GORDON Elliott had been in great form at Limerick and he carried that into day three at Leopardstown, with both the second and third races going to the Cullentra handler.
The lrish Daily Star Christmas Handicap Hurdle saw Sam’s Choice rewarded for some fine efforts over hurdles and, given a beautifully timed ride by Kennedy, the Lyreen Syndicate-owned 8/1 chance asserted close home to get the better of the consistent Gali Flight.
Hot favourite Unanswered seemed to struggle on the ground.
The Pertemps Qualifier appealed as a reasonably open race on paper, only for Maxxum (11/4 favourite) to make a mockery of his mark for the second race on the bounce. Owned by Athenry, County Galway-based Pat Rabbitt, Maxxum defied a 17lb rise for winning at Navan with an even easier success here and now goes straight to Cheltenham.
“Eight winners so far since Christmas isn’t bad,” said Elliott with a smile, and the ninth wouldn’t be far away: Conflated. “Someone said after Navan Maxxum could be a graded horse! He was unlucky the first day he ran for me at Punchestown and he has come on a lot. He goes straight to Cheltenham,” added Elliott, with Maxxum now a general 4/1 ante-post favourite for the Pertemps Final.
Sam’s Choice defied top weight in his success and Elliott was quick to pay tribute to Kennedy. “In fairness, Jack said to run him in a big field,” commented the winning trainer. “He followed them around and it worked out well. He stays that trip well and I’d say he could step up further.”
THE crowd of 16,031 was marginally lower than the corresponding 2019 attendance, before crowds were limited or prohibited due to the Coronovirus pandemic.
Punters generally had favourable results and Mouse Morris has a very talented novice in the shape of the strapping Gentlemansgame, who jumped superbly on his chase debut in the Ballymaloe Relish Beginners Chase, justifying strong market support. The 2/1 chance pulled eight lengths away from error-prone favourite I Am Maximus.
The grey looks a real Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase type, for which bookmakers went 16/1 after the race, but Morris is keen to go somewhere before then.
“He wasn’t race-fit but I was impressed by him and the faster they went the better he jumped,” he said of Robcour’s grey. “You only have to look at him to know he’s good and he’s a real three-mile horse.”
While Morris has only had four individual winners this season, he said: “It’s quality over quantity at the moment I suppose. The door is open for a few more if anyone is interested.”
It seemed as though Willie Mullins might draw a blank 24 hours after a sizzling six-timer but Tony Bloom rarely acquires a bad one and the owner’s Ile Atlantique did it well in the Midland Legal Solicitors INH Flat Race at odds of 4/7 under the trainer’s son Patrick, edging his nephew Emmet’s Feronily.
“He’s a nice sort and is just learning on the job. He was very green turning for home and when Patrick asked him, it took a while for the penny to drop up the straight.
“I think he’s championship bumper class so he’ll be heading down that road. He’ll probably come back here for the Dublin Racing Festival,” commented the winning trainer.
The opening Savills Maiden Hurdle saw an emotional win for Henry de Bromhead on the day his late son Jack was honoured. This was a race in which the market came alive, with the JP McManus-owned Ho My Lord hammered into 5/2, having been available at 10/1, but he fell at the second.
Ho My Lord’s stablemate, 6/5 favourite Lot Of Joy, looked like providing Willie Mullins with another winner, but Rachael Blackmore had a willing partner in Deep Cave, who prevailed by half a length, asserting in a convincing manner close home at odds of 11/4.
A Belclare point winner for Ciaran Murphy in March, Deep Cave was since bought by Caolan Woods and Nigel Doolin. After Paddy Power halved Deep Cave from 40/1 to 20/1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, de Bromhead said: “He’s a nice horse and we always liked him. I thought he was going to win in Punchestown and then he just got outbattled.
“Davy (Russell) felt he went a bit soon the last day, so we said we’d take our time. I’m delighted for the owners who are new to the game. We’ll look to the spring and see what is there.”
A visibly emotional de Bromhead added: “Look at the rainbow in the sky. Jack is always looking down on us.”