WATCH - Gordon Elliott's Mengli Khan adds to growing reputation with Royal Bond success
Mengli Khan further enhanced his growing reputation with victory in the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Formerly trained on the Flat by Hugo Palmer in Newmarket, the imposing four-year-old suffered defeat on his first two starts over hurdles for Gordon Elliott last season, but had raised his game this autumn to claim successive wins at Navan.
He was a heavily-backed even-money favourite to provide his trainer with his first success in this Grade One event and after travelling strongly into contention under Jack Kennedy, he hit the front jumping the second flight from the finish.
Early Doors did his best to make a race of it, but Mengli Khan was much too strong in the end, passing the post with five and a half lengths in hand. Early Doors was in turn a long way clear of the remainder.
Kennedy said: "In his last couple of races he wasn't really settling, but he's such a big horse with a long stride, he just needed a good gallop. We got it today and he's done it very well.
"He's such a big horse it's hard to believe he ran on the Flat as a two-year-old, but he seems to have it anyway.
"He's a top-class horse."
Elliott said: "I was disappointed with him last year and said we'd keep him as a novice for this season. He could be a better horse on better ground and is a two-miler which we don't have too many of. Gigginstown buy big three-mile chasers, but it's nice to have a few of them as well.
"We will probably have a look at something over Christmas, but we'll get him home after today and make sure he's in one piece. He'll stick to two miles, and if everything stays right we have a few nice horses for each of the categories.
"He's a big horse and Hugo Palmer did some job to get him to the track as a two-year-old. With the ear plugs on today he nearly switched off too much, but he's a good horse and is learning all the time."
Earlier, Espoir D'Allen maintained his unbeaten record with an assured display in the Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle.
Snapped up by leading owner JP McManus after winning a French bumper, the three-year-old was visually impressive on his first two starts over hurdles for Gavin Cromwell at Punchestown and Down Royal.
The son of Voix Du Nord was the 8-13 favourite stepped up to Grade Three level and while Barry Geraghty was initially happy to sit at the rear of the five-strong field, he took much closer order racing down the back straight and was in front rounding the home turn.
Gordon Elliott's dual winner Mitchouka did his best to cover the move and appeared to be travelling equally as well approaching the second flight from the finish, but Espoir D'Allen jumped it much the better and careered away to score comfortably in the end by four and a half lengths.
Geraghty said: "We went steady early and he was jumping so well, I felt we were better letting him go and enjoy himself and make use of his jumping. He's a lovely sort, a gorgeous horse and does everything you want."
Cromwell said: "I was very impressed with that as he took it up early and went about his business and did it well.
"Leopardstown (Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Christmas) will be on the cards and he will certainly get an entry. I'll have to talk to JP and Frank (Berry, racing manager) and see what they want to do.
"He doesn't show very much at home but when he comes to the track he answers all the questions.
"I think he's versatile ground-wise, and horses by the sire Voix Du Nord seem to dig deep. He hasn't been asked yet, but I think he'll stay very well."