'Notorious' strikes for Elliott
All the talk in recent weeks has been of sensational teenage jockey James Bowen but Jack Kennedy - just two years his elder - gave a timely reminder of his class aboard Monbeg Notorious when helping Gordon Elliott break his duck in the Goffs Thyestes Chase in emphatic fashion.
Having sat out a string of high-profile rides over the Christmas period as he nursed a series of falls, the Dingle rider signalled his return to the big stage in the Gowran Park feature as the Gigginstown House runner (7/2 favourite) justified a flood of market support to score easily from Wounded Warrior and Elliott's Space Cadet.
"He never missed a beat the whole way and any other 18-year-old would kill to be the position I'm in. I'm very lucky," a delighted Kennedy said before Elliott added: "It's great when it works out. Jack got a few slaps at Christmas and he had a couple of quiet weeks but he got himself back on the map last weekend so it's great for him."
Very few lucrative Irish handicap prizes have eluded the trailblazing Meath trainer and Monbeg Notorious - having his first run in a handicap chase - revelled in the gruelling stamina test at the Kilkenny track to turn 'the race that stops a county' into a procession. A tilt at the Irish Grand National is next in line for the seven-year-old. Elliott, who is now 1/3 for the Irish trainers' championship, said: "I did say after the Punchestown win that it suited him having horses in front of him but to think he was going to win like that I'd be telling you a lie.
"He jumped fences like they were on fire that day. He's a bit of a character at home, he doesn't do anything fancy but he just loved that soft ground and he galloped them into the ground."
The other big race of the day - the Grade Two John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle - was taken by Presenting Percy (9/4 joint favourite) as the stock of Galway trainer Pat Kelly and owner Philip Reynolds, son of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, continues to rise.
Last year's Pertemps Final winner cruised into the home straight in the hands of Davy Russell before seeing off the threat of Willie Mullins' Augusta Kate to score by five-and-a-half lengths, but will switch back to fences for his next assignment and has been cut to 7/2 favourite with Paddy Power for the Cheltenham's RSA Chase in March as he bids for back-to-back Festival wins.
While admiring him being unsaddled after the race, trainer Ted Walsh noted that Kelly and Reynolds could have something special on their hands commenting that "he could be a Gold Cup horse" in time as "he's a machine who jumps like a stag".
Elsewhere on the seven-race card, champion trainer Mullins had a double with Scarpeta (13/8 favourite) taking the opening maiden hurdle while Montalbano (4/1) recovered from two consecutive spills to take the beginners' chase in fine style.
Mullins also had a positive update on Faugheen as he looks to recover from an out-of-sorts performance at Christmas and bounce back in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Dublin's Racing Festival.
"He did a nice little bit this morning and I'm happy with him, if all goes well between now and then there's a good chance he'll line up there. He had an off day; hopefully that'll be the only off day he'll have, hopefully we can get him back to himself," Mullins said.
Ones for notebook
James Bowen was out of luck with his two rides at Gowran Park yesterday but Graineyhill - in an attempt to defy a 14lb rise in the weights for his Clonmel win - stayed on well in the straight to finish second in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle after looking well beaten with two to jump.
In seriously testing conditions, few horses had the ability to come from off the pace and Gordon Elliott's charge may have enough in hand of the handicapper to pick up a similar event.
Another to follow is Galmoy Hurdle fifth Let's Dance, which Willie Mullins admitted with the benefit of hindsight should not have run after finishing tailed off: "There's more to her, she hasn't come into the sort of form that I know she's capable of and maybe running her here today wasn't the right decision; hopefully it didn't take too much out of her."
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