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13th April 2024 Aintree


Saturday 13th April

Strong Leader (8-1) put up a great performance to land the Grade One JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle, handing an emotional success to trainer Olly Murphy.

The seven-year-old scored by four and a quarter lengths from Buddy One (15-2).

Olly Murphy told ITV Racing: “He's a good horse ad he got a great ride from Sean. He jumped and travelled way better .... It's not often you'll struggle to get words out me but I really, really enjoyed that. We were an unlucky loser yesterday (with Go Dante), but luck was on our side today and the best horse won. It's absolutely magic. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I loved that."


Murphy went on to say: “We missed Cheltenham - he probably should have won the Cleeve Hurdle, and got underneath hurdles for a mile and a half that day, and to go back and run in the Stayers… I’m adamant he doesn’t like Cheltenham, he doesn’t like going up and down the hills enough. We were ballsy enough to leave Cheltenham alone - I wanted to go there as much as anyone; I’ve never had a Festival winner - and save him for today. It’s a flat track, he’s won round here and he just got into a rhythm today. He missed the last badly, but usually your heart is in your mouth for the last mile and a half, and it was only in my mouth for the last two furlongs this time. He’s a very good horse on his day and I’m over the moon.

“Big winners is where you want to be. It’s tough, it’s hard, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to get up in the morning, no different to anyone else who trains horses, but if you don’t enjoy days like this, go and do another profession.

“This is the best day I’ve had. I’ve had some good days in my short career so far, but this lad’s a homebred, his owners live 10 minutes down the road from me, they rub his back themselves, they come up and get involved, they have him at home in the summer and it’s a fantastic story. He’s the most gorgeous horse you’ll set your eyes on and a good racehorse as well at the same time. That meant an awful lot to me, and I’m chuffed.

“It’s so hard, training racehorses - the expectation you put on yourself and the expectation they put on you. I love pressure, because it means you are doing well and people expect a lot of you. I thrive off that, but at the same time you have to deliver on the big stage, and it’s taken a while to train my second Grade One winner. We've had some big days along the way, but this proves if you have the animal, you can do it and mix it with the big boys. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

Sean Bowen, won enjoyed a first Grade One success in this race on If The Cap Fits in 2019, told ITV Racing "He's a difficult horse to ride now. He's not straightforward, and he's not a good jumper. I had to pick my way around and try to find a bit of room, and although on the whole he jumped well I had to keep going forward on him as otherwise he'd have been stepping. The last couple he missed, but I didn't want to be there too soon. I didn't want to wing them and go two lengths clear and then get beat. It's brilliant.

"This sits right up there as one of the best (days), and it's great to do it for Olly. He's been such a great supporter of mine for the last few years and we've got a great relationship. He lets me get on with it, and I try to get him get on with it. It works well."

Paul Gilligan, trainer of the runner-up Buddy One, said: “It was an absolutely fantastic run. He was given a peach of a ride by Jack (Gilligan). It is brilliant to be here, and boxing on the big stage as you are in the main arena here.

"Even though he is not in first place he is next best to it. We will look forward to going chasing with him next season, and please God that he improves for a fence.

“When he was in front you are thinking don’t let anything go by you, but hats off to Olly Murphy, and fair play to him, as he is a nice guy and well done to him, but it would have been nice if we won it.

“He is a fantastic horse. Is he going to win a Grade One over hurdles, well he hasn’t done yet, but he is there on the premises the whole time.

"It is great for the guys that own him as they are three fantastic lads, and credit to my own family at home as they work hard.

“He is entered at Punchestown, but I would imagine that is it for the season."

Henry de Bromhead, who saddled the third Hiddenvalley Lake (5-1), said: “He ran really well. Rachael (Blackmore) thought if the ground had more ease in it funnily enough that it might have helped him a bit more, and he probably ran a little bit keen the whole way.

"For his first run in a Grade One it was a good run. I’m not sure what will do next season, but we would love to get him jumping fences. It was a lovely run as he is still a young horse.

"We had always said we would aim this way after his last race. We are delighted with his run, but it is just a shame he didn’t win, however we are having one of those weeks.”


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