Rock set for Punchestown
Rock On Ruby will go to Punchestown next month to try to avenge his StanJames Champion Hurdle defeat at the hands of Hurricane Fly.
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The 2012 Champion finished a gallant second when trying to retain his Cheltenham crown, with trainer Harry Fry saying that soft ground could have been the difference between winning and losing.
In his latest blog for StanJames.com, Fry said, "It was a great ride by Noel (Fehily). If he'd gone a stride slower, we'd have set it up even more for something else. If we'd gone a stride faster, we wouldn't have finished second. It was a case of if they were good enough, they'd come by us and it would have to take a really good one to come by and that's exactly what Hurricane Fly is. He's a true champion and the first horse in 38 years to regain his Champion Hurdle crown.
"We knew we had to get Hurricane Fly out of his comfort zone and we had to go as quick as we possibly dared without compromising our chances of getting up the hill. I think the only thing that counted against us was the soft, good to soft ground. If it had been genuine good ground like the year before, we'd have been able to go faster again from the top of the hill and wouldn't have allowed him to get back in the race. We went down fighting and really served it up to them and I'm delighted with how he ran.
"We couldn't have hoped for him to come out of the race in better form and we look forward to a trip to Punchestown on April 26, all being well. On good ground, we really fancy our chances of serving it up to Hurricane Fly and maybe going 2-1 up in the head-to-head. On good ground, we can go faster for longer and really keep him out of his comfort zone. Obviously, soft ground has been a big plus for him as shown by his record. I think good ground is what sees us at our best and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Fences could be on the agenda for Rock On Ruby next season but Fry is in no rush to make a decision on that front.
"Chasing next season is a possibility but we'll take one race at a time," Fry said.
"One thing to say is that he's the best two-mile hurdler in this country so when you've spent all this time making him a top-level hurdler to then change discipline to fences, whether you quite reach the same heights, I don't know. That's the conversation with the owners over the summer to see where we go next season but there are obviously options available."