Gary Moore warmed up for Fruity O’Rooney’s return to the Cheltenham Festival and told punters: Never rule him out.
The West Sussex trainer saddled his star chaser to second place in the JLT Speciality Chase at Prestbury Park last year.
And as the four-day meeting gets under way this afternoon, the 10-year-old son of Kahyasi will bid go one better in the same race.
Fruity O’Rooney was 1lb higher in the handicap when he followed Alfie Sherrin over the line last term.
He has made the frame in two valuable contests on his past two starts.
And Moore is therefore bullish about his chances as he prepares to tackle the Grade 3 race – over a little more than three miles – for the second successive season (2.40pm).
‘I could not be more pleased with him going into the race,’ said the Lower Beeding handler.
‘He should never be ruled out of finishing in the frame.
‘Some rain would be helpful but he has run well at the track on all sorts ground previously.’
The ground is currently rated soft, which will suit Fruity O’Rooney, who is 8/1 in the ante-post market.
It will also be music to the ears of Findon-based trainer Nick Gifford, who plans to run 40/1-shot Tullamore Dew in the £90,000 race.
Donald McCain’s Our Mick currently heads the betting at 13/2.
Day one of the Cheltenham Festival kicks off with its annual curtain-raiser – the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm).
While the region’s trainers are not represented in the £120,000 contest, a former Fontwell winner is pencilled in to take his chance.
Puffin Billy gave West Sussex race fans a glimpse of his potential when, much like Cue Card in 2010, he won a bumper at the top small racecourse.
The five-year-old son of Heron Island went on to rack up four consecutive wins – two over timber, including the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Hurdle – before finishing second behind Melodic Rendezvous at Exeter last month.
He returned lame that day and trainer Oliver Sherwood will hope he is back to his best this afternoon.