Teahupoo strengthens Cheltenham options for Elliott

Gordon Elliott strengthened his hand in the four-year-old division when Teahupoo stretched his unbeaten record to three in the Norman Colfer Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Elliott already houses JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr and the next in the betting Quilixios, and following this performance Betfair cut Teahupoo to 10-1 from 14-1 for Cheltenham.

Always handy under Robbie Power, riding in his role as retained jockey for owners Robcour, the 4-9 favourite never looked in any real danger in the Grade Three affair.

Willie Mullins’ newcomer Tax For Max gave him most to think about, running a very promising race considering how keen he was in the early stages but still seven lengths behind at the line.

“I thought it was a good performance again,” said Elliott.

“I liked the way when he jumped the second-last, he kind of idled a bit and pricked his ears. Robert said when he gave him a squeeze at the back of it he was gone again.

“He’s improving the whole time. Obviously he’s in everything at Cheltenham, the Fred Winter, the Supreme and the Triumph.

“I’ll have a chat with Brian (Acheson, of Robcour). We have Cheltenham or we could come back here for the Grade Two at Easter which is only two weeks later.

“It wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world if he stayed at home and came back here. There is a lot of water to go under the bridge over the next couple of weeks.”

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He added: “I’d say he’ll stay three miles, he’s a real stayer and he’s probably the type of horse you need for a Triumph Hurdle because he stays. He’s a nice horse.”

Jason The Militant could go for the Champion Hurdle
Jason The Militant could go for the Champion Hurdle (Gary Carson/PA)

Jason The Militant struck for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.

The 7-4 favourite made all and while Petit Mouchoir closed up two out, Blackmore’s mount went again, eventually scoring by seven and a half lengths.

De Bromhead said: “That was brilliant and I’m delighted for Peter Michael (owner). It was great to get it.

“He’s having a really good season, but it’s nice to win one as well, and he won it well. He’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot of. That’s his second graded win and he was just chinned in a Grade One.

“He’s in the Champion Hurdle and we’ll see. I think ground is important to him, he wants a good ease.

“He’s a horse that is improving all the time. He won over a mile and a quarter here on the Flat, so he’s got gears.

“The Aintree Hurdle is another interesting option. We’ll see what Peter would like to do, it’s not every day you have a contender for the Champion Hurdle.

“I just have a feeling that he might be better on a flatter track, but that’s just a theory.

“We’re delighted to win today, we targeted this race.”

Acapella Bourgeois had his Randox Grand National odds halved after winning the Bobbyjo Chase for the second time.

He had been available at 50-1 for Aintree prior to seeing off stablemate Burrows Saint in the Grade Three by four and three-quarter lengths.

Ridden by Danny Mullins, he was steadied into the last fence and kept on resolutely. The two had it between them from a long way out.

Burrows Saint, who was in receipt of 6lb, remains unchanged at 14-1 for Aintree with Betfair.

“I was telling the owner before the race that he wasn’t improving as an 11-year-old, but maybe I’m wrong!” said Mullins.

“I thought the younger horse might prove the one today so I’m surprised that he was able to do that, and do it so well. I’m delighted with him.

“Both of them love Fairyhouse. Burrows Saint will go for the National now and Acapella is in it too. I’d say they’ll both be Aintree bound.

“Burrows Saint needs to improve, but I still think he has that improvement in him and the winner is holding his form, which I’m very happy to see.

“Acapella Bourgeois looked like he was really enjoying it compared to Gowran. I didn’t think he’d be going for another handicap at 11 years of age, but that’s what it looks like at the moment.

“I’m not sure Burrows Saint was really in love with that ground, it was very testing, dead ground. I think once he gets livelier spring ground we’ll see a different horse, hopefully we do anyway.”

Teahupoo prevails as Youmdor crashes out at Fairyhouse

Teahupoo came out on top in a dramatic ITM Virtual Stallion Trial Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The Willie Mullins-trained Youmdor looked a big threat when he loomed alongside Teahupoo (4-1) at the final flight, only for the 4-9 favourite to come down.

