Elliott can dominate with Utmost Zeal
Gordon Elliott sends a bunch of live contenders to Ballinrobe tonight and the excellent Co Meath handler could depart with a small handful of winners.
Elliott is tied with Willie Mullins on six winners as the first month of the new jumps season draws to a close.
The indomitable champion trainer isn't represented at the Co Mayo fixture, so the man who many suspect will some day be the one to succeed him at the top of the pile is tipped to gain a numerical advantage.
Bryan Cooper is to be more closely tied to the yard this term in an effort to give the young Gigginstown Stud rider a regular base and some more stability.
He gets the nod to deliver for the stable aboard the frustrating Utmost Zeal in what is a modest opening maiden hurdle, while he could also collect on Esthiaal in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle.
That is another open contest and Eshtiaal is another that you wouldn't put too much faith in, but he ran well when beaten just half-a-length by Eight Til Late on his last completed start at Wexford. If he runs to a similar level again here on good ground that should suit, he has as good a chance as any.
In the bumper, Elliott's near neighbour Gillian O'Callaghan saddles Auntie Annie, having won the equivalent contest at Ffos Las on Saturday with a similar sort in Catcher On The Go.
The Kalanisi filly has a chance if she improves, but Elliott's Steven Clements-ridden Howayadoing might be a more solid option, after finishing an encouraging fifth on her track bow at Limerick.
Elliott saddles Vercingetorix and Hostile Fire in the conditions hurdle. They are probably the two most talented horses in the race, though they have shown their best hurdling on more testing ground than they will get here.
Paul Carberry is on Hostile Fire and the Ifraaj four-year-old appeals as nap material. We have a bit more to go on in terms of hurdling form with Hostile Fire and it's worth noting that he was very effective on decent ground on the Flat. Once a winner and twice placed from five starts over flights, he wasn't disgraced in Grade One company at Aintree, so he has the scope to see off all-comers at this level.
In the €20,000 handicap hurdle, Mark Molloy's Autumn Shades has a life under Jonathan Burke having shown consistent form of late, while Manibus gets the nod for the Andrew McNamara father and son partnership in the preceding edition.
An eye-catching third to Roumanian at Cork in March, the unexposed five-year-old has the scope to progress.