Mullins bumper star retired as Elliott waits to strike with Blow
Willie Mullins' high-class bumper horse Very Much So has been retired, while Gordon Elliott hopes to see Grade One winner Blow By Blow in action next month, as well as Lucky Pass.
Very Much So won the €100,000 Goffs Land Rover Bumper on debut in 2014 under Jonathan Burke but would not appear again until two creditable efforts at Grade One level last season. However, a knee injury has forced Supreme Racing to call time on the Scorpion-bred.
"He was the horse that spring-boarded my career," said Burke. "He was a quirky sort: going out to the pre-parade ring to ride him around before his debut, the lads with him were covering his eye as I got up on him.
"He was liable to do anything! It's a shame he never got to reach his potential. I'll be forever grateful to him."
Very Much So's final start was when fourth in the Punchestown Champion Bumper last April. Mullins won that race with Blow By Blow and Elliott, his new trainer, has issued an update on the Gigginstown steed.
"He had a setback but nothing major. I am looking to going hurdling with him in four to six weeks' time," he said.
Blow By Blow is as short as 16/1 for the Neptune Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Another horse of the Elliott-Gigginstown axis, Lucky Pass, has been absent since winning a bumper for Mullins at the 2015 Leopardstown Christmas festival.
Elliott said: "He's grand, we should see him over a hurdle in February."
Gigginstown's top novice hurdler, Death Duty, is to go to Naas for Sunday's Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle.
Gigginstown's racing manager Eddie O'Leary has said that the son of Shantou, which has won a point-to-point, two bumpers and three hurdle races, will take his chance in the €90,000 heat, which is Naas' first Grade One event.
Empire Of Dirt, a Cheltenham Festival winner for Colm Murphy which followed up even more impressively on his debut for Elliott (above) in the Troytown Chase in November, will likely be seen next in the Stan James Irish Gold Cup on February 12 - but he has an even bigger target.
Elliott said: "After Leopardstown the aim is the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree." Empire Of Dirt is 20/1 with one firm for that race.
Altior and Un De Sceaux are among nine entries for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 21.
Meanwhile, At The Races does not expect to have high-definition broadcasts of Irish racing until two years' time at the earliest. The channel's product has begun to look somewhat anachronistic, especially when RTé broadcasts racing at the same time.
"At The Races is currently planning the roll out of a full HD channel in 2019," said a Horse Racing Ireland spokesman. "SIS Live is working with SIS to upgrade the current satellite-based outside-broadcast service for Irish racing to a dedicated permanent network combining both microwave and fibre connectivity.
"This new network will provide higher quality and faster delivery of the racecourse pictures to the bookmakers plus will also allow new products and services to be offered such as in-running data."
HRI and SIS had expected to have in-running data available at all Irish tracks from January 1 but there has been a delay and it remains unclear as to when this ground-breaking sectional-timing development will be realised.