Tag Archive for: Irish Point

Champion Hurdle enters Elliott’s Irish Point reckoning

Gordon Elliott is eager to let Irish Point take his chance in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after Constitution Hill was ruled out.

The trainer was planning to run the grey in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle after a taking performance in the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle over nearly three miles just after Christmas.

Constitution Hill was at the head of the Champion Hurdle market following a dominant display last year and Elliott was therefore going to avoid that contest and tap into Irish Point’s stamina in the Stayers’ Hurdle instead.

However, confirmation that Constitution Hill will not make the Cheltenham Festival came on Monday, leaving Elliott to rethink his decision and consider taking on the Willie Mullins-trained State Man, who is the new odds-on favourite for the Champion Hurdle.

Irish Point and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle
Irish Point and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I’m keen to run him,” Elliott told Racing TV.

“State Man is going to be very hard to beat, but I’d prefer to take him on around Cheltenham rather than going round Punchestown or Leopardstown.

“He’s the horse everyone has to beat and he looks a good thing, but I’d like to take him on with Irish Point.

“We’re going to be second favourite if Lossiemouth doesn’t run, I’ll have a chat with Brian (Acheson of owners Robcour) in the morning and we’ll go through the horses, but I’d be keen to run him.

“He’s a classy horse, I think he’ll run a big race. The track will suit him and the ground, being a bit soft, I think will suit him.

“The favourite’s going to be very hard to beat but you should never be afraid of one horse. He hasn’t many miles on the clock and I think the race could suit him, I’m keen to run him.”

Elliott has his own woes with Festival hope Firm Footings out for the remainder of the season and was able to empathise with Nicky Henderson in the disappointment felt when a horse misses the meeting.

He said: “It’s heartbreaking, this time of year, for owners and the staff in the yards. Nicky is going to feel a lot worse than I am, he had the favourite for the Champion Hurdle.”

Teahupoo expected to be Jack Kennedy’s Stayers’ Hurdle hope

Gordon Elliott expects stable jockey Jack Kennedy to side with Teahupoo over stablemate Irish Point should the pair clash in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The former was beaten just three-quarters of a length into third place in the Grade One feature 12 months ago, with his widely unconsidered stable companion Sire Du Berlais springing a surprise.

Teahupoo has run just once so far this term, getting the better of Impaire Et Passe when winning his second Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December.

Elliott has elected to keep his powder dry for the seven-year-old’s return to the Cotswolds since and is optimistic about his chances.

“He’s in good form, we’re very happy with him. We’ve come straight from the Hatton’s Grace and I’d be shocked if Jack doesn’t ride him to be honest,” he said at a press morning at his County Meath yard.

“He’s a proven stayer and we’ve minded him for the race. I’d imagine we’ll go here and then we’ll maybe go to France with him.

“He handled the ground in Cheltenham last year and I don’t think it’s going to be any quicker.”

Irish Point on his way to victory at Leopardstown
Irish Point on his way to victory at Leopardstown (Brian Lawless/PA)

There is little to choose between Teahupoo and Irish Point at the top of the Stayers’ Hurdle betting, with the latter having advertised his claims with a dominant display on his first start over three miles in Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle.

Irish Point also has the option of dropping right back to two miles in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, but conditions would need to be testing for that scenario to unfold.

Elliott added: “If the ground came up very soft, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I’ll run him in the Champion Hurdle. At the moment I suppose the Stayers’ is where he’s going, but we’ll leave it until the last minute.

“I think the better the ground, the better the chance Irish Point will have (in the Stayers’ Hurdle). I don’t think the trip will be a problem.

“Whatever Jack doesn’t ride, Jordan (Gainford) or Sam (Ewing) will ride the other.”

The Cullentra handler could saddle four runners in the Stayers’ Hurdle, with Sire Du Berlais and Beacon Edge also in the mix.

The defending champion was well beaten on his first start in 10 months in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan recently, but given he is also a dual winner of the Pertemps Final at the Festival, Elliott feels it would be dangerous to leave him out of calculations.

“Sire Du Berlais worked very well on Saturday, he likes it when the sun comes out and seems to like Cheltenham,” he said.

“We only have to ride him out and swim him twice a day. He’s been the horse a lifetime, to be honest.”

Elliott’s biggest hope in the novice division this season is Brighterdaysahead, who will put her unbeaten record on the line in the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Brighterdaysahead with connections following her latest win at Navan
Brighterdaysahead with connections following her latest win at Navan (Damien Eagers/PA)

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned five-year-old has added to her bumper triumphs with a hat-trick of wins over obstacles and the trainer clearly holds her in the highest esteem.

He said: “She does her own talking, we think she’s very good. Shane McCann rides her every day, he’s as good a judge as we have and he says she could be as good as we’ve had here.

“I’m not worried about the trip, she’s going the right way, she knows how to win and she’s got a good attitude. She’s not flashy, but we like what she does and she pleases the whole time.

“She’s got a great chance.”

Having beaten star novice Ballyburn on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse, Firefox disappointed when stepped up to Grade One level at Naas earlier in the new year, but Elliott is optimistic he can show his true colours in the curtain-raising Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park.

