Olly Murphy has been forced to rule ante-post favourite Hunters Call out of Saturday’s Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Ascot and with it the rest of the season.
The eight-year-old has not been seen since winning the corresponding race 12 months ago, when he beat the classy Silver Streak by three lengths with Verdana Blue in third
Raised 9lb by the handicapper, Murphy had hoped to run him in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but was forced to abandon that plan in the week before the race.
The Greatwood Hurdle was mooted as starting point this term, but he did not make that and has met with another setback.
“Unfortunately he’s out for the season, it’s a reoccurring injury,” said Murphy.
“The real shame is that I’ve never got to see quite how good he is, because the form of his win in the race last year could not have worked out any better.
“It’s a blow, but I’ll still have a runner in the race with Fiesole, who won at Tipperary last time out. He should have a decent each-way chance.”
Murphy was speaking from Southwell, where Monbeg Zena (11-10 favourite) registered his 100th winner over jumps since he took out his training licence in July 2017.
Winner of an Irish point-to-point 679 days previously, the six-year-old took the toals.com Casino Mares’ Maiden Hurdle by three and a half lengths.
“She’s a nice mare, but I just hope she’s OK in the morning because she’s been very fragile,” said Murphy.
“Someone told me that was my 100th – I’m very fortunate to train for some great people.
“To have a winner with my first runner for Jared Sullivan is a bonus, too.”