'Duty' on target as Kate hits the deck
Gordon Elliott happened upon a lesson one time about having Michael O'Leary as his main owner: keep the hype talk at a premium.
When there was an apparent possibility that Don Cossack would not evolve into what his trainer predicted would be the best horse he ever housed, the Ryanair owner was quick to give him something of an earful.
Elliott, of course, was right all along. The impression Death Duty has made on him has been rather more subtle, but in making it four hurdling wins out of four, a little bit of love is becoming apparent.
Naas' Grade One Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle yesterday amounted to the Shantou-bred's best acid test to date and the market betrayed apprehension. Generally around a 1/2 chance in the morning, it was possible to get 5/6 (eventual SP) in the ring and bigger on Betfair.
Jack Kennedy looked pretty comfortable throughout on the Gigginstown runner, which is around 9/4 for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham festival. He took up the lead coming to the last, but Ruby Walsh had been tailing him like a stalker and his mount, the well-backed Augusta Kate, had almost joined the favourite at the last.
Calamity befell the mare - which is part-owned by Alan Shearer and Lee Westwood - though it is difficult to know what might have happened. She crashed out and Death Duty, which seemed to stay on really strongly, was left in control. Turcagua kept on for second.
Kennedy felt he would have won anyway, Gigginstown's Eddie O'Leary seemed certain of it and Elliott was just happy to have done so.
The trainer said: "I thought they didn't go fast enough and he is just an out-and-out stayer.
"They were upsides when the mare fell so it's hard to say, but the one thing you know about our horse is that he would have kept pulling out. He has his job done again and that will be it now until Cheltenham."
How good could he be, given he graduated from the pointing field via the wily Pat Doyle, who said he may be the most promising he ever trained?
"He's a proper big three-mile chaser," Elliott reasoned.
"And at this stage, of all the good horses I've had, none of them was ever as good as a hurdler.
"He's honest and you even see him walking around the parade ring and nothing fazes him. He'd kind of frighten you he's that laid-back."
This run also confirmed Augusta Kate's hurdling potential. She lives to fight another day.
Much of the talk pre-racing was about her stablemate American Tom in the novice chase. Even-money, the best price he could be punted at, was a quote that treated form as an irrelevance, argued the doubters.
The backers - who sent him off an incredible 8/15 - were having none of it. Neither, however, was American Tom. Clearly feeling something, he was freewheeling to a walk when falling down the back. Later examination proved the horse was coughing post-race.
There was virtually no money for Cheltenham faller Some Plan (7/1), but, leaping accurately out in front, Henry de Bromhead's steed made virtually all under David Mullins.
The Racing Post Arkle may prove somewhere between logical and avaricious, but Mullins said: "He's so accurate, so quick at his fences he can run into one, as he did at the first. He was idling a lot up the hill and I felt he had another gear when he fell at Cheltenham."
Slowmotion did what she was entitled to in the mares' maiden chase at 4/6, while there were handicap wins for Black Zero at 7/1 and 16s poke Yaha Fizz. Art Of Security (7/2) and 10/1 bumper winner Red Jack brought up a near-49/1 double for Noel Meade.
His old pal Mullins, meanwhile, had to just write it off as one of those days.