Elliott eyes Fairyhouse showpiece after Folsom Blue strikes again
Gordon Elliott, who rarely leaves an Irish jumps meeting without a winner – especially if it features a big handicap chase – was walking into the winner's enclosure once more after Folsom Blue gamely landed the stamina-sapping 3m4½f BoyleSports Grand National Trial at Punchestown under Jack Kennedy.
Sent off 5-1 favourite, Folsom Blue – who had won the same race in 2014 when trained by Mouse Morris – was making only his fourth start for Elliott and the Core Partnership, whose members include At The Races presenter Gary O'Brien.
It was 11-year-old Folsom Blue's first run over fences for his new connections and he travelled strongly through the race before taking on last year's winner Baie Des Iles on the final bend.
Folsom Blue appeared set for an easy success approaching the final fence, but then it looked as if he had found one too good when the Willie Mullins-trained Isleofhopendreams – who had been pulled up on his previous two starts – produced a fine leap to lead under Robbie Power.
However, Folsom Blue battled back gamely to take the €59,000 first prize by a length and a half, in the process delivering another vital triumph for Elliott in his title battle with defending champion Mullins.
Elliott said: "Folsom Blue is a very honest horse who stays forever and goes on that ground. We took him to Sandown last weekend for a run over hurdles and I was a bit worried this might come too soon.
"Apart from jamming on at the last, he jumped very well. The BoyleSports Irish Grand National is the plan."
The races sponsor quote Folsom Blue at 20-1 for the Fairyhouse event on Easter Monday.
"Gary picked him out and wanted to buy him and I am delighted for him and his partners," added Elliott, who is 10-11 with Paddy Power to land a first trainers' title, with Mullins 4-5. Elliott ended the day €316,332 in the lead.
Baie Des Iles kept plugging away to finish third, 13 lengths behind Isleofhopendreams and five lengths clear of Elliott-trained Space Cadet in fourth, with Mick The Jiver fifth and Spider Web sixth.
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