Battleoverdoyen made to work but pushes into Cheltenham mix
Battleoverdoyen maintained his unbeaten record with a hard-fought victory in the Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle yesterday.
Although the withdrawal of Commander Of Fleet took some of the gloss off the Grade One contest, a strong-looking field of eight runners went to post for a race which looked to be between leading trainers Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins.
Elliott relied on Battleoverdoyen, a £235,000 purchase after winning a point-to-point, and then victorious, too, in a Punchestown bumper and a Navan maiden hurdle this season.
He was the marginal favourite at 2/1 ahead of the Mullins-trained Tornado Flyer, which was third in the Champion Bumper at last season's Cheltenham Festival and won the corresponding race at Punchestown before making a winning hurdling debut at the same track.
However, Tornado Flyer was in trouble from an early stage and Ruby Walsh eventually gave up the ghost and pulled up his mount in the back straight.
Battleoverdoyen, on the other hand, travelled strongly under Jack Kennedy - and while he had to get to work on the run to the final flight, Elliott's charge responded to score by two and three-quarter lengths.
Elliott said: "He's a nice horse and a big chaser in the making. Jack said he's only learning, and when he got to the front, he didn't know what to do. He jumped his hurdles great apart from getting underneath the last.
"He'd probably prefer a little bit more ease in the ground. He's a chaser and a horse for down the road.
"I'll have to talk with Michael and Eddie (O'Leary), but I don't see why he couldn't go to Cheltenham this year. It will be hurdling this year, and chasing straight away next year.
"He's only a baby, and we don't want to kill him , but he'll have all the entries - including at the Dublin Racing Festival (at Leopardstown). We'll see how he comes out of this first."
Battleoverdoyen is a general 6/1 second-favourite for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, with Nicky Henderson's Champ the marginal market leader at 5/1.
Sams Profile was second for Mouse Morris, with Mullins' apparent third-string, Getareason, third.
Like Tornado Flyer, the champion trainer's other runner - the well-backed Come To Me - was bitterly disappointing.
Of Tornado Flyer, Mullins said: "Ruby said he went down to the start fine, but he was never travelling in the race. He jumped a bit big early, and I'd say the ground is plenty quick enough down the back.
"Nothing has shown up yet, so we will just have to wait and see. It's disappointing."