Olly Murphy was delighted and relieved in equal measure after Brewin’upastorm made a winning start to his career over fences in a thrilling race at Carlisle.
The Milan gelding mixed it at the very highest level as a novice hurdler last season – finishing fourth in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury and the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival, before filling the runner-up spot behind Reserve Tank at Aintree.
Despite his top-class form, the six-year-old faced a far from straightforward task, with Relkeel Hurdle winner Midnight Shadow and Champion Hurdle Trial victor Global Citizen two of his four rivals in the Dianne Sayer Racing Beginners’ Chase.
The lightly-raced 2-1 favourite Good Boy Bobby took the quintet along for much of the two-mile journey, with 9-4 chance Brewin’upastorm held up towards the rear by champion jockey Richard Johnson.
Despite jumping a little stickily during the first mile, Murphy’s charge gradually warmed to his task and finished with a flourish up to the Carlisle hill to beat Good Boy Bobby by a head.
Murphy said: “I’m delighted. I told everyone beforehand he would improve plenty for the run and he will – I wasn’t being sheepish about it.
“He jumped careful, but I’d rather he was like that the other way and he’ll come on for the run fitness-wise and jumping-wise, I think he’ll be a bit sharper and slicker going forward.
“It really wasn’t about today. We hunted him away out the back and I said to myself, ‘if he finishes in the first three I’ll be delighted’.
“I think to come from where he has and pick up those good horses, it was a really good performance.”
The Warren Chase handler will let the dust settle before considering future targets, but confirmed the November meeting at Cheltenham as a possible next port of call.
“I’ve only been training a couple of years and I’m not familiar with the novice programme, but that (Cheltenham) could be an option,” Murphy added.
“I’m sort of up in the air whether he wants two miles or two and a half. Looking at him there you’d say he wants two and a half, but he wasn’t getting home last year, although he has had his wind done during the summer, so maybe that has helped.
“I think if we get a bit of soft ground I’ll probably stick to two miles for the time being and see how we go.
“He’s a real flag-bearer for the yard and was unlucky not to win his Grade One last year. I’m delighted he’s made the perfect start to the season and hopefully there’s a lot to look forward to.”
Murphy and Johnson were completing a quickfire double, with Overthetop maintaining his unbeaten record with a dominant display in the opening Maurice Barnes Racing Novices’ Hurdle.
Bought for £150,000 in December after winning his only start in the Irish point-to-point field, the five-year-old made a successful debut for his new connections in a Warwick bumper in the spring.
The Flemensfirth gelding was the 4-7 favourite for his hurdling debut and seasonal reappearance and eased to a 12-length success over Champagne Noir.
“He doesn’t show me a whole pile at home, but he’s a nice horse and hopefully one to look forward to,” said Murphy.
“We might try and find another small race for him, but he’s a horse with plenty of ability.
“He’s a proper chaser in the making, but he should pay his way over hurdles first.”