Dirar ready to strike for Elliott yard
Dirar can further embellish Gordon Elliott's standing as one of the most talented young trainers in the game by triumphing in this afternoon's Guinness Galway Hurdle.
Elliott, who sent out Silver Birch to land the Aintree Grand National in 2007 before ever training a winner on home soil, has had his team in fine form all summer.
Already this week he has saddled five winners across the water and got off the mark at Galway yesterday when Hoopy survived a stewards' inquiry to hold on to the three-mile handicap hurdle. Now he looks poised to secure the big summer jumping pot with Dirar, a horse that has progressed steadily since coming under his care less than two years ago, and which completed his preparations for this with an easy win on the Flat at Ayr last month.
Having taken time to adapt to hurdling, the King's Best five-year-old hinted at his real potential when hosing up on his handicap debut at Worcester 12 months ago. He would subsequently win twice more over flights, before rounding off 2009 with a cosy all-weather success at Wolverhampton in December.
On his return to the track at the beginning of June, Dirar coasted home off 119 over hurdles at Listowel, a performance that confirmed he isn't done improving yet.
Elliott has wisely protected his hurdling mark since then, and the 10lbs that he received for the Kerry rout is unlikely to slow him now. Indeed, but for that penalty, Dirar wouldn't have got into today's race. As it is, he competes off a tidy mark. Under fellow Meathman, Barry Geraghty, Dirar is overpriced at 8/1.
While that one is strongly fancied, it should be noted that this is a high-class renewal of the two-mile centrepiece. Last year's winner Bahrain Storm comes here in superb form, and has two wins and a second from his last three runs at Galway. He will struggle to win off 11st 8lb, but it would be no surprise to see him run into a place.
Overturn is another exciting hurdler, though his front-running style may ultimately count against him here. Of the remainder, a heavily backed Lethal Weapon, which has yet to recapture its best after a year off, could stay on to make the frame.
In the Signature Novice Hurdle, Elliott is again well represented by the dual hurdle-winner Bacher Boy. The six-year-old has looked useful in scoring at Gowran Park and Bellewstown recently, but the weights are framed to suit Cooper's Crest.
Sabrina Harty's mare has run eight times since January. Having finished third to Bahrain Storm at Tipperary before winning at Limerick, and this is her third start of the month, yet she is clearly a durable sort and, on official ratings, is well in with the six other winners in the race.
Elliott's Chicago Grey will also feature prominently in the Perfect Pint Beginners' Chase.
However, another grey, Dermot Weld's Prince Erik, may have his measure. A faller on two of his four starts over fences in 2009, Prince Erik had a good winter over hurdles, winning once and placed on three occasions, including when second at Cheltenham in March. His jumping needs to improve now that he reverts to fences, but Weld and Robbie Power will have left no stone unturned in that department.
The St James's Gate Novice Chase sees 10 of the best current young chasers do battle. In what is sure to be a close contest, Beau Michael gets the nod to come out on top.
Ado McGuinness's charge met good opposition in three chasing outings last season, and, while slightly fortuitous on the day, broke its duck at Limerick in May.
A smart win on the level at Ballinrobe last week advertised Beau Michael's continued well-being.
1.50 -- Prince Erik
2.25 -- Beau Michael
3.00 -- Designated Decoy
3.35 -- Miranda's Girl
4.10 -- Cooper's Crest
4.50 -- Dirar (Nap)
5.30 -- Force Of Habit
6.05 -- Total Pleasure