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Press Release 14th December 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark

When Thunder Rock takes to the track at Cheltenham on day two of The Christmas Meeting (Saturday 16th December) for the Virgin Bet December Gold Cup there is unlikely to be anyone more excited about his chances of victory on the big stage than his loyal groom Ceris Biddle. 


Having been an integral part of the set up at trainer Olly Murphy’s Warren Chase Stables for more than three years the 24-year-old from Shrewley Common hopes she can enjoy a moment centre stage with her ‘main man’, who is one of 12 runners in the extended two and a half mile £130,000 Premier Handicap.


Although now the regular partner of Grade One winner Itchy Feet, and stablemate Ukantango, it is the gelded son of Shirocco she has built up the biggest acquaintance with in recent seasons having been with him pretty much from the start since joining the Wilmcote handler and his team. 


Biddle said: “This will definitely be one of my biggest days on track, especially going to a meeting like this at Cheltenham with a horse that is really fancied. I ride some nice horses here, but Thunder Rock is definitely the main man.


“I go with him for all his races, and he is usually the only one I go to the races with as I'm often busy on the yard but I make an exception for him. I’m very excited for this race and I can’t wait. 


“When you know they have an aim you take every day as it comes hoping that they stay well and happy.


“It is probably worse knowing when they are going to run in the bigger races as you are literally counting the days down making sure nothing happens.”


While Thunder Rock has demonstrated on more than one occasion on the track that he is an above average individual Biddle, who previously worked for now-retired trainer Robin Dickin, admits that he can have his moments at home. 


Biddle said: “He is generally really great to look after, but he is kind of grumpy sometimes. However, when you tack him up and get him out of his box and start riding him out he loves it.


“He loves doing his work. He is a good ride, but he can be a little bit cheeky sometimes, however that is fine if they are going to be good horses. 


“He is just a pleasure to be around and deal with really. He is not the easiest to train, but Olly has done a good job with him and we know him so well now.”


Sometimes it takes time for a horse to offer a glimpse of their potential, but Biddle believes it was clear from an early stage that Thunder Rock could develop into something special. 


She added: “When he ran in his second bumper at Exeter he ran in terrible conditions, and he was very keen, which he hadn’t been at home, so it was a bit of a surprise. 


“He still managed to win that race at Exter and as soon as that happened you knew you had something decent as it takes a good horse to stay on in those conditions having been so keen early on. 


“As he has raced he has learnt to settle and he races beautifully now. He is such a good ride at home and he does everything you want him to do around the gallop.”


After enjoying a productive first season over fences Thunder Rock made a triumphant return to action in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle last month. 


And with that form since being franked Biddle insists it makes Thunder Rock an even more exciting prospect at the weekend. 


She said: “I think we always knew Thunder Rock would come to light over fences. He had a good season last season, but there was half a plan to go back over hurdles with him this season.


“We started him back at Carlisle and he went and won up there. That showed us he had improved again and hopefully that will continue at Cheltenham. 


“He had a form boost in the Coral Gold Cup with Datslrightgino, who beat him at Ayr last season and Mahler Mission, who was behind him at Carlisle, finishing first and second respectively in that race at Newbury and that has made this all the more exciting.”


1:50pm Virgin Bet December Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) 2m 4f 127y – declared runners

