Mount Benbulben can scale the heights for Elliott

YOU would have to love what Mount Benbulben did in a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Navan last Sunday.

This was far in advance of what he had managed in his only two outings over flights prior to that and, I think, we can be fairly confident that here is a horse worth following for the rest of the season.

Gordon Elliott’s charge pulled like a train first time up over jumps at Galway, fighting Paul Carberry throughout.

He still seemed full of running, however, when clipping heels and slipping to the turf approaching the second last.

Then he went to Thurles for an egg and spoon race and never came off the bridle to win in a canter.

The form of that Thurles contest is modest, with the second, third and fourth all getting beaten in the meantime.

But to judge Mount Benbulben on just his record over hurdles was to miss at least part of the story.

He did, for instance, make a lot of the running when winning a point-to-point, but far more important was his bumper form, or at least his final run in that category.

It came at Limerick in March, when Mount Benbulben ran away from the ill-fated Lovethehigherlaw to the tune of eight lengths.

Lovethehigherlaw, who recently dropped dead on Willie Mullins’ gallops, put that Limerick effort in perspective subsequently when beating Waaheb a short head in the Champion Bumper at the Punchestown festival in early May.

Waaheb hasn’t been seen since, but is reportedly doing everything right and should be on everyone’s short-list for a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas.

One of the more surprising aspects of Mount Benbulben at Navan was a returned price of 5-2, after he had been much shorter, deservedly so, in the morning.

It was, of course, surprise, surprise, fuelled by Betfair, where he went over 3-1 at stages. Not for the first time we ask what did they think they knew which wasn’t apparent to the rest of us?

The tactics employed by Davy Condon on Mount Benbulben were perfect. Rebel Fitz set a proper gallop and the winner slotted in nicely in second.

He travelled and jumped beautifully, but what was really impressive was the manner in which he got down and dirty when the need was greatest.

Mount Benbulben finally ran past Rebel Fitz and simply tore up to the line, which left a deep impression.

And what about Rebel Fitz? He’s been a good horse from the start and, so far, has done just about everything asked of him by trainer, Michael Winters.

But, I would contend, that this performance was a fair bit better than anything achieved previously and Winters was entitled to feel a warm glow on the long journey back to Cork.

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THERE is no doubt that starting off in point-to-points gives horses a terrific grounding, Gigginstown House Stud proves it all of the time.

As well as Mount Benbulben, two other products of the point fields to emerge from Navan with real credit were Formidableopponent and Mount Colah, first and second respectively in a maiden hurdle.

Paul Carberry asked a big question of Formidableopponent, giving him lots to do, but the way the four-year-old buckled down from the back of the last to win going away was impressive.

In contrast Mount Colah tried to make all of the running and is surely a winner in waiting, sooner rather than later.

Peter Casey’s Flemenstar toyed with the opposition on the way to taking a beginners chase by 19 lengths.

There were plenty waxing lyrical about him afterwards, perfectly understandable, but what about the horse who beat him at Navan before that, Bog Warrior?

I know Flemenstar probably improved plenty from one run to the next, but he was a decent gamble when taking on Bog Warrior.

He was a major mover in the morning and strong on track to boot. But Bog Warrior laughed at him and this lightly-raced seven-year-old has a lot of scope for improvement.

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ANYONE take note of Competitive Edge in a maiden hurdle at Gowran Park a week ago? If not then give yourself a treat and go and watch the race on ATR.

Competitive Edge’s only previous outing was in a bumper at Tipperary in July. Trained then by Audra Busteed, he failed narrowly to land a tasty touch, going down by a short head to Donatis Comet.

He reappeared at Gowran, now trained by Conor O’Dwyer and carrying the J P McManus colours for the first time.

The Tipperary bumper was ordinary, but chances are that Competitive Edge is going to prove a shrewd buy.

He may have been beaten a length and 11 lengths into third behind Cash And Go and Jenari, but they are a pair of particularly smart horses. Let’s just say that this was a most promising initial pop over jumps for Competitive Edge.

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