Gordon Elliott bids for more Monksfield glory
Last Updated: 24/11/18 11:52am
Gordon Elliott is triple-handed as he bids to extend his excellent recent record in the "Monksfield" Novice Hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
The Cullentra handler has claimed this Grade Three prize in three of the last four years, with Free Expression (2014), Death Duty (2015) and the mighty Samcro (2017) all on the roll of honour.
This season's chief contender appears to be Dinons, who has won five races on the bounce since falling on his hurdling debut.
Following low-key wins Roscommon, Killarney, Sedgefield and Perth, the five-year-old bolted up by 14 lengths on his latest outing at Cheltenham and must have every chance of extending his winning sequence, despite having to concede weight to each of his eight rivals under Davy Russell.
Elliott also saddles Felix Desjy, who has something to prove following an abject display in the For Auction Novice Hurdle here a fortnight ago, as well as Wexford maiden hurdle winner Sometime Soon.
Noel Meade is looking forward to saddling impressive Down Royal scorer First Approach.
He said: "I was originally thinking of running Brace Yourself, but I went and walked the track on Thursday and I couldn't believe how fast the ground was - I just felt it would be too quick for him.
"The track is in magnificent condition, but they've had an inch of rain and I still think it's genuine good ground - there's no yielding in it.
"I wanted to give First Approach a bit more time really, but we know he handles good ground and we decided we'd let him take his chance.
"It's a good race, but we are where we are and we'll give it a go."
There was just a length between Jessica Harrington's Magnium and the Joseph O'Brien-trained Choungaya when finishing second and third respectively in the For Auction Novice Hurdle and the pair renew rivalry this weekend.
Willie Mullins relies on Easy Game, with Andrew Lynch's Under Surveillance and Western Victory from Colin Bowe's yard completing the field.
There is a total prize fund of 50,000 euro up for grabs in the Proudstown Handicap Hurdle.
Leading owner JP McManus appears to have a strong hand, with his five-strong team including Meade's De Name Escapes Me, who bids to follow up his recent triumph in the Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle at Naas.
"He's in good form. He went up 8lb for winning the last day, but there's nothing we can do about that and hopefully he'll run well," said Meade.
The mother-son combination of Mags and Danny Mullins are represented by Salty Boy, who is back in action 10 days after winning at Clonmel.
"He came out of the Clonmel race very well. I think he is an improving horse and he's a stayer," said the trainer.
"Danny gave him a grand ride in Clonmel and he did it lovely. He's getting better each day, but he always runs well every day.
"He's a staying horse and I think he might want a little bit more ease in the ground, but we'll see."
Peter Fahey's Gypsy Island is likely to be popular with punters in the 20,000 euro Connolly's Red Mills Irish EBF Mares Auction Maiden Hurdle.
The daughter of Jeremy was seriously impressive when winning a Ballinrobe bumper under leading amateur Jamie Codd during the summer and she will carry the McManus silks for the first time.
The eight-race card concludes with a Listed mares' bumper.
Willie Mullins has claimed this prize three times in the last five years and saddles Queens Boulevard and Yukon Lil.
Other leading contenders include Elliott's course and distance winner Ballydunblaze and O'Brien's Silk And Sand.