Carberry class inspires double for Elliott team
The trainer-jockey combination of Gordon Elliott and Paul Carberry were the ones to follow at Downpatrick yesterday when the Co Meath pair recorded a 35/1 double.
First up was the success of Mae's Choice (9/2), which made a winning racecourse debut in the mares maiden hurdle. The daughter of Presenting, a winner at Kirkistown point-to-point 10 days ago, moved to the front two out before staying on strongly for an easy win over Dangan Daylight.
"Mae's Choice is an honest mare but it wasn't the greatest race and I wouldn't be getting too excited," Elliott said afterwards. "We'll find another mares race for her, either here or in England."
Elliott and Carberry completed their brace with Al Dafa (11/2), which came with a strong late burst to capture the Season's Greetings Beginners Chase.
The four-year-old's big weight allowance (he received 5lb from runner-up Representing and 12lb from third-placed Souvenir Royal) played its part in the win, but an even bigger factor was the inspirational ride he was given by Carberry -- a point Elliott was quick to acknowledge.
"Paul gave him a great ride -- Al Dafa is a monkey and he could have pulled up a mile out," said the Grand National- winning trainer. "It's great for Sean Gallagher (not to be confused with this year's Presidential candidate of the same name) who is one of our best supporters -- it's nice to get him a winner just before Christmas."
Champion trainer Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh continued their good run as hot favourite Felix Yonger (1/6) comfortably landed the opening maiden hurdle.
Carrying the well-known colours of Graham Wylie, the son of Oscar jumped to the front at the final flight and had nine lengths to spare over Beef To The Heels at the line.
Followers of the Mullins-Walsh alliance were out of luck with 4/6 favourite Tawaagg in the eight-runner Hurricane Hurdle, with victory in the end going to the John McConnell-trained 9/1 chance Springfield Way.
Tawagg's dismal showing looked to have made the way clear for the Tony Martin-trained veteran Psycho, but the second favourite failed to catch the Tom Doyle-ridden winner.
but Selection Box (9/4) set himself up for another tilt at the Ulster National in March with a game top-weight success in the Martinstown Opportunity Novice Handicap Hurdle. Ridden by promising claimer Adrian Heskin, Colin McBratney's 10-year-old moved past ex-Aidan O'Brien-trained Liszt after the final flight before easing four lengths clear.
"The Ulster National is the long-term plan," said McBratney. "It's very important that he has to go right-handed, and while we'll see what the handicapper does now, we'll probably find a race in the middle of January next."
The David Christie-trained Not Before Eight (12/1) came from a seemingly impossible position to poke his head in front for a last-gasp win in the concluding maiden hunter chase.
Leader Tammys Hill was several lengths clear with 50 yards to race but tied up in the closing stages, allowing Not Before Eight to steal the spoils under a fine ride from Barry O'Neill.
Afterwards, Christie revealed that the winner is the type of horse that has to be held. "He has loads of ability but he has to hit the front as late as possible. Barry still had a pile of horse under him at the second last," he said. "We might now look for a winners' hunters chase at a good staying track."