Elliott continues his red-hot streak with double Navan delight
At the corresponding Troytown Chase fixture last season Gordon Elliott trained six winners and although he could only bag a brace yesterday at Navan, Samcro and Mala Beach combined to make it a big race double for the red-hot trainer.
After a bit of a market move on Acapella Bourgeois for the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier in the season and the fact that this was the chosen race for his Willie Mullins debut, much of the pre race focus was around him and thus, he was sent off the well backed 7/4 favourite.
Punters expected even more from Acapella Bourgeois but unfortunately for the spectacle of the race the short-priced favourite lasted no longer than the seventh fence.
Dropped in mid-division by Paul Townend, a very bad mistake at the fifth fence seemed to really set the renowned front runner alight and at the second last fence with a circuit to go the seven-year-old seemed to jump the fence fine but crumble on landing, and thus his race was over.
It was a reward for patience for the connections of Mala Beach however, as the relatively lightly raced nine-year-old provided Elliott with an incredible fourth consecutive win in the Troytown.
Ridden to victory by Davy Russell, the former champion jockey sent his mount for home between the last two fences and it was that move that helped him gain the upperhand over the fast finishing Dont Tell No One.
Russell said: "It's a fabulous race to win. I was lucky to win in the past and it's great to win it again. We went a really good gallop and I knew I was riding a good horse.
"I couldn't do much about the weight (11st 9lb), so I just had to go with the pace and slot him in behind the leaders."
Elliott added: "In fairness to that horse he has been threatening to win a big race for a long time.
"Simon (McGonagle) my head man rides him out every day at home and he had full confidence in him today. He said he'd love the ground and he thought he would go close.
"It hasn't been easy, it has been a long road.
"He was running in a Bobbyjo Chase a couple of years ago and fell at the second-last, so he deserved to win that today," said Elliott.
"If it ever came up soft in Aintree he could be an English National horse."
When asked about a potential tilt at the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, Elliott added: "It would have to be soft and I'd have to talk to Chris (Jones, owner)."
A possible tilt at the English Grand National is a potential long-term target for Mala Beach but the real star of the show at Navan yesterday was Mala Beach's younger stable companion Samcro.
Unbeaten so far in his career, Samcro maintained that flawless record by winning the Monksfield Novice Hurdle won by Death Duty last year and the latest star of Cullentra House is set to follow the same path as Death Duty by going to Naas for the Grade One Lawlors Hotel Hurdle in January.
Samcro is now 6/4 to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival and although not looking a slow horse, he is expected to be aimed at the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham for which BoyleSports make him a 5/2 shot from 4/1.
Yesterday's Grade Three novice hurdle will prove as nothing more than a nice stepping stone and much more difficult assignments await but in two hurdle races Samcro's combined winning distance is 27-lengths.
Neither of Gigginstown's last two retained riders, Davy Russell or Bryan Cooper, have sat on Samcro in a race, that honour has gone to Jack Kennedy in his hurdling career so far, but both Russell and Cooper are on record remarking just how good Samcro is.
Russell suggesting he'll be one of the all-time greats and Cooper circling Samcro as the one horse he'll miss riding since his departure from the Gigginstown job.
After yesterday's victory Elliott admitted he felt the performance was "a bit special" and at the moment Samcro certainly looks to be just that. A bit like his trainer.