Life's a Beach as Elliott makes it four on the trot in Troytown
Mala Beach had a bone removed from his knee last year but none of his ability was removed during the recovery and he gave Gordon Elliott a fourth triumph on the trot in the Ladbrokes Troytown Chase at Navan.
Acapella Bourgeois was all the rage on his first start for Willie Mullins and was sent off a very skinny 7-4, but he departed at the seventh fence and we were left none the wiser about his handicap mark of 149 and whether he might emerge from the long grass to stake a Cheltenham Gold Cup claim.
It is the Grand National rather than the Gold Cup that is on Elliott's radar for Mala Beach now, especially if the ground is soft, and BoyleSports introduced him at 33-1 for the Aintree showpiece next April.
"If it even came up soft at Aintree he could be a Grand National horse. He is that type of a horse,” said Elliott who sent out Balbriggan (2014), Riverside City (2015) and Empire Of Dirt (2016) to win the last three runnings of the Troytown.
Elliott added: "In fairness he's been threatening to win a race like this for a long time. He's had a lot of problems and we have not had an easy time with him. It's been a long road back and he deserves to win a big pot."
"It would have to be soft for us to think about running him in the Grade 1 [Christmas Chase] at Leopardstown or anything like that. The ground is the key to him."
'He has been through the mill'
The ground might be the key but Mala Beach's slick jumping also helped to unlock one of the hottest handicap chases of the season and it was that aspect of his performance that most impressed winning rider Davy Russell.
He said: "I thought it was a big ask off that weight, but Gordon is such a marvellous trainer and he deserves a huge amount of credit along with his team.
"This horse has been through the mill. He never missed a fence. He met every one of them on the right stride. Sometimes in these races you feel like you have no room, I felt I had oceans of room."
Russell, who won the race in 2012 on Tofino Bay, sent Mala Beach into the lead after the second-last and he stayed on strongly to deny Dont Tell No One by two and three-quarter lengths, with eight lengths back to Bonny Kate in third.
"I can't quite believe it. He's just an incredible horse to come back from having a bone removed in his knee. To win the Troytown at Navan is just amazing," said winning owner Chris Jones, who lives just a few miles away from the course in the village of Dunsany.
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