BELBROUGHTON racehorse owner Grahame Whateley said he was thrilled to help up-and-coming trainer Olly Murphy land his first Cheltenham winner.

The young Stratford-based handler is now in his second season as a trainer after returning home following a spell as assistant to Gordon Elliott in Ireland.

Grahame and wife Diana, who in the past owned talented trio Menorah, Captain Chris and Wishfull Thinking, are firm friends with the Murphy family and have been quick to send some of their horses to Warren Chase.

So it was fitting that one of their recent purchases, Thomas Darby, was the horse to hand Murphy his milestone success last Friday.

The five-year-old son of Beneficial put in a striking display under champion jockey Richard Johnson to land the Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle over 2m.

He looked held in third jumping the final flight but quickened smartly up the hill to overhaul Elixir Du Nutz and Bang On Frankie to win going away by three and a quarter lengths.

Whateley said: “It was very exciting for everyone.

“Olly had reported that the horse was going really well at home so we were hopeful he’d be in the top three.

“He’s tremendously green but he showed he has a great engine after the last and showed us that he has a lot of potential.

“It’s wonderful for Olly to get his first Cheltenham winner and it was great that it was with our horse as well.

“We have been close to his family for over 20 years and I remember taking him to Aston Villa when he was a young lad.

“There is a hell of a long way to go but he has the potential to be one of the very best trainers and he’s absolutely bred for it.”

After the race, Murphy said: “Thomas Darby is a big green baby, who won at Huntingdon in May, and I am delighted. Two hurdles out, I thought he would run a nice race and finish in the four, but he has taken off from the back of the last and taken off again 50 yards from the line.

"We want to mix it with the big boys and it's nice to get my first Cheltenham winner. He is certainly a horse who might take us a few places - he won't want the ground too soft but we might look at coming back here next month. He is a nice horse with a good engine."

Jockey Richard Johnson added: "It's lovely when they are able to win a novice hurdle around here when they still look quite immature and I am sure that he is bound to improve for the experience.

"Olly is a young trainer with a big future and the Whateleys have some nice horses with him."