Elliott out to top up advantage with 'Shark' set to bare his teeth
With an astonishing 1,161 runners so far this season, there is rarely a jumps race where Gordon Elliott isn't represented and today's seven-race Fairyhouse card is no different.
While his trainers' title rival Willie Mullins may have the edge in terms of quality, the master of Closutton has had 485 fewer runners this season and meetings like this have been the meat and drink as Elliott bids for his maiden title.
The Meath trainer has just ten more winners than Mullins (204 to 194) but has continuously made hay midweek and after watching his gap cut to €509,313 at the same track two days ago, he'll be keen to top up ahead of next week's Punchestown Festival.
Mullins has two runners in the concluding bumpers but other than that it's a chance for Elliott to claim more prize-money and he sends a strong team led by Azua Emery in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Maiden Hurdle (4.40).
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned four-year-old is hardly the most inspiring selection, however, having let down favourite backers on all five of her runs for Elliott. She is clearly a talented filly and has the assistance of champion jumps jockey-elect Davy Russell but others are preferred.
Down trainer Jerry Cosgrave has an interesting runner in TIN TOWN LIZ. Winner of two of her three point-to-points, the daughter of Scorpion is a decent each-way alternative to the likely hotpot at favourable odds under amateur Mark O'Hare.
The Grand National-winning combination of Elliott and Russell also team up with consistent grey Creadan Grae in the fairyhouse.ie Maiden Hurdle (6.25) and this looks a particularly weak affair.
It is a good chance for John 'Shark' Hanlon to notch just his fourth winner of a dismal season and if Brian Hayes can get a tune out of ROBIN THE HARE, this should be well within his grasp and provide the Carlow handler with a much-needed boost.
Elsewhere, it was a night to remember for the O'Brien family at Dundalk last night with Donnacha riding a 10/1 double.
The first leg saw him take the Crowne Plaza Race & Stay Maiden aboard Drapers Guild (5/1) for his brother Joseph as the pair got the better of father Aidan, who saddled three of the five runners including 5/6 favourite El Greco.
His second came for his father when Full Moon (4/5 favourite) justified strong support in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Race but the three-year-old was made to work for it against three previous course winners. O'Brien needed to be at his best to get the better of Downdraft - trained by Joseph - by half a length.