1 Fakir d'Oudairies (FR) 8 12 0 Mr John P. McManus Joseph Patrick O'Brien Ireland Jonjo O'Neill Jr.

2 Fugitif (FR) ts 8 11 3 Mr Carl Hinchy & Dr Emad Hussain Richard Hobson Gavin Sheehan

3 Thunder Rock (IRE) 7 10 12 McNeill Family & Mr Ian Dale Olly Murphy Sean Bowen

4 Monmiral (FR) 6 10 11 Sir A Ferguson G Mason J Hales & L Hales Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden

5 Il Ridoto (FR) ts, p 6 10 9 Giles, Hogarth, Mason & McGoff Paul Nicholls Bryony Frost

6 So Scottish (FR) ts 6 10 7 Mr John P. McManus Emmet Mullins Ireland Mark Walsh

7 Jay Jay Reilly (IRE) 7 10 5 Mr John J Reilly Dan Skelton Harry Skelton

8 Do Your Job (IRE) ts 9 10 2 Mr Mark Dunphy Lucinda Russell Derek Fox

9 Grandeur d'Ame (FR) 7 10 2 Syders & Burkes Alan King Tom Bellamy

10 Frero Banbou (FR) 8 10 2 Mr P. Davies Venetia Williams Charlie Deutsch

11 Torn And Frayed (FR) 9 10 2 Mrs Caroline Beresford-Wylie Nigel Twiston-Davies Sam Twiston-Davies

12 Railway Hurricane (IRE) bl,ts 8 10 2 S O'Brien & Darren Cahill Gavin Cromwell Ireland Conor Stone-Walsh (5)


12 declared runners

3 Irish-trained




Latest Going: Soft


12:05pm JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle 2m 179y

1 Kabral du Mathan (FR) 3 11 7 Neil Smith & Alfie Smith Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden

2 An Bradan Feasa (IRE) 3 11 4 Mrs Mary-Ann Middleton Jack Jones Tom Bellamy

3 Balboa 3 11 4 Mrs Kate Kenyon Anthony Charlton Harry Reed

4 Eagle Prince (IRE) 3 11 4 Mr Keith Brown Brian Ellison Henry Brooke

5 Kourosh (GER) 3 11 4 Stockley and Partners Dan Skelton Harry Skelton

6 Maglia Rosa 3 11 0 Exors of the Late Mr C. J. Leech Sophie Leech Miss Roisin Leech

7 Walk The Moon 3 11 0 Six Pack Tony Carroll Robert Dunne

8 Rebel Angel ts 3 10 7 Mrs Lynne Webb & Box 9 David Pipe Jack Tudor


12:40pm John Wyke Memorial Novices' Limited Handicap Chase 3m 1f 56y

1 Mofasa ts 7 11 10 Mrs Lynne Maclennan Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden

2 Weveallbeencaught (IRE) 6 11 10 Jimmy & Susie Wenman Edward & Jane James Nigel Twiston-Davies M. J. M. O'Sullivan (3)

3 Wiseguy (IRE) 7 11 4 The Wise Guys & Girls Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville

4 Are U Wise To That (IRE) 6 11 0 Mr Michael Geoghegan Jonjo O'Neill Jonjo O'Neill Jr.

5 Midnight Our Fred (IRE) ts 6 10 5 Mrs Florence Lockwood/Emily B Lockwood J. P. Flavin Ireland Daniel Mullins

6 Everything'sontick (IRE) ts 7 10 5 Martin Redman & Maurice Thomas Lawney Hill Gavin Sheehan

7 Some Scope ts 5 10 5 Rubicon Racing Richard Hobson Jonathan Burke


1:15pm Quintessentially Handicap Chase 2m 62y

1 Funambule Sivola (FR) 8 12 0 My Racing Manager Friends Venetia Williams Charlie Deutsch

2 Calico (GER) ts, p 7 11 7 Mr John J Reilly Dan Skelton Harry Skelton

3 Aucunrisque (FR) 7 11 6 Goodwin Racing Ltd Chris Gordon Rex Dingle

4 Baron de Midleton (IRE) bl,ts 10 10 11 Brian Ellison Racing Club Brian Ellison Henry Brooke

5 Prince Escalus (IRE) 8 10 10 The As You Like It Syndicate Jonjo O'Neill Jonjo O'Neill Jr.

6 In Excelsis Deo (FR) 5 10 10 Mr John P. McManus Harry Fry Jonathan Burke

7 Madara (FR) ts, p 4 10 2 Bryan Drew and Friends Sophie Leech Harry Cobden


2:25pm Favourite From The Sun Now Daily Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) 3m 2f

1 Protektorat (FR) ts 8 12 0 Sir A Ferguson G Mason J Hales & L Hales Dan Skelton Harry Skelton

2 Threeunderthrufive (IRE) ts, p 8 10 13 McNeill Family Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden

3 Malina Girl (IRE) 6 10 9 Mrs J. M. Russell Gavin Cromwell Ireland Conor Stone-Walsh (5)

4 Broadway Boy (IRE) 5 10 9 Mr D. M. Proos Nigel Twiston-Davies Sam Twiston-Davies

5 Elvis Mail (FR) ts 9 10 9 The Ladies Who N. W. Alexander Bruce Lynn (3)

6 City Chief (IRE) 6 10 4 Mrs J Donnelly Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville

7 Rapper p 9 10 3 The Home Farm Partnership Henry Daly Richard Patrick

8 Easy As That (IRE) 8 10 2 Brooks & Taylor Families Venetia Williams Charlie Deutsch

9 Back On The Lash p 9 10 2 Maughan, Redknapp, Ryan, Salters Martin Keighley Sean Bowen


3:00pm Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 7f 213y

1 Cadell (IRE) 5 11 0 Mr R. A. Bartlett Lucinda Russell Derek Fox

2 Carrigmoorna Rowan (IRE) h 6 11 0 Noel Fehily Racing Syndicate Carrigmoorn Harry Fry Jonathan Burke

3 Destroytheevidence p 5 11 0 Mr P. J. Andrews Kim Bailey David Bass

4 Genietoile (FR) 5 11 0 ConyersJ&WO'ReillyPalmerProwtingRoddis Rebecca Curtis Sean Bowen

5 Illico de Cotte (FR) 5 11 0 Mr Robert Kirkland Dan Skelton Harry Skelton

6 Kerryhill (IRE) 5 11 0 They Are Never at Home Partnership Ruth Jefferson Adam Wedge

7 Monbari (FR) 5 11 0 Racing for Fun Rebecca Curtis Tom Bellamy

8 Moon d'Orange (FR) p 5 11 0 Ian Stuart Griffiths/Gary Evans John McConnell Ireland

9 Shanagh Bob (IRE) 5 11 0 Mrs J Donnelly Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville

10 Yes Day (IRE) 5 11 0 Mr Ian Bullions Jonjo O'Neill Jonjo O'Neill Jr.


3:35pm Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Mares' Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f 56y

1 Theatre Glory (IRE) 6 12 0 Canter Banter Racing 2 Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville

2 Stainsby Girl 9 11 9 Alexander Family N. W. Alexander Mr Kit Alexander (5)

3 Windtothelightning (IRE) 5 11 3 Mr G C Myddelton & Mr V E C Taylor Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero Henry Brooke

4 Coquelicot (FR) bl,ts 7 11 3 PA Anthony Honeyball Rex Dingle

5 Zestful 4 11 1 Martin Keighley Racing Partnership 16 Martin Keighley Sean Bowen

6 Nurse Susan (FR) 6 10 10 Mr Colm Donlon Dan Skelton Harry Skelton

7 Ilovethenightlife 5 10 9 Geoff Nicholas, Susan & John Waterworth Joe Tizzard Harry Cobden

8 Bonttay (IRE) 6 10 8 Mr C. B Brookes & Fergal O'Brien Fergal O'Brien Paddy Brennan

9 Martha Divine h,ts 6 10 5 Harry Fry Racing Syndicate Martha Divine Harry Fry Jonathan Burke

10 Good Look Charm (FR) bl,ts 7 10 2 The Isle of Blue and White Anthony Honeyball Sam Twiston-Davies


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