That Death Duty of Gordon Elliott’s is potentially some horse, writes Pat Keane.
Occasionally one comes along that gets you seriously exercised and this rising six-year-old son of Shantou certainly qualifies as a possible star of the future.
He was a winner of a point-to-point, two bumpers and two hurdle races, prior to contesting a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Navan last Sunday.
This was far and away the stiffest test faced, at least over jumps, by the Gigginstown-owned gelding and to see him sail to success with such style made a deep impression.
I have a feeling it was a really good race, although we obviously won’t know for sure until Death Duty’s immediate victims begin to reappear.
But, in essentially toying with three impressive previous winners in Monalee, Invitation Only and Moulin A Vent, there is every reason to be optimistic.
It was rather surprising that Invitation Only, even if he is trained by Willie Mullins, was such a strong favourite.
He went into the contest unbeaten in four races, including a point-to-point, but his form was very much tied in with horses that time has revealed to be ordinary.
Invitation Only, however, seemed to carry maximum stable confidence but, in hindsight, his starting price of even-money was bordering on the ridiculous.
That’s what happens, though, when a number of the major punters are guided by talk, instead of what the form book is telling them, and they duly paid the penalty, with Invitation Only basically never promising to deliver.
In contrast, Death Duty travelled like a steam engine throughout and, watching Bryan Cooper’s body language, it was almost as if he had to keep a lid on what was underneath him for much of the two- and-a-half-mile journey, before deciding the time to stride on had finally arrived early in the straight.
Later in the afternoon, it was mildly surprising to hear Elliott favouring the three-mile Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, in preference to two miles and five Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle.
That Albert Bartlett can be a cruel slog, especially if the surface is in any way soft, and Death Duty seems to possess easily enough speed and class for the less arduous Neptune.
Mind you listening to Elliott the Cheltenham target is clearly far from set in stone, so an update may well be forthcoming after Death Duty runs at Naas in early January.
Which brings us neatly onto a horse called Blow By Blow, who beat Death Duty by a length and three parts in a bumper at Fairyhouse at the end of March.
Blow By Blow followed up at the Punchestown festival a month later and landed a Grade 1 bumper, beating David Pipe’s useful Moon Racer by three quarters of a length.
Trained then by Willie Mullins, he was part of the 60-batch to be removed from the trainer by Gigginstown and is now, of course, in the care of Elliott.
Blow By Blow hasn’t been seen since Punchestown, but will surely be some short price when asked to make his debut over flights.
It is, however, a trifle disconcerting that he has not been given any entry over Christmas.
I DON’T know about you, but I thought Willie Mullins’ Cilaos Emery faced a tough task to beat Noel Meade’s Joey Sasa in a maiden hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
Cilaos Emery did shape as a decent enough sort in the making when taking a bumper by half a length at the Punchestown festival in April, but it was impossible to get a handle on the form and that was all he brought to the table.
Joey Sasa - he makes a quick return to action at Leopardstown on Monday - had won two bumpers and then ran a cracker on his debut over jumps when beaten a neck into second by the smart Brelade at Navan last month.
Meade’s charge had a lot more experience than his rival and was also entitled to be somewhat fitter. But it counted for nothing and the heavily backed Cilaos Emery beat him hollow, by six lengths to be precise.
There was much to admire in the way the winner jumped and moved through the race and he didn’t half bound away from the back of the last.
Gordon Elliott’s Samcro is being hailed as the next Don Cossack, after taking his second bumper on the same Navan card.
Don Cossack and Death duty were previous winners of this particular race and, it seems, Samcro is regarded as being in that league.
On the basis of what he did at Navan, I would be far from convinced such is the case. You can argue the lack of pace wasn’t in favour of Samcro, but he made all and, presumably, Jamie Codd, one of the best amateurs in the business, was happy that played best to Samcro’s strengths.
The cold facts are the imposing four-year-old was all out to beat the mare, Good Thyne Tara, by half a length and that does not exactly light my fire.
At Thurles on Sunday, Willie Mullins’ Royal Caviar gave an exhibition of jumping and front running to make a spectacular start over fences.
He was not to be trusted over hurdles last season, so has he been turned on big-time by this new challenge? I suppose it’s more than possible, although we won’t be “jumping’’ to any conclusions just yet.
ISN’T is just fantastic that the Tizzards and the owners of Thistlecrack have taken the bold step of running their flying machine in Monday’s King George at Kempton.
This is the type of decision that lights up racing and the game itself is the real winner. We are all going to be a lot wiser regarding Thistlecrack’s Gold Cup prospects come Monday evening. Win or lose, let’s hope the horse comes through this major test relatively unscathed.
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