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Elimay digs deep for Fairyhouse victory

Elimay got back to winning ways for Willie Mullins in the Download The BoyleSports App Mares Chase at Fairyhouse.

Running just 15 days after her ding-dong Cheltenham Festival battle with stablemate Colreevy, in which she came off marginally second best, Elimay landed 8-15 favouritism in gritty fashion.

This Listed race was billed as almost a match with Cheltenham winner Mount Ida, who put up a remarkable display there – having been almost tailed off early before winning the Kim Muir only easily.

However, Denise Foster’s mare was coming back in trip here and was crucially outpaced with three furlongs to run before staying on again close home to finish third.

Elimay took up the running from Abbey Magic at the second last but could not fully shake off 50-1 shot Demi Plie, owned like her by JP McManus.

Mark Walsh had to ride Elimay out strongly after the last and, conceding upwards of 6lb to her rivals, won by a length-and-a-quarter.

“It was hard work, and she might have been feeling the effects of Cheltenham, but she got the job done anyway – so that was nice,” said Mullins.

“We’ll have a look at Punchestown, but I think she’s probably done enough for the season. We’ll see how she comes out of this.

“I just said to Mark there that on drier ground she probably wants three miles.”

Elimay and Mount Ida clash at Fairyhouse

Elimay and Mount Ida are set to engage in an intriguing clash for the Download The BoyleSports App Mares Chase at Fairyhouse.

The Willie Mullins-trained Elimay was considered one of the bankers of the week at last month’s Cheltenham Festival when contesting the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, but came off second-best after a titanic tussle with stablemate Colreevy.

Denise Foster’s Mount Ida, meanwhile, did claim Festival glory – coming from a seemingly impossible position to run out a ready winner of the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.

Elimay is one of two runners for JP McManus in Saturday’s Listed contest, along with Demi Plie from Padraig Roche’s yard.

The leading owner’s racing manager, Frank Berry, said of Elimay: “She had a tough race in Cheltenham – but Willie seems happy with her, and there is not much else for her for a while, so she takes her chance.

“It looks a competitive race. Mount Ida was very good at the Festival and will take a lot of beating.”

Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Abbey Magic and Zarkareva complete the line-up.

The most valuable race on the opening afternoon of the Easter Festival is the 80,000 euro RYBO Handicap Hurdle.

A 20-strong field is headed by Thosedaysaregone, with Foster’s Eclair De Beaufeu next in the list following his fourth-placed finish in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Mullins has claimed five of the last eight renewals of the lucrative contest and this year saddles five runners in Foveros, Uradel, Ruaille Buaille, Hybery and Robinnia.

The McManus silks are carried by Foster’s Magic Tricks and the Des McDonogh-trained Hearts Are Trumps.

Berry added: “Hearts Are Trumps never runs a bad race and will hopefully run well.

“Magic Tricks is in good form, but lacks a bit of experience.”

McManus also has a leading contender for the 50,000 euro I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final, in Capodanno.

Since arriving from France, the Manduro gelding has run three times for Mullins – winning at Clonmel as well as being placed twice.

“It’s a very competitive race, and three miles is a bit of an unknown,” said Berry.

“Willie thinks he’s in good form, so we’ll see how he goes.”

Capodanno’s rivals include stablemates Fighter Allen and Lady Breffni, top-weight On Eagles Wings and three Foster-trained runners in Dunboyne, Ragnar Lodbrok and Folcano.

Naas victor Elimay states Cheltenham case

Elimay booked her ticket to the inaugural running of the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham with victory in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase at Naas as she highlighted a treble for Mark Walsh.

The grey finished a creditable second to stablemate and Ryanair Chase favourite Allaho last time out – and with Willie Mullins seemingly having his strongest ever team heading to the Festival, Elimay made sure she will be on the list of many with a smooth display.

Mullins’ Yukon Lil and Gordon Elliott’s Shattered Love appeared keen to make it a test of stamina, as both have form over further than this two miles – but so does Elimay, and she was able to cruise into contention on the home turn.

The three jumped the second-last in line, but then Elimay was given just an inch of rein by Walsh and she put the race to bed before jumping the last.

Those who backed her at 8-15 had little to worry about as the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old strolled to a five and a half length win.

Coral trimmed Elimay into 3-1 from 4s for the Mares’ Chase, while Betfair go the same price from 7-2.

“That was a nice race to win and shows up Allaho’s form. It’s great to win the Opera Hat in honour of Valerie Cooper’s good mare and hopefully this mare might some day be as good as her,” said Mullins.

“Mark was happy to let the pace materialise up front and the ground is quite boggy down the back. The further the race went, the better she was going and Mark was very pleased how she finished.

“That’s a nice stepping stone towards Cheltenham. I’ll have a word with connections, but I would imagine that will send us towards the Mares’ Chase.”

Walsh also won the second division of the Naas Business Club Members Maiden Hurdle on Gentleman De Mee (2-7 favourite) for Mullins and the Naas Handicap Chase on the Gordon Elliott-trained Minella Till Dawn (12-1), both in the McManus colours.