Elliott and Russell collect feature spoils at Naas
Hardline and Doctor Phoenix gave Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell a big-race double at Naas yesterday, but neither are in the trainer's plans for Cheltenham.
Fairyhouse's big Easter meeting is the probable next port of call for Hardline (6/1) after he made it four wins from six starts over timber when battling bravely to victory in the Paddy Power Onside App Novice Hurdle.
Impact Factor attempted to make all in the Grade Two contest, but Hardline moved into contention approaching the last and went on to score by half a length.
"He's grand and consistent. He keeps doing it and he's a bit like Mitchouka yesterday," said Elliott.
"He battled better than I thought he would. He was giving everything weight so that was a nice performance.
"We'll look for something in Fairyhouse. I'd say we'll keep him at home."
Elliott is looking at Navan next for Doctor Phoenix (5/2) following his victory in the Grade Three Paddy's Rewards Chase.
Russell was happy to sit in last of the five runners, some way behind the pacesetting Alisier D'Irlande, but made smooth headway to bound clear up the home straight and win by 13 lengths.
"I said to Davy, 'If you are flat out going past me first time I'll be happy' because he needs an end-to-end gallop. Thankfully, that worked out grand," said Elliott. "There is a race in a few weeks time for him at Navan. He definitely won't be going to Cheltenham - not if I have my way."
Uradel caused a surprise when streaking clear in the closing stages of the Paddy Power Betting Shops Rated Novice Hurdle.
Willie Mullins was responsible for two of the six-runner field, with his front-running Contingency the 5/2 favourite, while his eventual winner was an unfancied 14/1 chance.
However, Uradel crept into contention under Danny Mullins and was travelling much the best heading to the last, where he skipped clear of Best Behaviour to score by seven lengths.
"That was a nice surprise," said Mullins. "We'll look for another winners race for him. We'll keep him to the same type of race. His break obviously did him the power of good."
Mullins completed a double when Carefully Selected (8/13 favourite) made all in the hands of his son Patrick to take the Paddy Power Acca Insurance (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race and stake his claim for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
"He's improved since Christmas. He did it the hard way and did it well," said the trainer.
"He's just bought a ticket, I'd say, to go across the water on that performance. We'll see how he comes out of it. He's certainly gone on the shortlist now.
"We've got Hollowgraphic, Blackbow, this fella, Squadron Commander and Tornado Flyer. That looks like the shortlist at the moment."
The Paul Nolan-trained Fitzhenry (11/4 favourite) got up in dying strides to land the WhatOddsPaddy? Novices' Handicap Chase by a neck from Last Encounter under Barry Geraghty.
"He's a little unlucky not to have won his last four in a row, he was on the wrong side of the photo finishes," said Nolan. "He'll probably head to Navan now for the three-mile (novice handicap chase) final in March."
Meanwhile, Joseph O'Brien has confirmed that Edwulf is firmly on course for the Cheltenham Gold Cup following his heroic success in the Irish equivalent earlier this month.
The JP McManus-owned gelding produced a fairytale comeback to take the Irish Gold Cup at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, having come close to death when collapsing in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last March.
Speaking at a Festival press event at Naas, O'Brien reported his charge in fine form ahead of the blue riband on March 16, for which he is a general 25/1 shot.
O'Brien said: "It's an unbelievable story, for him to come back and do what he's done. The Gold Cup is the plan. He's very well since Leopardstown and it is a wide open Gold Cup."
Reflecting on the drama that unfolded at last year's Festival, the trainer added: "Basically it was a neurological episode. The initial thoughts weren't good and we were just hoping he'd survive. The vets say it's no more likely to happen to him again as it is for any other horse in any other race. The lads in the yard have done a great job with him."
O'Brien could have between "six and eight" runners at the showpiece meeting.
Tower Bridge, which also struck Grade One gold at the Dublin Racing Festival, is set to contest one of the staying novice hurdles, while Rhinestone is a potential Champion Bumper candidate.
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