Mount Benbulben puts Elliott on good footing for Navan
Gordon Elliott looks poised to record the second Grade One success of his career when Mount Benbulben lines out in the featured novice hurdle at Navan tomorrow.
On what could be a big day for his increasingly powerful yard, the distinguished Meath-based handler also saddles the promising Don Cossack in the bumper, but Mount Benbulben is somewhat further along the road to establishing itself as a horse of significant potential.
A £250,000 acquisition for Barry Connell after winning two bumpers in the spring, the Beneficial gelding scored for a second time over flights when reeling in Rebel Fitz in a Grade Two over course and distance last time.
Make A Track, third then, franked that form nicely with a win on Thursday, so there can be little doubt that Paul Carberry's mount is the one to beat. That said, of the nap selection's three rivals, Boston Bob and Ipsos Du Berlais are not to be dismissed.
Noel Meade's smart Gigginstown Stud-owned Ipsos Du Berlais was turned over at short odds by Pickapocketortwo at Thurles, but that was a messy race run at a false gallop.
It's less easy to assess the Willie Mullins-trained Boston Bob, which beat nothing of note when cruising home on its hurdling debut here in November. Nonetheless, the point-to-point and bumper winner couldn't possibly have been any more impressive than he was, so it would be premature to discount him in this.
Mullins and Ruby Walsh ought to get their day off on the right foot with Zaidpour. While Rich Ricci's five-year-old cantered up over most of three miles on his reappearance at Thurles, the drop back to two and a half in the Tara Hurdle won't be an issue for such a classy sort.
Last week's course winner Powerstation, although just a pound inferior to Zaidpour on ratings, isn't in the same league in real terms, but Prima Vista is a particularly interesting contender in the four-runner Grade Two.
A bit hit-and-miss last term, Meade's charge was only narrowly worried out of a Grade One at Punchestown in May. He will surely improve for his first start since then, but remains Zaidpour's most potent danger if anywhere close to his best.
Meade and Paul Carberry can also take what is a poor beginners' chase at the bottom of the programme with Medical Card.
On bare form, Cadogan should shade this after finishing two places ahead of Medical Card when second to Raptor at Punchestown.
However, that one is already 11 years of age, and the four-years younger Medical Card might have a little more scope for meaningful progression.
Carberry's sister Nina has the privilege of steering Don Cossack in the Grade Two winners' bumper.
This Irish Form Book-sponsored heat is a superior contest to that which Elliott's four-year-old ran amok in at Naas in October, but he is impossible to oppose after cruising 18 lengths clear of some useful horses on that occasion.
In the 11-runner two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle, Down Under can follow up his commanding victory here three weeks ago.
Fran Flood's JP McManus-owned gelding won with something in hand then, so a nine-pound penalty may not stop him now.