Bargain buy 'Doctor' has right script for Russell and Elliott
Doctor Phoenix produced a career-best performance to win the Bar One Racing Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse.
Having just his fourth run for Gordon Elliott since being bought by Nick Bradley Racing for only £10,000, he looked an even bigger bargain than before.
Second on his debut for the yard at Cork in October, Doctor Phoenix then won at the Mallow venue a month later before a bad mistake cost him any chance at Fairyhouse in December.
Nursed into the race inside the final three furlongs in typical Davy Russell style, he bounded clear after the last to beat Kilcarry Bridge, which tried to make all the running, by nine lengths.
"He was a great purchase by Mouse O'Ryan and the team. He's won a big pot now so they can't complain about much," Russell said.
"The ease in the ground and the good gallop helped but I had a job to get by John Ryan's horse (Kilcarry Bridge).
Elliott said: "Jack (Kennedy) did the right thing the last day as he let him hack home after making a bad mistake. He cost only 10 grand so, even if he never wins another race, it's job done.
"He's a two-miler and he loved coming off a fast gallop. If you don't bully him early he'll arrive late on.
"Nick (Bradley) is ballsy enough with his entries but if it's up to me we would be looking at a little conditions race."
The 13/2 chance, which holds an entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, completed a Fairyhouse double for Elliott and Russell after the earlier victory of Mitchouka.
Sent off the even-money favourite in this, he hardly gave Russell a moment's concern and quickened away nicely after the last to beat stablemate Veneer Of Charm by eight lengths.
Elliott said: "He's a grand honest horse and hasn't done anything wrong all year. He's probably a horse more for the Fred Winter but as long as he keeps picking up prize-money we're happy.
"He'll be entered in Leopardstown (Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle) and we'll see where we go."
Grade One-winning hurdler Saturnas had to work hard to land the odds in the beginners' chase.
Willie Mullins' 8/11 favourite looked beaten going to the second-last, with De Plotting Shed still travelling strongly for Davy Russell. However, Paul Townend switched his mount from one side of the track to the other and Saturnas quickened up.
Mullins' inmate drew level just before the last and came home just over a length clear after a big leap at the final fence. "I thought he might be one of our two-milers this year but, looking at that, he needs further," said Mullins.
"I was hoping he'd be a Grade One horse (over fences) but looking at that it will be quite a climb."
The Closutton supremo later teamed up with his son Patrick to complete an 11/4 double thanks to the narrow victory of Tornado Flyer in the bumper.
Danny Hand was seen to good effect on Dermot McLoughlin's Dromore Lad, which registered a fourth win of the season in the three-mile handicap hurdle. The 3/1 favourite was all out to beat Barry Geraghty and Fitzhenry by a head.
"He's improving obviously and Danny said it's the best he's jumped," said McLoughlin. "It was a competitive race. They went a good gallop and he stayed going well. He's gutsy and has a really good attitude.
"He's won over two-and-a-half (miles), and three miles is obviously his trip."
Minnies Secret made it two wins on the spin with victory in the Mares Maiden Hurdle. Charles Byrnes' 6/5 favourite was never far off the pace under Donal McInerney and, after asserting herself at the second last, just had to be kept up to her work to beat Tara Dylan by four-and-a-quarter lengths.
Byrnes said: " She got a small bit outpaced near the third last and probably needs two-and-a-half (miles). I'm told there is a Listed race here in two weeks and she might as well take her chance."