Horses To Follow » Empire Of Dirt

Empire Of Dirt

Empire Of Dirt did remarkably well to win the Brown Advisory Plate at Cheltenham on Thursday. Not only did the Gigginstown House horse miss that kick from the standing start and had to settle back in the field, which is not ideal for a horse who likes to bowl along towards front end, but Stilletto fell in front of him at the third fence, with the result that he had to take evasive action. The incident was significant, and meant that he was second last of the 21 remaining runners as they wheeled around into the home straight first time.

He made steady headway from there for Bryan Cooper, however, and latched onto the back of the leading group of 14 runners as they moved down the back straight. He moved into ninth place at the top of the hill, and moved outside and continued to make progress, despite making a slight mistake at the fourth last. Travelling well down the hill, he got in tight to the third last, but he moved up strongly around the home turn, hit the front on the run to the second last and, despite not jumping the second last well, stayed on really well all the way up the hill to win decisively.

Known previously as a horse who was at his best when racing up with the pace on soft ground, Colm Murphy’s horse displayed his versatility here, held up on good, fast ground. Indeed, he put up a career best by some way, and he won with plenty in hand, so it is difficult to argue that these are not his optimum conditions and his optimum tactics. He has always shaped like a horse with lots of ability anyway. He has fallen a couple of times, four in all, but he is not a bad jumper, as he showed here, he has just been unlucky with those falls. He could be able to move to the next level now, with this win under his belt.

Colm Murphy has always maintained that the Westerner gelding is at his best going left-handed, so it really should be Aintree next for him, as opposed to Fairyhouse or Punchestown. The handicapper raised him 6lb for this, but a mark of 148 should still be well within range. This two and a half miles is a good trip for him, and he bounced off the good ground, so he will be of interest wherever he goes next this season.

17th March 2016