Elliott and Cooper the team to follow
GORDON Elliott broke through the 100-winner mark for the jumps season so far at Punchestown yesterday with Robin Thyme and the Longwood, Co Meath trainer looks very much the man to follow at Clonmel this afternoon with top prospects in the first three races.
His Victory Mill found Last Goodbye a half-length too strong at Navan a month ago and should find improvement on that effort when matched against the likes of Dont Tell No One, Cliffside Park and Nine Stitches in the opening Munster Hurdle, the €12,500 feature on the day. He was an easy winner of his maiden at Fairyhouse in December and the progress can be continued.
Dont Tell No One was also a Fairyhouse maiden winner, successful New Year’s Day when beating Sizinguptheamazon. He couldn’t follow that up here a fortnight ago when disappointing when only third behind Arkwrisht and Westend Star but is better than that.
Cliffside Park is a course winner and Nine Stitches was impressive at Thurles last month when coming home unchallenged from Stuccodor and Knockraha Boss. Victory Mill has both style and substance to get him through this.
In the following two-mile-three-furlong Demesne Maiden Hurdle the stable’s De Plotting Shed has an undeniable opportunity to open his account over hurdles.
He came up against something a bit above average when taking on Gurteen at Navan just a month ago and certainly was not disgraced when beaten three lengths by that odds-on Tyner novice.
It might be a bit disconcerting that nothing behind the pair that day has managed to frank the form but they finished clear and visually it was an encouraging performance.
I thought he’d be odds-on here over such as Black Warrior and Knockraha Boss, with unlucky Fairyhouse unseater Get Out Of Jail another place possibility.
Double Scores may make it a treble for Elliott and jockey Bryan Cooper by taking the two-mile maiden on his hurdling debut. Successful in a Tyrella point-to-point in February two years ago, he’s had two respectable enough efforts in bumpers at Fairyhouse and Punchestown since and this is a weak looking contest on paper.
Willie Mullins runs Henry Howard but there was little to recommend from this eight-year-old’s initial racecourse appearance at Thurles three weeks when beaten 36 lengths behind Oscar Lantern yet he can hardly be disregarded at this level.
The Charles Byrnes-trained and Davy Russell-ridden French-bred newcomer Alto Esqua cannot be ignored and market indications from this quarter are usually informative. Double Scores, equipped with a first time tongue-tie, might be the answer.
It mightn’t be stretching it either to suggest that an Elliott/Cooper four-timer is a probability either with topweight in the handicap chase Altiepix certainly holding every chance despite a weak finishing effort last time when fourth behind Topper Thornton in the handicap chase there at the beginning of the month.
Beaten six-and-a-quarter lengths overall and raised 1lb for the effort but still with an opportunity in a race where Churchfield Champ, last year’s winner All The Way Home and King Blue all have their chances.
The beginners’ chase is wide open with seven of the 12-strong field all pitched in around the maximum qualifying mark of 109 over hurdles. I thought Definite Soldier was possibly the pick of them over Mount Gunnery, disappointing Buck Dancing and After Aspen.