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Gordon Elliot looks to get the new year off a flying start

Neville Ring

FAIRYHOUSE kicks off the new year with a seven-race card on Friday, no shortage of runners and it could be a good afternoon for Gordon Elliott. 

The County Meath handler fires two arrows in the opening maiden hurdle, having won the race twice in the last four years. Blessed King went close at Punchestown on his penultimate outing and wasn’t disgraced in stronger company subsequently behind Yorkhill in early December and Jack Kennedy’s mount looks the yard’s main hope, with Just William needing to improve plenty on his debut effort.

Dermot Weld saddles Don’t Tell No One, absent since winning a Galway bumper in August of 2013 and the mount of Davy Russell here while Cape City Boy is the other one to consider. Blessed King is deserving of his turn.

Bryan Cooper partners Georges Conn for Elliott in the two-mile-five-and-a-half furlong beginners’ chase. The Troytown runner-up boasts a great deal more experience over fences than his rivals here and already carries a rating of 127. I thought Mydor was hard enough to fancy and surely Sambremont, a 12-length runner-up to odds-on stable-mate Black Hercules at Navan in December, is the bigger threat to Georges Conn whose turn has surely come.

Elliott runs two in the three-mile handicap hurdle with Cooper partnering Balnaslow for Gigginstown. Absent since pulling up in a Killarney handicap chase in August behind A Decent Excuse, he doesn’t make half the appeal that the other stable runner Nickname Exit exudes. A 130-rated chaser, he can race here off a 15lb lower mark and, importantly, is in a bit of form having won a Navan handicap less than three weeks ago by 24 lengths. With Jack Kennedy claiming 5lb, he’ll go close to following up.

The in-form trainer has booked Jamie Codd for winning pointer Polymath as the €70,000 purchase makes his debut under Rules in the bumper. No Mullins runner here but Dermot Weld’s Call Vinnie and the Meade newcomer Stoneford, in the Gigginstown colours, are likely to prove formidable opponents.

Unic De Bersy carries top weight in the richest race of the afternoon, the three-mile-one-furlong handicap chase. The seven-year-old found Punchestown Grade Two company behind Shantou Flyer too hot last time but showed plenty of ability when scoring at Wexford on his low grade chasing bow previously.

He faces stiff competition from the likes of Cootamundra, who was placed in a valuable event here last time out, and Teelin Star, who went close at Thurles 12 days ago on his comeback run. Love Rory and the Punchestown winner Winter Magic are another pair with solid credentials, along with recent Maze scorer Witness Of Fashion. It’s a tricky contest but Teelin Star might emerge victorious over Winter Magic.

Kalopsia is Aidan O’Brien’s sole runner on the card as the dual bumper winner makes her debut over obstacles in the mares maiden hurdle. Kayf Hampshire has the jumping experience and her Navan third behind Whistling Dixie was a fair enough effort although the form of that race has taken a few knocks since.

Following a good second in a Thurles maiden, Enda Bolger’s Lofgren is likely to be a popular choice with punters in the two-mile handicap hurdle although Blazing West, seeking a hat-trick, and Jeremy’s Jet are both attractive enough alternatives.

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