THE first session of the Down Royal Festival could be re-named ‘Gordon’s day’ following five winners for trainer Gordon Elliott. ‘Fury Road’, partnered by Keith Donoghue, was the 18 lengths winner of the opener, when making all to set the ball rolling.
Elliott said: “A big couple of days for Keith Donoghue and he showed there that if he has the ammunition he is good enough. He’s a great man over a jump and always was.”
‘Daylight Katie’ landed the graded mares hurdle, despite a horrendous blunder three from home, but Davy Russell, despite shifting in the saddle, sat tight and soon regained control of the contest.
Elliott said of his second winner of the day: “We got a bit of a fright, but she was brave to come back and win after what she did early on in the race. At the third last, she stopped to a standstill and she definitely lost three or four lengths. To be fair, if she had winged that, she probably wouldn’t have come off the bridle.”
‘Coeur Sublime’ beat stable companion ‘Coko Beach’ in the featured WKH Hurdle to complete a hat trick – the winner bought for connections by Glengormley bloodstock agent, Kevin Ross. The winner got a 25/1 quote for the Champion Hurdle after a very facile return to action, having also won at the meeting last year as a juvenile.
Elliott said: “He was second in a Triumph Hurdle, so he was entitled to do that. He’s a horse that will probably stay further in time. Davy said he is a different horse this year – he looked a different horse, he’s a lot stronger. He jumped and he did everything right.” Asked about the Champion Hurdle, Elliott responded: “We’ll take it one step at a time and see. He would have to improve again to do that, but there is a lot of Grade 2s and Grade 3s to be won.”
‘Samcro’, the most high profile of Elliott’s runners, gave a professional display on his debut over fences. Second until going to the front at the second fence down the back straight, the talented youngster then made the rest for a comfortable victory. The winner got an 8/1 quote for the Arkle and 12/1 for the RSA Novice at the Cheltenham Festival next year.
Elliott said: “There is (relief) to be honest as we had a long, hard year with him last year. We have changed a few things with him and he is scoping very good. I couldn’t have been happier with what he did there. He (Keith Donoghue) said he only just popped the last three as he wanted to get him around. He said when he gave him a squeeze after the last he picked up and he was gone for those few strides. He couldn’t have done any more than what he did, but it was brilliant. The plan is that he will go straight for the Drinmore Chase at Punchestown.”
‘Pencilfulloflead’, owned by Elliott’s head man Simon McGonagle, claimed the bumper, despite still being green to complete a great day for the stable.
The long distance handicap hurdle – the only race on the card devoid of an Elliott runner – produced a local success when ‘Askann’, trained at Omagh by Mervyn Torrens, came from the rear to collar the runner up ‘Classic Concorde’ in the final strides. Last for most the race, the mare appeared to revel in the testing conditions with the going changed to soft.
Winning jockey. Simon Torrens, a nephew of the trainer, said: “She’s been unlucky. I always thought she was capable of something like that – we changed tactics today and took our time. She finished second over fences then got a nasty fall, so the plan was to go back over hurdles and boost her confidence. Jumping the last, I always thought I would get there.”
‘Callthebarman’ had the handicap chase won when clear, but crashed through the final fence to leave victory to ‘Ar Eagla Na Heagla’, trained by Francis Caser, with Mark Enright aboard.