'Lord' serves up Plate for Elliott
Ballybrit showpiece win prompts title thoughts for trainer
Donagh Meyler conjured a devastating late surge out of Lord Scoundrel to seize his chance on the big stage and emerge victorious in a pulsating climax to the thetote.com Galway Plate.
A first ride in the €220,000 showpiece for the quietly-spoken 20-year-old five-pound claimer, 10/1 shot Lord Scoundrel was also providing Gordon Elliott with a breakthrough success in either of the Ballybrit festival's marquee events. Elliott, of course, is no stranger to high-profile triumphs.
He masterminded a famous 2007 Grand National victory with Silver Birch when his training career was in its infancy, and last season he combined with Michael O'Leary's prolific Gigginstown Stud firm to conquer the Gold Cup with Don Cossack.
In yesterday's Plate, some variety of the ubiquitous maroon and white silks was sported by eight jockeys, four of which were trained by Elliott, who also saddled Shadow Catcher.
Turns out they threw enough darts. Turning in, Ruby Walsh led on Ballycasey, with Meyler last of the front six in a pretty tightly bunched group that had pulled away from the pack.
The sextet were evenly divided between Elliott and Willie Mullins.
Ballycasey eventually acquiesced, as Lord Scoundrel, a son of Presenting, swept to the front on the outside in the dying strides to win going away by a length-and-a-quarter. Mullins's Alelchi Inois denied Ballycasey for second by the same margin, with Devils Bride compounding the champion trainer's frustrations to hold on for third.
Elliott's Clarcam and Shadow Catcher followed to ensure that the country's two National Hunt behemoths hoovered up every last cent of the purse.
The standings in the trainers' championship, owned by Mullins for the past nine years, were one of the first things on Elliott's mind.
He led by a couple of hundred thousand euro going into the day and whatever prospect he has of dethroning the title-holder this term will depend on edging plenty more pots like this.
"If you win these races it keeps you up there in the trainers' championship," the Co Meath impresario said. "Unfortunately for me, I'm usually behind Willie Mullins, but I might stay in front of him for a bit longer this year."
"This is great," he added of Lord Scoundrel's finest hour. "It has been the plan for him since we left him off last season, to get him back early and train him for this. It's grand when it works out!
"We've been second in the Hurdle a few times so it is nice to win this. I hadn't a winner at the festival for five years before Water Sprite won last night, so my luck has turned."
Bryan Cooper had stuck with Gigginstown's 2014 winner Road To Riches, so this was another frustrating outcome for him, he having also eschewed the firm's recent winners of the Grand National and its Irish equivalent.
Road To Riches made an early blunder and struggled thereafter before pulling up two-out. "It's unfortunate for Brian," admitted Elliott. "We actually discussed it and said if he didn't ride Road To Riches, he would ride this fellow. Jack (Kennedy) had the choice and he went for Clarcam, but Donagh has done a great job."
Meyler, a native of Kilmacow in Kilkenny, works for Tony Martin, and today takes the plum mount on last year's Hurdle hero Quick Jack.
His 31st winner, which carried 10st 2lb, was his most glorious to date. "This is what you dream of growing up," he beamed after what was his first ride for Elliott. "It hasn't sunk in yet. It was great to even have a ride in the race, but he jumped great and I got a lovely run down the inner the last time. Once we met the rising ground, he really stuck his neck out."
Martin got off the mark for the week courtesy of a superb Nina Carberry steer on Sweet Company in the amateur riders' maiden.
A power-packed Carberry drive got Sweet Company up by a short-head from Dermot Weld's odds-on A Shin Kildare, in the process landing a touch on a 10/1 shot that had been as big as 20/1.
Earlier, Mark Walsh galvanised a similarly late thrust out of Joseph O'Brien's All The Answers (10/3) to foil Weld's odds-on Silver Concorde in the maiden hurdle, while Brian Ellison got the cross-channel raiders and Danny Mullins off the mark when Our Kylie (9/1) landed an incident-packed mares' hurdle.
"You need a bit of luck, and she had it there by avoiding all the fallers," the Yorkshire handler said after Our Kylie plundered the €18,450 purse. "For a 0-123, the prize money is fantastic - you just don't get it in England."
In the two-mile-five-furlong handicap hurdle, Gavin Cromwell's Plain Talking clung on grimly from the fast-finishing Sea Light, which was sent off a heavily-backed favourite. There was more trouble here on a poorly aligned home bend that led to two horses falling on the flat in Our Kylie's race, but seven-pound claimer Brien Kane avoided the trouble on Plain Talking.
At the death, he had a diminishing half-length to spare on the 10/1 shot. "My heart was in my mouth!" admitted Cromwell. "I have her in again on Saturday and if she is okay, she'll run."
Russell walked away gingerly after Crystal Pearl fell in that nasty earlier incident in the mares' race. He rode Sea Light, but then stood himself down due to back pain. Robbie Power suffered a suspected fractured jawbone and Conor Maxwell broke his nose in falls in the same race.
Shane Foley plundered a late 77/1 brace on Adrian Keatley's Millefiori (12/1) and Mick Halford's Katiymann (5/4 jt-fav), while Ger Lyons and Colin Keane provided the sole outright winning favourite on the day when the 7/4 shot Tony The Gent took the mile handicap.
The week's negative figures trend continued, with a 5pc drop in attendance to 18,048. Bookmakers' take fell 8pc to €1,423,038 and the Tote aggregate 1pc to €980,860.