Elliott v. Mullins – The Key Clashes at the Dublin Racing Festival

Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins

The battle for the Irish Trainer Championship between Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins is one of the key talking points of the Irish jumps’ season. The two greats of the game have battled it out for the past few seasons for supremacy, with winners at the Dublin Racing Festival one of the key contributors to their hauls.

The €2 million in prize money on offer this weekend will have a big effect on the Championship this year. Whilst Mullins secured an impression seven victories to Elliott’s one in 2018, the latter reversed the form in 2019 when landing four races over Mullins’ three. Here’s the lowdown on the key clashes this weekend.

There’s top level action from across the Irish Sea with the Scilly Isles at Sandown, as well as racing from Musselburgh and Wetherby on ITV. Be sure to check out all our tips and analysis, as well as our Free Bets.

Saturday

12.50 Nathaniel Lacy Novice Hurdle 2m6f

The battle commences from the very first race of the Festival. Gordon Elliott’s Fury Road is currently three-from-three over hurdles, following a maiden victory with Grade Three and Grade Two success. He travelled like a dream when scoring last time out until making a bad mistake at the last hurdle. That didn’t prove costly, but he did have to be driven out under Davy Russell to score.

He had three less fancied rivals within three lengths of him there. The son of Stowaway won’t be able to make the same mistake against Willie Mullins’ Elixir D’ainay who looks in a different class to the rivals he’s faced so far.

Formerly trained in France, he beat the now 142 rated Longhouse Poet in a Naas maiden in November. He was again ahead of that rival when only finding Envoi Allen too good in the Lawlor’s Of Naas in January. That was a hugely creditable effort on just his third start over timber. Fury Road’s unbeaten run makes his profile appear more attractive, but Elixir D’ainay has stronger form in the book.

Verdict: ELIXIR D’AINAY 

Sunday

1.55 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle 2m

The pair dominate the early entries, with nine of the fifteen possible runners. Elliott has the two at the head of the market, including Abacadabras, whose sole defeat over timber came to Envoi Allen. He’s won all three of his other hurdling starts, landing a Grade One over course and distance by eight-lengths last time out. Sent off the 10/11 favourite there, he was entitled to win as he did, particularly with the second-favourite Blue Sari disappointing.

This represents a tougher assignment for him, facing stablemate Easywork who has won all three starts this term. He followed victory in a Down Royal bumper and a Gowran maiden with a mightily impressive success at Limerick over two-miles-four. He showed bags of speed there when scoring by twenty-two lengths, beating short priced favourite Unexpected from the Mullins’ yard.

That’s the second time he’s beaten a Mullins’ trained rival, overcoming Mt Leinster on hurdling debut in November. Highly tried in bumpers, Mt Leinster followed that second with an impressive win on St. Stephen’s Day at Leopardstown. That serves to frank the form of Easywork, who looks a very smart prospect indeed. He looks capable of continuing his progression and do the business for Elliott on Sunday.

Verdict: EASYWORK

3.00 Flogas Novice Chase 2m5f

Faugheen has already toppled one runner from Gigginstown with a big reputation when beating Samcro over Christmas and bids to do the same to Battleoverdoyen this weekend. The veteran recorded his sixteenth success under rules when landing a Grade One at Limerick, his second win from two starts over fences.

He travelled with real purpose there, jumping the majority of the obstacles like the old professional that he is. Whilst Samcro isn’t the horse people once thought he was, it was still a mightily impressive win and Mullins’ decision to send him chasing rising twelve appears vindicated.

That piece of form is stronger than Battleoverdoyen’s recent top level success, where he beat just two rivals over three-miles. He’d been more decisive in winning his first two over fences over shorter trips. Nevertheless, he looks an out and out stayer rather than a middle distance chaser. As a result, Faugheen looks more than capable of toppling yet another young pretender.

Verdict: FAUGHEEN

Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup 3m

A mouthwatering clash in prospect featuring recent Savills Chase winner Delta Work. Gordon Elliott’s second season chaser disappointed on his return in November  but showed the benefit of that run when beating a high class field over track and trip last month. That was a mightily game effort, picking up strongly from off the pace to collar Monalee late on.

The six-year-old had a number of re-opposing rivals in behind him there, including Willie Mullins’ Kemboy. He’d enjoyed a troubled preparation in part due to ownership issues for a race he’d won the year previous. Sent off favourite, he didn’t settle in the early stages before making a few poor jumps. Those exertions likely cost him, fading into fourth having held a prominent position coming to the last.

A much improved effort is expected now that he’s race fit. The eight-year-old had won six of his previous seven starts, beating Clan Des Obeaux at Aintree in April and Al Boum Photo at Punchestown in May after shipping his rider in the Gold Cup. That represents high class form, and if pitching up at that level on Sunday, he’ll be very hard to beat.

Verdict: KEMBOY

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