Moore’s gamble on O’Rooney pays off

Fruity O'Rooney, ridden by Jamie Moore, wins The William Hill - Home Of Betting Handicap Steeple Chase
Fruity O'Rooney, ridden by Jamie Moore, wins The William Hill - Home Of Betting Handicap Steeple Chase
The start of racing on Washout Wednesday / Picture by Malcolm Wells

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And West Sussex owners Heart of the South Racing are now champing at the bit to let their chasing star loose on Prestbury Park this afternoon.

The nine-year-old’s participation in the Grade 3 JLT Specialty Handicap Chase (2.40pm) was in doubt right up until the end of last week.

But Moore’s decision to swerve lucrative days out at Kempton and Doncaster – where he would have run in the Grimthorpe – was finally vindicated when Fruity O’Rooney made the cut.

It was relief all around for connections, whose nervous wait was over when they heard the son of Kahyasi was 21st on the list of the initial 24 runners.

Finally they could look forward to challenging for glory at the prestigious four-day Festival, known as the ‘greatest show on turf’.

Moore, who trains at Lower Beeding in West Sussex, confirmed the gelding is in fine form and fighting fit ahead of the Festival.

He won the William Hill – Home of Betting Handicap Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and was third behind Calgary Bay in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January.

Those runs propelled him to a mark of 140, which has translated into a racing weight of 10st 11lb in this afternoon’s battle. And connections reckon there is more to come from their challenger.

‘Gary and Jamie Moore (jockey) had to make the very tough decision to bypass good races at Kempton and Doncaster,’ said John Penny, Heart of the South Racing syndicate manager.

‘They came to the conclusion that it is a rare thing to have the chance to go to Cheltenham with one this good and well handicapped.

‘So we have waited for day one of the Cheltenham Festival and here we are.’

Fruity O’Rooney has won six of his 25 races under rules and has more than £63,000 of prize money under his saddle.

However, victory at the Cheltenham Festival will far surpass any of his earlier accolades.

Standing between him and glory in Gloucestershire will be 23 rivals, with reserves ready to step up to the tape should any of the initial runners pull out.

Nicky Henderson’s Quantitativeeasing is set to carry top weight, with champion jockey Tony McCoy in the plate.

The seven-year-old, who is currently disputing favouritism with Hold On Julio and The Package, is rated 155 and beat Fruity O’Rooney at Fontwell back in January of last year.

Moore’s charge was giving his rival 7lb that day and has since won twice in West Sussex.

He will benefit from a 22lb swing at the weights this afternoon, which is cause for much optimism in the region as he bids to reverse form.

Findon-based trainer Nick Gifford is set to run 12/1 shot Tullamore Dew.