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Monday 27 March 2017

Elliott keeps up quality control

Trainer holds decent lead in championship thanks to his success rate in big-money chases

Jockey Jack Kennedy gives a thumbs up after his success on A Toi Phil in the Leopardstown Chase Pic: racingpost.com
Jockey Jack Kennedy gives a thumbs up after his success on A Toi Phil in the Leopardstown Chase Pic: racingpost.com

Another €100,000 handicap chase, another competitive field, another Gordon Elliott-trained winner. That's how it goes this season.

It's been common practice that Elliott throws a fleet of challengers at the big prizes and there hasn't been a handicap chase worth €100,000 or more that the Meath-based trainer hasn't won in Ireland throughout the current campaign and in his own words yesterday: "there's a few more left to run yet."

First up was the Galway Plate and since then the Kerry National, Munster National, Troytown, Paddy Power, Dan Moore and now the Leopardstown Chase have all followed as A Toi Phil got up just on the line to reward favourite backers at Leopardstown yesterday.

His challenge on the Irish trainers' championship has been relentless this season and it's these calibre of races that have him holding a decent lead over Willie Mullins at the moment. You can be sure that Elliott will again be well represented in Gowran Park's Thyestes Chase on Thursday.

The most valuable of all the handicap races in Ireland is the BoyleSports Irish Grand National and A Toi Phil will indeed have an entry for the Easter Monday showpiece at Fairyhouse, where the winner will earn €250,000 in prize money.

Reflecting on yesterday's latest triumph, Elliott said: "Jack (Kennedy) just said he was flat out early and couldn't go with them but he put his head in front at the right time and that's what matters.

"I thought when the weights came out that he wasn't badly handicapped but you'd always be worried that he wouldn't have enough experience and he probably is a horse that likes to have a bit more light during his races. I'm happy enough, though!"

It was a big race double for Gigginstown House Stud as they followed A Toi Phil's Leopardstown Chase victory with Ice Cold Soul in the Coral.ie Hurdle for trainer Noel Meade.

Ridden to victory by Sean Flanagan after his intended mount, De Name Escapes Me, was withdrawn earlier in the day due to the change in going, Ice Cold Soul was providing both the trainer and jockey with a second win in the prestigious race.

Meade's charge was having just his second run since St Stephen's Day of 2015 and after enduring a luckless run here last month but he bounced back to record an impressive half-length win over Tony Martin's Tudor City.

Meade said: "He picked up a leg injury when he won here at Christmas (2015) and we had to give him time to get him back but I said to Michael (O'Leary) after his run the last day that it might be all for luck that he got in so much trouble. But Michael didn't really agree with me - I'll see what he says now!

"He is a half-brother to Outlander so stamina isn't an issue and he will go for the Coral Cup or the County Hurdle now."

Tony Martin saddled both the runner-up and the third-placed Golden Spear but Melbourne Cup runner-up Heartbreak City could only finish eighth.

"Hopefully, he'll come on for that run, he got to the last with a good sporting chance and just didn't get home but he had a long journey back from Australia and we think all he can do is improve from that."

Future

Martin was unsure about future plans, with the Cheltenham Festival and Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night in Meydan among his options.

Yorkhill was the shortest-priced favourite of the afternoon and while he justified his position in the market, he may not have looked visually as impressive as his odds of 1/5 suggested he would.

Bookmaker reaction varied with Betfair and Paddy Power both opting to cut Yorkhill for the JLT Novice Chase but BoyleSports took what looked a more sensible approach as they left the seven-year-old unchanged at 13/8.

Willie Mullins was satisfied with the outcome but didn't rule out another prep run: "Experience is no harm with those novice chasers," he said.

"He jumped well and did what he had to do."

Irish racing returns at Fairyhouse on Wednesday but all eyes will be on the Thyestes this Thursday to see if Elliott's phenomenal record in valuable chases can continue.

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