Gordon Elliott is looking forward to seeing Andy Dufresne put his lofty reputation on the line in Sunday’s Navan Novice Hurdle.
Leading owner JP McManus went to £330,000 to secure five-year-old’s services after winning his only start in the point-to-point sphere – and he made a foot-perfect start in the green and gold silks when dominating his rivals in a Down Royal bumper in January.
The son of Doyen was just as impressive when making a successful debut over hurdles at Navan last month and will be all the rage to maintain his unbeaten record at Grade Two level this weekend.
Elliott said: “He’s is in good form. It is a good race, even though there are only four runners, and we are looking forward to running him.
“He did everything right first time out as he jumped well and travelled well throughout the race before putting it to bed.
“He doesn’t do anything fancy at home and simply does what he has to do. We think he is a nice horse and we wouldn’t swap him for anything. We have a few nice ones at home and he is one of them.
“The trip is fine, but you could easily go up in trip or come back with him as he is a very versatile horse – we are lucky to have him.”
The Cullentra handler has a second string to his bow in recent Fairyhouse scorer Conflated.
“He is probably not as impressive at home, but it is a Grade Two and you have to support these races,” Elliott added.
“We are going up in trip with him and he is probably not as straightforward or as natural as Andy Dufresne, but he is nice horse.”
Conflated is one of two runners for Gigginstown House Stud, along with the Noel Meade-trained Sixshooter.
The small but select field is completed by Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition, who made a winning hurdling debut at Galway before finding Elliott’s Abacadabras too strong in the For Auction Novice Hurdle here little over a month ago.
“We probably ran him quick enough after winning his maiden hurdle, but I thought he still ran very creditably in the For Auction. He just didn’t have the pace of Abacadabras, but he still ran well,” said Nolan.
“We’re stepping up half a mile in trip and it looks like conditions will be more testing.
“Andy Dufresne looks an exceptional horse and one of Gordon’s better novices, so it will be hard to beat him, but with only four runners we’ll be picking up some prize-money, all being well.
“We’re hoping for a good run and if he could be placed we’ll be delighted.”
A competitive field of 16 runners has been declared for the 50,000 euro Tara Handicap Hurdle, with Mengli Khan one of four runners for Elliott, along with Cracking Smart, Count Simon and Present In Court.
His great rival Willie Mullins has Dolciano Dici and Sayo in the mix, with Joseph O’Brien’s Top Moon, the Denis Hogan-trained Moskovite and Keith Clarke’s pair of Dom Dolo and Barwell also featuring.
Four previous bumper winners will do battle in the concluding “Future Champions” INH Flat Race, with Ted Walsh’s Dewcup, Elliott’s pair of Pencilfulloflead and Fantasio D’alene and O’Brien’s Uhtred among seven runners declared for the Listed contest.
Elliott said: “Pencilfulloflead is a nice horse, but Ted Walsh’s horse looks the one to beat.
“He (Pencilfulloflead) is a horse though we are really looking forward to when he goes jumping and anything he does before that is a bonus.
“The other horse (Fantasio D’alene) got beat by Ted’s the last day, so we have a lot to turn it around. I was disappointed getting beat with him the last day and I would say Ted’s is a very good horse.”