Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Wings' to lead home Elliott's army in Troytown

Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Johnny Ward

Run your fingers through the runners in Ireland this weekend and it feels as though a pact has been concocted among the top trainers that all their aces would be unveiled at once.

If Gowran is good today, Navan tomorrow might even be better. Racing in Ireland is not problem-free but the field sizes over the two days are also testament to the health of the industry.

Take Gowran's conditions chase: worse races were run under the title of a Grade One. Kitten Rock returns, Ttebob has to prove he is what he promised to be and Zabana bids also to do his bit for the sophomores.

Henry de Bromhead has a touch of genius when it comes to getting horses to jump and, with Champagne West, he may need it. This one's confidence seemed to fall apart towards the end of his time with Philip Hobbs yet it is less than a year since he was second off 150 at Cheltenham.


Liz Doyle has not hidden her regard for Without Limites, a belief evinced in his kicking off hurdling in the novice heat. This is demanding and Canelie, which was beaten at Galway, is only a hopeful pick. Mahler Ten ran a blinder on latest at Fairyhouse but the new trip may not be ideal.

Doyle admits Without Limites' bumper form is not simply assessed. "He'll more than likely want further but is fit and well."

Invitation Only and New To This Town clash in the second maiden hurdle, evoking memories of the race 12 months ago when we had a similar clash between Willie Mullins and Alan Potts. Mullins came out winning with the subsequently disappointing Stone Hard, with Supasundae third for Potts and Henry de Bromhead.

That nexus severed, Potts still works with Jessica Harrington, New To This Town among the most talented he has. Invitation Only, formidable in bumpers, is preferred.

The maiden chase merely masquerades as one - this is effectively a Graded event - and top-notch hurdler Bellshill gets the vote. Don't Touch It, which split Stone Hard and Supasundae here 12 months ago, went on to win a Grade One, the first Scorpion-bred to do so. He may nevertheless be vulnerable here.

From 22 runners in October and November, Tom Mullins has had eight winners, remarkable going. Catcheragain - his most recent - made all at Thurles and the mares' handicap hurdle looks a perfect opportunity for her to follow up under Adam Short.

It would be understandable if course regular Howaya Hurricane emerged as a threat coming to the second-last; expect, as was the case on Thursday against Canny Tom, that the selection will find extra.

Dakota Moirette is a likely sort in the opener, while I Knew Well gets napped in the Irish Racing Yearbook Handicap Steeplechase, a tidy event appropriate as a conclusion to a cracking race meet.

Min makes his chase bow at Navan, following on from Vautour and Douvan, both of which won this for the same connections. He will surely not, however, be remotely as short in the betting.


Min's defeat to Altior exposed limitations at Cheltenham and he was injured in the meantime. He remains really exciting, such that he can edge Fire And Soul and Edwulf, apparently the best of JP McManus' sextet in this superb heat tomorrow.

The big one, the Ladbrokes-sponsored Troytown, is about 50-50 to go to Gordon Elliott for the third year running. This is a tortuously tough puzzle to tackle and one can only be hopeful but Bless The Wings' Irish National form puts him bang there. Jack Kennedy's mount shaped really nicely in his hurdling prep.

Elliott has an incredible 11 runners in this race alone. The betting marginally favours Noble Endeavor, though he has not always been the most convincing.

Just 30 fight it out in the opening maiden hurdle, none liable to live with Battleford. Beaten a nose by Ballyandy in the Cheltenham Bumper last season, this could be a lively prospect at that festival 12 months on.

Seven winners in the discipline contest the 'Monksfield' Novice Hurdle. Bryan Cooper rides Death Duty over both Monbeg Notorious and Lion In His Heart - no great shock but, even so, this is no formality for the likely favourite.

In Stretchingthetruth, he meets a McManus runner with oodles of ability and Livelovelaugh, the Willie Mullins hope, is no back number.

Elliott could easily take the Davis Civil Engineering Handicap Hurdle and it will be intriguing to see is there any money for Kennedy's mount, the ex-Michael Hourigan-trained Dawerann.

He seemed to shape OK at Punchestown last week when one of many lost in the fog.

Traditionally deep, the Proudstown Handicap Hurdle is that and more in 2016. Another former Hourigan runner, The Crafty Butcher, is a tentative pick in a race riddled with horses potentially well-treated.

Catch your breath - and chance a few 'readies' on Elliott's Baby Twig in the closing Listed Coolmore N.H. Sires EBF Mares Flat Race.

Irish Independent

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