'It's difficult to choose between them' - Elliott trio sets punters a puzzle
The Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle is the undoubted highlight of Punchestown's meeting but there's also a strong undercard. Here's the best of the rest . . .
Gordon Elliott holds a strong hand in the 2m4f Grade 3 novice chase (1.00) with Dounikos, Mossback and The Storyteller – all winners last time – representing him.
Dounikos, the mount of Keith Donoghue, made it two from two over fences when landing a Grade 2 at Limerick last month after being left in front when Al Boum Photo fell at the final fence, while Mossback, who has Sean Flanagan on board, was a 33-1 shot when scoring on his chasing debut at Naas in November, beating subsequent winner Snow Falcon by three lengths.
The trainer also saddles The Storyteller, who accounted for two subsequent winners in Sutton Manor and Livelovelaugh on his debut over fences at Fairyhouse last month.
Elliott said: "All three of them are in good form and it's difficult to choose between them. They handle soft ground and get the trip well.
"Dounikos was probably a bit lucky to win at Limerick but he came out of the race well. He does have to give 9lb to all the others, so it will be a tough task for him. Mossback will get further and the more of a stamina test it is the more it will suit him."
Of The Storyteller, who will be ridden by Davy Russell, Elliott added: "He's a smart horse and the ground and the trip should suit him well."
Cometh the hour, cometh O'Connor
Derek O'Connor, who rides the Adrian Keatley-trained Thebarrowman, will be attempting to land this 3m1f handicap chase for amateur riders (1.35) for the third year in a row.
Thebarrowman, who will be making his handicap chase debut on only his fourth start over fences, competed at Grade 1 level on his most recent appearance and finished fourth behind Shattered Love at Leopardstown's Christmas festival.
Of Thebarrowman, who finished runner-up on his first two starts over fences, Keatley said: "Thebarrowman is in good form and came out of his last race well. He's only a novice but he jumps well and he stays. We booked Derek once we decided to run in this race. With a bit of luck he should be there or thereabouts."
Hardy and healthy again
A Hardy Nailer got off the mark over hurdles at the eighth attempt at Navan last month and steps into handicap company for the first time in this sphere in the 2m4f mares' event (3.20).
The nine-year-old, who will be ridden by Mark Walsh and carries top weight, missed an engagement at Fairyhouse on New Year's Day with a cough, but is ready to roll again according to trainer Robert Tyner. He said: "She gave a few coughs so we withdrew her. It cleared up quite quickly and she seems okay now. She's won over the trip and she goes on the ground."
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