That left Gordon Elliott’s runner to win as he liked by 15 lengths in the hands of Robbie Power and make a winning debut for the County Meath handler. Teahupoo had won his only start for French trainer Gabriel Leenders at Auteuil in October.

Druid’s Altar was second with Autumn Evening half a length away in third.

“He’s a nice horse. Obviously we had a lot of luck on our side there with Willie’s horse going at the last,” said Elliott.

“I said to Robert ‘you were definitely beat’, but he said ‘I’m not so sure because my horse galloped from the last to the line’.

“He said he could see about three strides away from the last that (Paul) Townend’s horse was just starting to be squeezed along. I thought Willie’s horse would have won and we had luck on our side.

“He’s probably more of a stayer next year than a two-miler. I loved the way he put his head out and galloped from the last to the line.”

Teahuphoo was cut to 14-1 from 25-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Betfair, who left Youmdor unchanged at 14s.

Roseys Hollow (10-11 favourite) showed a neat turn of foot between the last two flights to run out a ready winner in division one of the Follow Fairyhouse ‘Racing From Home’ Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.

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The Jonathan Sweeney-trained seven-year-old quickened nicely for Mark Walsh to open up a crucial advantage and the JP McManus-owned mare galloped on strongly to score by four lengths from main market rival Global Equity.

It was a poignant first winner of the year in Ireland for McManus, who suffered the tragic loss of his daughter-in-law Emma on December 30 at the age of 40.

“It was very good and it’s great to get it,” said Sweeney.

“It’s great for JP and his family in tragic times. I pass on my deepest sympathies to them. 

“She jumped well, travelled, did everything well and Mark was happy.

“We’ll get over today and I’ll have a chat with Frank (Berry). He’ll talk to JP and see what the plan is. She’s a nice mare.”

La Chanteuse (10-1) caused a minor upset in division two when flooring the 8-11 favourite Manitopark Aa.

JJ Slevin pushed the Stuart Crawford-trained seven-year-old into the lead before the second-last flight and went on to score by six lengths. Norwigi was 16 lengths back in third place.

“We’ve always thought plenty of her. On her first run back at Down Royal, Ben (Crawford) rode her and he was disappointed with her,” said Crawford.

“She probably really needed it as she blew up halfway around. She came here today and obviously has come on a good bit from it.

“JJ gave her a good ride and it’s great to get it, they are hard to win.”

He added: “We were disappointed not to get a bit of black type with her in her bumpers. We didn’t sell her, and she’s owned by my mother, so there is a bit of extra pressure on.

“She’s entitled to take her chance in a better race. We could go across the water for a novice, but at this point in time we’d probably be trying for a bit of black type.”

Aramax gave Elliott a double after the victory of Teahupoo when scoring in the McManus silks in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.

The 14-1 chance defeated the 8-11 favourite Port Stanley by two and a half lengths in the hands of Keith Donoghue.

“He won the Fred Winter (at Cheltenham) last year. Keith said he got an awful lot of confidence from the last day and he was a different horse. He was happy,” said Elliott.

“It’s great to get him back winning with him being a Cheltenham winner the year before.”

Gerri Colombe (8-13 favourite) gave Elliott a treble with an easy success in the Racing Again January 30th (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.

A point-to-point winner for Colin Bowe, the £240,000 purchase looked an exciting prospect when scorching home by 24 lengths under Jamie Codd.

“He’s a nice horse. He’s probably going to be a big chaser more than anything, a big staying horse down the road. We like him,” said Elliott.

“I don’t think you’ll see a whole lot more of him this season, he might have one more run. Obviously I’ll have to talk to Brian (Acheson), but these horses are all bought for the future. He’s one for down the road.”

When asked if he could be a Cheltenham horse, he added:- “If I put my hand on my heart I’d probably say it just mightn’t be the right thing to do, but obviously I’ll have to speak to the owner.”

Gerri Colombe was introduced at 14-1 for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham with Betfair.