Elliott on the mark
Only one man will be crowned champion trainer at the end of the season but both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott are set for significant milestones during this campaign, as Elliott recorded a record-breaking 194th winner yesterday.
This day week, when the BoyleSports Irish Grand National is run at Fairyhouse, a lot could be decided in terms of the trainers' championship, with the lion's share of €500,000 going to the winning trainer.
Between them, Mullins and Elliott could have over half the field, but yesterday Elliott surpassed a record he shared with Mullins when saddling his 194th of the season and both trainers are on course to easily break the 200 winner mark before the conclusion of the Punchestown Festival next month.
Speaking after claiming the Ulster National with Poormans Hill at Downpatrick yesterday, Elliott commented: "I'm just unfortunate I'm around the same time as Willie Mullins! It is great for Irish racing though. It's unbelievable. Obviously, we trained 193 last year, which Willie had done before and we levelled it."
Meanwhile the Irish flat season began in front of a fine crowd at Naas yesterday, with champion jockey Colin Keane recording a double on the day, both of which came for his boss Ger Lyons.
And there was a career high for trainer Michael Mulvany, who won the Irish Lincolnshire with On The Go Again.
Medicine Jack got Keane off the mark for the year when he rallied late to claim the Naas Racecourse Launches 2018 Flat Handicap.
In the concluding maiden it was Bobby Boy who had more resolve than his rivals to get home in the tough conditions from narrow runner-up Full Moon and the fast finishing Escapability who showed well at odds of 20/1.
It was a red-letter day for Mulvany, who resisted the temptation of bringing On The Go Again to Cheltenham in favour of the Irish Lincolnshire. It was a decision that paid off as the talented dual-purpose performer continued his winning streak on the flat under Gary Carroll.
On The Go Again didn't go unbacked in winning the €100,000 pot and returned the 6/1 favourite, having been 10/1 earlier in the day.
After a few runs over hurdles since the end of last year's flat season, On The Go Again returned to winning ways to make it four consecutive wins on the level and earn a crack at a group race, according to the winning trainer, with a tilt at the Galway Hurdle later in the summer being his ultimate aim at the moment.