Double vision as don is boss
Elliott favourite and Utmost Zeal continue great start
Gordon Elliott continues to go from strength to strength and one of his best ever starts to a season kept on producing winners at Punchestown yesterday when the Meath-based trainer added a double to the three winners he left the Kildare track with the day before.
The highlight of yesterday's double was the win of one of the yard's favourites, Don Cossack, who won the Grade Three Star Chase, giving the trainer his fourth consecutive win in the race.
Elliott won the race in 2011 and 2012 with Roi Du Mee and last year with the sadly ill-fated Toner D'Oudairies and will now look to gradually step up the Grade One winner with a trip to Down Royal next time out.
Elliott commented: "Maybe he is a bit better on better ground and it might be that he is better fresh but I thought he was good there today.
"There's no doubt this has been a lucky race for us and he'll go now to Down Royal for the second season novices' chase on the same day as the JNWine.com Chase.
Of the seven-year-old, the winning trainer concluded: "He's definitely a bit stronger this year and was probably a bit of a baby still last year."
Roi Du Mee finished last of the four-runners but he'll now take a different route and go for the Cross Country races at Cheltenham and Punchestown, for which he would look a very exciting recruit given his previous Grade One form.
Bryan Cooper was on-board Don Cossack and was enjoying his second winner for Elliott in as many days and he said afterwards: "He's probably a horse that doesn't get the credit he deserves.
"I went down to the last, had had already quickened to it and he found plenty from the back of it and quickened again to the line and I really liked that."
Cooper will also be looking forward to getting on Elliott's concluding bumper winner who, like Don Cossack, carried the Gigginstown House Stud colours and the trainer feels there is more to come from Utmost Zeal.
The four-year-old by Big Bad Bob was having just his second start, the first of which came in a point-to-point, also at Punchestown, when he was well clear at the last before falling and suffering a broken knee and Elliott is naturally glad to have him back.
"I know he won, but I think he's better than that again," he said. "Nina said it was a messy race and he'd be better off a fast gallop, so he'll probably go hurdling now, but he wouldn't want real heavy winter ground."
One of the other likeable performances at Punchestown yesterday was the effort of the Willie Mullins-trained Alelchi Inois who extended his flawless record over fences to five from five with another facile victory.
The seven-year-old was a 126-rated hurdler but already looks to have well eclipsed that mark over fences and hasn't looked back since tackling the larger obstacles and yesterday he was an easy six-length winner from English raider August Hill.
Mullins had no firm plans in place afterwards.
"He enjoys that ground and I will keep campaigning him while we have this nice ground," he said.
"We'll see what happens but I would imagine he's the type of horse I will give a break to and bring back in the spring. I don't know how good he is but he doesn't do anything wrong at the moment."
Mullins also gave the strongest indication yet that Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Vautour is likely to go over fences this season.
The impressive Supreme Novices' winner over two miles stepped up to win the Tattersalls Novice Hurdle at Punchestown over two-and-a-half miles in May and is likely to begin this season in the novice chasing ranks.
"Vautour will probably go over fences," stated the champion trainer. "The ground has been so fast that you wouldn't really want to school horses at the moment. The horses are still heavy and you want to keep them sound.
"They came back in very heavy this year and I would say it's the best summer grass we've ever had. There was such great growth.''
Plans for the top mare Annie Power, who is also owned by Rich Ricci, are yet to be confirmed, however.
Mullins explained: "Annie Power will probably be put over a few fences at home soon to see how she gets on.
"If she starts over hurdles this season she will probably stay over hurdles, but if she starts over fences we could always switch back. I don't think she will have any problem jumping fences."
Hurricane Fly is likely for the Morgiana at Punchestown while Faugheen will begin against second season novices.