Elliott strikes with Zanjabeel as Irish riders shine at Far Hills
Gordon Elliott is hoping to celebrate success in the USA with Beckford at the Breeders' Cup, and the red-hot trainer struck an early blow across the pond on Saturday as Zanjabeel landed the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills.
The trainer had taken runner-up honours in the Grade 1 Grand National Hurdle on the same card in 2015 with Eshtiaal but was a winner this time around with the sometimes recalcitrant Zanjabeel, who was ridden by Jack Kennedy in New Jersey.
Last seen racing on the beach at Laytown in September, Zanjabeel refused at Bellewstown previously but the four-year-old, owned by The Confidence Partnership, was clearly in the mood on Saturday as he landed the valuable contest.
The win is just the latest in a string of successes for Elliott, who saddled a remarkable six winners at Punchestown last Thursday.
"Zanjabeel won very easily," said Elliott on Sunday. "Jack gave him a lovely ride.
"It was his last run for us and he's staying in the US to continue his career. It was a big pot, so job done."
In the feature 2m5f Grand National Hurdle, jockey Danny Mullins struck on the US-trained veteran Mr Hot Stuff.
The Charlie Longsdon-trained Hammersly Lake was fifth of the seven runners under Brian Hughes, a place ahead of the Joseph O'Brien-trained Katnap and Davy Russell, but the Emma Lavelle-trained Casino Markets was pulled up.
Longsdon reflected on Sunday: "It was frustrating because we were hoping for plenty of pace and unfortunately they crawled and then sprinted, so the race was run to suit two-milers.
"Hammersly ran very well in the circumstances, and when he gets back we'll be stepping him up to three miles."
O'Brien reported: "Davy said the horse slipped around halfway and never jumped after that happened."
Mullins and Kennedy were not the only riders based in Ireland to strike on the card as Paul Townend landed the mares' hurdle on the former Andrew Balding-trained Lady Blanco.
Download the knowledge of more than 200 experts with our free mobile app - it lets you study the form, get the latest tips and place a bet on the go. Get the app here