Saturday 21 April 2018

Elliott can score heavily with strong Downpatrick hand

Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Sportsfile

Thomas Kelly

Gordon Elliott will have high hopes of having a good day at Downpatrick, with Hardline expected to get the trainer's day off to a winning start in the opening maiden hurdle.

The Gigginstown House Stud gelding had some good bumper form last season and also showed plenty in two starts over timber.

Recent course winner Slippery Serpent looks an obvious danger. He won a bumper last month and returns to hurdling having finished mid-division on his only previous attempt at Naas.

Jack Kennedy also gets the leg-up on Elliott's Pinotage in the following JP Handicap Hurdle. He shaped nicely on his Irish debut behind easy winner Benkei at Roscommon and has dropped 1lb since that effort.

Elliott also saddles recent recruit Poormans Hill in the handicap chase. The gelding shaped well on his final start for previous connections when fourth in a decent beginners' chase at Galway and looks on an attractive mark now that he tackles handicap company for the first time over fences.

Stooshie would also appear to have a big chance in the concluding bumper for Elliott having shown some good bumper form last season. He signed off with a disappointing run at Killarney but had previously been an unlucky fifth at Punchestown having narrowly missed out at Limerick the time before.

Shalailah will be well supported at Dundalk, where she makes her first start since joining Joseph O'Brien.

The daughter of Showcasing was down the field on her Fairyhouse debut back in June, but raised her game to chase home subsequent Moyglare Stud Stakes heroine Happily on her next appearance at the Curragh.

Ger Lyons asked Shalailah to step up to Group Three company in the Silver Flash Stakes and she found only Happily too strong again.

Shalailah has since switched stables and if she runs up to her rating of 97 in the Median Auction Maiden, she will prove extremely hard to beat.

Liam Lennon's recent Bellewstown victor Haqeeba bids to follow up in the opening handicap. The four-year-old ended a losing run dating back almost a year in that race and, while a 10lb hike makes life tougher, she cannot be ruled out under Declan McDonogh.

Having been placed six times from nine starts, the John Feane-trained Pure Action will have his supporters in the claiming maiden. However, Smugglers Creek caught the eye making some late headway on his Curragh introduction and it would be no surprise to see him raise his game significantly for Mick Halford, with title-chasing Pat Smullen an eye-catching jockey booking.

'John' in bonus territory

Jessica Harrington's Sizing John will be aimed at the National Hunt Triple Crown after it was confirmed that a £1m (€1.15m) bonus will once again be on offer for any horse that wins the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Since the inception the £1m bonus in 2005, only Kauto Star has won all three races in the same season, with Cue Card coming agonisingly close a couple of seasons ago when he fell in the Gold Cup having won the first two legs.

Sizing John completed a Gold Cup treble at Cheltenham, Punchestown and Leopardstown last season.

Irish Independent

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