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Fancy Foundations is comeback winner for Gordon Elliott

Fancy Foundations registered Gordon Elliott’s first win since his return from suspension, with a determined success at Sligo.

The leading Irish trainer was banned for 12 months, with half of that punishment suspended, after an image of him sitting on a dead horse was widely circulated on social media in March.

Elliott was also ordered to pay costs of €15,000 – with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board stating the punishment reflected “the seriousness of the offence and the damage to the Irish racing industry” after the image provoked huge public outcry.

After serving a ban of six months, during which time Denise Foster took temporary control of Cullentra House stables, Elliott saddled his first runner since March 8 on Tuesday’s Flat card at Punchestown – where Oh Purple Reign finished well beaten.

The Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning handler was widely expected to get off the mark in the opening race back over the jumps at Sligo on Wednesday, but 8-13 favourite The Sliding Rock made a bad mistake when trying to close in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase and finished third of four runners.

With Silver Star and Imperial Sachin’s also out of luck later on the card, it was left for Elliott’s final runner of the day Fancy Foundations to come up with the goods in the Templehouse Lake Chase – which he ultimately did in battling style.

Faced with just three rivals, the even-money favourite did not always convince in the jumping department, but dug deep for Denis O’Regan after the final fence to get the better of Blackstair Rocco by four lengths.

Elliott said: “We thought we were coming here with two good chances, the mare in the first (The Sliding Rock) and obviously this lad.

Gordon Elliott at Punchestown on Tuesday
Gordon Elliott at Punchestown on Tuesday (Niall Carson/PA)

“It was a good performance. He was a bit keen. and it was a tactical race, but Denis gave him a good ride and he jumped well. It’s great for Andrew and Gemma Brown (owners), who are great supporters of the yard.

“He’s not a real winter, heavy-ground horse and he’ll probably go for a novice chase at Cheltenham in October.”

Elliott received warm applause from those around the parade ring.

He added: “It was nice to get that reception from the people here. I’ve missed them for the last six months, as much as they’ve missed me.

John Ryan's Grange Walk won the Frank O'Beirne Memorial Handicap Chase
John Ryan’s Grange Walk won the Frank O’Beirne Memorial Handicap Chase

“It’s brilliant for my staff. They’ve worked hard. Alicia, the girl who led up the horse, is going back to college next week to be a vet, and that was her first time leading up a winner – so it’s great.”

Elsewhere on the card it was a memorable afternoon for trainer John Ryan, who saddled four of the seven winners.

The Templemore-based trainer rattled off a hat-trick in the first three races, with Kitty Galore (7-2), Rippon Lodge (15-2) and Grange Walk (4-1) all striking gold, before completing his four-timer in the finale with 11-2 chance Father Jed.

Ryan enjoyed a treble at the corresponding fixture in 2016 – the only time he has previously saddled three winners at one meeting.

Gordon Elliott set for runners at Punchestown on Tuesday

Gordon Elliott has made a handful of entries for Tuesday’s Flat meeting at Punchestown after his six-month ban expired on Thursday.

The trainer was suspended by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board in March after an image of Elliott sitting on a dead horse was widely circulated on social media.

Elliott was banned for 12 months, with half of that sentence suspended, and ordered to pay costs of €15,000 with the IHRB stating the punishment reflected “the seriousness of the offence and the damage to the Irish racing industry” after the image provoked huge public outcry.

Denise Foster took temporary control of Elliott’s Cullentra base, enjoying a Grade One winner at the Cheltenham Festival with Mares’ Hurdle victor Black Tears while also saddling dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll as he bounced back to winning form with a wide-margin success in the cross country.

Elliott is now free to resume business at his County Meath yard and has five possibles at Punchestown.

Oh Purple Reign, who was a winner at Gowran for Foster on September 1, could be Elliott’s first runner back in the Donate To The Coast To The Curragh Cycle In Honour Of Pat Smullen Handicap, while Captain Middleton could contest the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden.

Both Alice Kitty and Royal Eagle have been entered in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Handicap, with Gift Of Kings his other contender of the day in the Irish Racing Working Together Handicap.

Elliott appears likely to have his first jumps runners back on track on Wednesday, having entered seven horses at Sligo.

He has a possible contender in each of the seven races on the card – although Chesterville and Silver Star both hold two optional engagements.

Liam Burke already looking forward to next ride – after comeback aged 64

Liam Burke is already looking forward to his next ride, after returning to the saddle at Sligo at the age of 64.

Burke – a successful trainer, and father of top jockey Jonathan Burke – was riding for the first time in 33 years.

Partnering the five-year-old Shumard – whom he part-owns and trains – in the Racing Again August 4th INH Flat Race, the 40-1 combination were unable to trouble the principals but nevertheless were far from disgraced in finishing sixth.

Burke, who was able to claim 7lb, said: “I enjoyed that. He ran a nice race, but I wasn’t fit enough!

“I’ll be better for the run and I’m looking forward to my next ride already!”

At the business end, the Ross O’Sullivan-trained State Of Fame (5-1) came out on top in the hands Tom Harney, beating Call Me Jim by four and a quarter lengths. Odds-on favourite Aslukwoodhavit had to settle for third under Patrick Mullins.

O’Sullivan said: “It’s young Tom’s first track winner. He’s from near me in Punchestown and he’s ridden three point-to-point winners.

“The dam of this one, Nirphania, had lots of potential as a racehorse but has been a bit unlucky as a broodmare, so it’s lovely to get a winner out of her.

“This horse had a good first run (fourth at Thurles) and then lost his way a little bit, maybe through a little bit of weakness, through the winter.

“In the last couple of weeks he has strengthened up really well. We were a bit worried about all the rain but he handled the ground well.

“He’ll probably get three miles over hurdles.”

He added: “I love coming to Sligo and it’s a lucky track for me.”