• Cheltenham Festival

Rock On Ruby to race in blinkers

ESPN staff
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Rock On Ruby was an impressive winner of the Champion Hurdle 12 months ago © PA Photos
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Rock On Ruby will sport a pair of blinkers when he bids to defend his Champion Hurdle crown on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.

The gelding has raced twice this season, finishing third behind his former stablemate Zarkandar in the International Hurdle in December before the race at Doncaster in February that was marred by the death of Darlan.

Rock On Ruby has looked extremely genuine, but trainer Harry Fry has been toying with the idea of fitting blinkers and he will do so for the big event.

Speaking in his blog on www.stanjames.com, Fry said: "We had our final schooling session yesterday morning with Noel (Fehily) on board and he was awesome. That is due to the fact that he's going to run in first-time blinkers on Tuesday.

"It's something we've quietly, between Ciara (O'Connor, Fry's partner and assistant trainer) and myself and Noel and the owners, been discussing throughout the season, and we feel now is the time to use them.

"He schooled with them on yesterday and last Friday and Noel couldn't pull him up after the first time he went through. He's been razor-sharp.

"We don't want to make the running, but they're there to help him. We were in front from two out last season and he just slightly idled into the last and they came back to him. This is just to help make sure he keeps going all the way to the line.

"At Doncaster, Noel felt that once he'd beaten Countrywide Flame coming to the last and after the last, all he did was idle in front. So once Ciara and I and Noel sat down after that and discussed our plans and preparations for Tuesday, we said, 'Right, now is the time to do it'.

"He's taken to them straight away and, like I said, his schooling's been awesome in them."

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