Thursday 14 December 2017

From one festival to yet another

Elliott's Cheltenham hero and heroine have multiple options at Punchestown

Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham hero Labaik will definitely be running at the Punchestown Festival
Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham hero Labaik will definitely be running at the Punchestown Festival

Cheltenham Festival winners Apple's Jade and Labaik have been given multiple options at the Punchestown Festival by trainer Gordon Elliott.

Ireland's current leading trainer went to Aintree's Grand National meeting with his smallest team in some time and ran just four horses at the meeting, three of those in the Grand National itself, as he seeks to target Fairhouse this weekend and Punchestown in a quest for his first ever trainers;' championship.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Labaik has been given the option of the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown but is more likely to renew his rivalry with Melon in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival.

"We never made a secret about how good we thought the horse was before Cheltenham, he just wasn't brilliant at jumping off (at the start) sometimes," said Elliott. "We've put him in the Betdaq Champion Hurdle and that's a possibility.

"He's definitely running at Punchestown so if he doesn't go for that race, he'll line up in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day. He's in great form. He just does what he has to do at home and I'm looking forward to his next run."

Apple's Jade also has multiple options having skipped Aintree where she was a 41-length winner of a Grade One last season when trained by Gordon Elliott.

She has entries varying from two miles to three miles.

"We were delighted with her at Cheltenham - she's so tough and brave," continued Elliott. "We decided to miss Aintree and go straight to Punchestown and she's in really great form at home.


"She has come out of Cheltenham very well and I have put her in everything at Punchestown.

"We'll have a look through the races and decide nearer the time what she goes for. But I'm really looking forward to running her."

One of the stars of the Elliott team is Fayonagh, the Champion Bumper winner who is now unbeaten in two starts for the trainer and came from last to first to win at Cheltenham in dramatic style.

The runner-up at Cheltenham, Debuchet, subsequently won well at Limerick and Fayonagh will look to further enhance her growing reputation at Punchestown.

"She's normally great starting off and it was a shame she got left at Cheltenham. Jamie gave her a brilliant ride to recover and she must be a really tough mare to have done what she did," said Elliott.

"Jamie recommended her to the owners and she won by 20 lengths in a Listed bumper on her first start for us so she's been great. We've got the option of the championship race or the mares' contest with her."

Death Duty, who unseated Bryan Cooper when well beaten in the Albert Bartlett, and Triumph Hurdle runner-up, Mega Fortune, are also on course to finish their season at Punchestown.

Nicky Henderson confirmed that he'd have a decent team coming over to the Kildare track and Harry Fry is also to be well represented with beaten Stayers' Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry likely to be joined by impressive novice chaser American, and the talented Minella Awards.

"The plan with Unowhatimeanharry is to go the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle," said Fry. "We decided the course was just drying out a bit too much at Aintree so it's roll on Punchestown for us."

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