in the Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase this afternoon (2.40pm).

The extended three-mile battle is the third race of the four-day meeting – following hot on the heels of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm) and the Arkle (2.05pm).

It is a Grade 3 contest and one in which Fruity O’Rooney – a four-time Fontwell winner and favourite at the West Sussex venue – has plenty of experience.

The 132-rated gelding finished second to Alfie Sherrin in the 2012 renewal, before returning to place fifth behind Golden Chieftain last term.

A mixed season so far – in which he has chalked up two fifth places, a sixth and a seventh – has seen him tumble down the handicap.

Fruity O’Rooney is now rated 8lb lower than he was two years ago and 7lb below his mark of 2013.

But despite his lack of form ahead of this year’s Festival, HOTSR are confident of a big performance.

Having impressed at Prestbury Park in the past, the weights have left them hopeful of a return to form on the biggest stage of them all.

Fruity O’Rooney will be joined by stable-mate Vino Griego in the race – worth more than £50,000 to the winner.

The former, who is a general 25/1-shot for glory in the ante-post market, will carry 10st 7lb in the handicap tussle.

Meanwhile, the 149-rated Vino Griego will shoulder an 11st 10lb burden – making him 33/1 for the top prize.

Josh Moore will ride Fruity O’Rooney, while his brother Jamie has been booked to partner Vino Griego.

The feature race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle, in which Hurricane Fly will bid for his 20th Grade 1 success (3.20pm).

Quevega, who hails from the same Willie Mullins yard in Ireland, will then bid for her sixth consecutive win in the Grade 2 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (4pm).

Day one climaxes with the Listed Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase at 5.15pm, when Manyriverstocross – a winner at Goodwood in 2009 – bids for glory.