Olly Murphy reckons Oxford Blu will take all the beating in the Injured Jockeys Fund Juvenile Hurdle on Fontwell Park’s annual Boxing Day card (12.50pm).
The three-year-old had been earmarked to run in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Wednesday after a peerless 20-length success on hurdles debut at Fakenham last month left his connections purring.
But Murphy, 25, has instead opted to saddle Oxford Blu in the £5,000 contest at the West Sussex venue to gain more experience.
The son of Aqlaam, who earned an official rating of 68 when trained by Sir Mark Prescott on the flat, will face four rivals over the extended 2m 1f distance.
One of those is the Gary Moore-trained Aiguille Rouge, who is targeting a quickfire double at Fontwell after winning the NJS Juvenile Hurdle by eight lengths last month.
Nevertheless, Murphy is relishing the chance to unleash Oxford Blu and is confident his gelding can deliver the yard’s first victory at the course.
The Stratford-upon-Avon trainer said: ‘Oxford Blu will definitely go to Fontwell with all being well.
‘He galloped well on Thursday morning and, with him, the softer the ground, the better.
‘We’ve skipped the Grade 1 at Chepstow for hopefully what will be an easier assignment.
‘He’s a nice horse, he’ll come on for the run at Fakenham and I’m hoping he will take all of the beating.
‘We had a good think about running him at Chepstow but we thought we were better staying in a smaller race again and getting a bit more confidence into the horse.
‘He looks progressive and was very professional at Fakenham. They will have to be good to beat him around Fontwell.’
Ian Popham has been booked to ride Oxford Blu. He will also partner his stable-mate Undefined Beauty in the Southern Contract Lifting Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over 2m 5f (3.45pm).
After registering a quickfire double at Sedgefield and Southwell respectively, the daughter of Kayf Tara was raised 10lb by the handicapper to a mark of 117.
As a result, she finished third behind Alex Hales’ Stepover at Hereford last time out.
However, Murphy believes Undefined Beauty is still on the right side of the handicap.
He added: ‘She looks progressive. The race wasn’t run to suit her the last day at Hereford.
‘We’re stepping her back up in trip. I think she will win again, whether that’s on Boxing Day I’m not sure.
‘She has plenty of ability. The race wasn’t run to suit her last time, so I’m looking forward to running her.’
The festive card kicks off with 11 horses doing battle in the Southern Cranes & Access Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (12.20pm).
After Oxford Blu’s tilt at glory, 13 runners will go to post in the James Todd Novices’ Hurdle (1.25pm).
Then the action continues with the six-runner Southern Cranes & Training Division Handicap Chase (2pm).
The feature affair is the Winner Plant & Access Handicap Hurdle (2.35pm). A pot of £5,393 is on offer to the winner as eight line up in the 2m 1f contest.
Gary Moore pair Knocknanuss and Le Precieux are the top-rated contenders, running off a mark of 124.
The penultimate race on the card is the Lawrence Handicap Chase (3.10pm), which will see nine go to post.