Cossack on course to return to happy hunting ground

Gordon Elliott’s exciting prospect Don Cossack will take his next step in a fascinating Navan Novice Hurdle on Sunday.

A winner of his last four starts under Rules, the gelding has already shown a liking for the County Meath track as he won a Grade Two bumper on this card last year and opened his account over hurdles with an effortless victory late last month.

Don Cossack could face nine rivals in this Grade One event over two and a half miles, almost half of whom hail from the leading stable of Willie Mullins.

His quartet are Touch The Eden, Pont Alexandre, Zuzka and Reine Angevine, while the remaining quintet have also all won races.

These include Noel Meade pair Busty Brown – winner of the Monksfield Novice Hurdle over course and distance – and Ally Cascade.

Mouse Morris’ contender Rule The World, Colm Murphy’s unbeaten Rye Martini and Seefood for Dessie Hughes complete the line-up.

“He’s in good form, and all being well he’ll run on Sunday,” said Elliott of Don Cossack.

Jonjo O’Neill has given Get Me Out Of Here an entry in the Tara Hurdle — although he is also engaged in Saturday’s Unicoin Homes Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Successful at Fairyhouse in the spring but well-beaten by Oscar Whisky last time at Newbury, he would be a leading contender among a 11-strong field which includes Noel Meade’s dual-purpose sorts Muirhead and Donnas Palm and Willie Mullins’ Simenon, who won twice at Royal Ascot on the Flat but has not set the world alight over hurdles.

Meanwhile Moscow Mannon will continue his education in the Slaney Hurdle at Naas on January 6 after he made a winning debut over obstacles at Navan.

Brian Hamilton’s six-year-old finished fourth in the Cheltenham Bumper in March and was the latest in a long list from that race to get off the mark over hurdles.

He will now be stepped up in trip and class for the Grade Two next month.

“He’s come out of the race great, he’s A1,” said Hamilton.

“Everything went perfect. He’ll have an easy week now and we’ll step him back up to run at Naas next month.

“There’s nothing for him over two and a half miles before then so he’ll run in the Slaney Hurdle and we’ll see how he gets on.

“It was good to get that out of the way and to see him do it like that was great. For his first run over hurdles he jumped as well as you could have asked.”

Tidal Bay remains on course to challenge for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28.

Trainer Paul Nicholls is looking to win the Grade One for the third time, following the victories of Denman and What A Friend, and his latest contender deserves a chance back at level weights after a stellar effort in handicap company.

Winner of the John Smith’s Hurdle on his comeback, Tidal Bay was then beaten only by Bobs Worth when carrying top weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.

“The more I think back about it, Barry (Geraghty) rode a great race on Bobs Worth,” said Nicholls.

“The horse is mad fresh at the moment and is going to run in the Lexus.”

Davy Russell is hoping Sir Des Champs will find the improvement needed if he takes on Flemenstar again in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28.

The six-year-old met with his first defeat since joining Willie Mullins from France when he was beaten fair and square by Peter Casey’s brilliant chaser in the John Durkan on Sunday, albeit over two and a half miles.

His seven-race winning streak included two successes at the Cheltenham Festival and he remains prominent in the ante-post betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“The one day we were going to get beaten maybe it would have been over two and a half miles and I was happy with the way my horse performed. I was delighted with the way he jumped,” said Russell.

“We’re going to have to improve as the winner looks to be a bit special, so hopefully we will improve and if we do it will make for a great campaign for the Irish horses.

“We need to improve to Flemenstar’s level now.”

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