He added: “He wasn’t right after Naas and we worked him there a couple of weeks ago and he got a bit tired. I hadn’t worked him in five weeks, but he worked very well the other day in Fairyhouse.

“He has a couple more bits of work to do, but he’s a very good horse and he’s not without a chance in the Supreme Novice – we’ve gone close with lesser horses.”

My Trump Card, a horse with a “massive engine” according to Elliott, looks set to carry the stable’s hopes in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, while the trainer’s runners in the Festival’s handicap hurdles are always worth consideration.

Stable confidence is high in Pied Piper
Stable confidence is high in Pied Piper (Brian Lawless/PA)

Better Days Ahead, Hollow Games and Jigoro are among those nominated as likely players in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle, Cleatus Poolaw looks a serious contender for Pertemps Final and Ndaawi and the unbeaten Wodhooh give Elliott a strong hand in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

It is a similar story in the County Hurdle, with high-class novice King Of Kingsfield and last year’s narrowly beaten runner-up Pied Piper both expected to go well.

Of the latter, put forward by assistant trainer Lisa O’Neill as her nap of the meeting, Elliott said: “He will go for the County Hurdle. He was unlucky in the race last year and probably could have nearly won it with a clear run.

“He’s in good form, I would imagine we’ll take 5lb off with Danny Gilligan riding him.”

Irish Point well made in Christmas Hurdle

Irish Point announced himself as a major player in the staying division with an authoritative display in the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, the five-year-old was a Grade One-winning novice at Aintree in the spring and returned to action this season with a victory over the useful mare Magical Zoe.

This represented a steep rise in grade, however, against last year’s winner Home By The Lee, Asterion Forlonge and Buddy One.

By the time Home By The Lee had cried enough on the turn for home, Jack Kennedy came looming up between horses on Irish Point, the heavily backed even-money favourite.

Irish Point was in a league of his own
Irish Point was in a league of his own (Brian Lawless/PA)

Asterion Forlonge was the only one to go with him but only briefly and Irish Point cruised to an 11-length success.

He runs in Brian Acheson’s Robcour colours, who already have one legitimate Stayers’ Hurdle contender in Teahupoo. Coral make the pair their 4-1 joint-favourites for the race in March.

“Jack said he would have done more in a piece of work at home,” said Elliott.

“He was very professional, settled and did everything great.

“You are always worried stepping up to three miles. It’s a nice race to win, we’ve a couple for that division now and it’s a good problem to have.

“We’ve a great bunch of horses and Jack said to me there that all I have to do now is to make sure to split them up.

“He could be a horse that we’d keep for Aintree, we’ll enjoy today and see what happens. The horse was very good and I thought it was a great performance.

“I thought he was so relaxed that he ticked all the boxes to stay, but you are always nervous until he does it.

“Jack said he actually thought halfway down the back that he was so relaxed, but he said when he gave him a squeeze he leapt straight back on it.”

Robcour colours to the fore at Naas, ahead of big runners at Cheltenham

Irish Point put his top-table experience to good use as owners Robcour warmed up for the Cheltenham Festival with a big-race double at Naas on Sunday.

The five-year-old has campaigned respectably at Grade One level since scoring at Cork on debut for Gordon Elliott in November.

He followed that winning bow by finishing a head second to Marine Nationale in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse, before picking up another silver medal in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle shortly after the festive period.

Fourth at the Dublin Racing Festival, he proved far superior dropping back in class for the Grade Three Bar One Racing “Guaranteed Overnight Prices” Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle – making most in the hands of Davy Russell to justify 1-4 favouritism.

“They went slow and he was able to do his own thing,” said Ian ‘Busty’ Amond, Elliott’s assistant trainer.

“He wasn’t doing much in front but Davy said he wants that type of ground.

“He was stepping down in grade and it was straightforward for him. It was a bit of a sprint from the second-last.

“He’ll probably go to Aintree and could run over two miles or two and a half.”

Owner Brian Acheson (centre) enjoyed a double at Naas on Sunday
Owner Brian Acheson (centre) enjoyed a double at Naas on Sunday (Brian Lawless/PA)

Brian Acheson will hope to see his colours carried to victory by Irish Point’s stablemates Gerri Colombe and Teahupoo at Prestbury Park next week and promising novice chaser Journey With Me kept up the Robcour momentum when adding the Bar One Racing “Extra Places At Cheltenham” Directors Plate Novice Chase to their Naas haul.

Henry de Bromhead’s seven-year-old – who had opened his fences account over course and distance earlier in the term – was sent off the 8-13 favourite and was given a confident ride by Rachael Blackmore.

Allowed to stride on, he was far from stopping at the back of the last and proved his quality to pull out extra in the closing stages – three lengths clear of runner-up Limerick Lace at the winning post.

“It was a good performance, it wasn’t ideal having to make his own running,” said stable representative Robbie Power.

Journey With Me wins at Naas
Journey With Me wins at Naas (PA)

He’s a bit lairy and didn’t jump as well as he can. I think he was doing too much looking around him.

“When the second horse came to him at the second-last he picked up well and I think he’s a horse that will stay further.

“He’ll either go to Fairyhouse for the Grade 1 novice over two and a half miles or he could go to Aintree or Punchestown for a three-mile Grade One. He’s entitled to take his chance in a Grade One.”