American Mike up in trip for hurdling bow at Down Royal
Snapped up for £195,000 by Bective Stud owners Noel and Valerie Moran following an impressive 20-length success in a Cork point-to-point, the son of Mahler soon made his mark under rules when winning a bumper during this meeting at a canter 12 months ago.
Listed honours followed at Navan and the talented gelding was earmarked as one of Ireland’s hottest prospects heading to the following spring’s Cheltenham Festival.
However, he suffered defeat at the hands of Willie Mullins’ Facile Vega when the two clashed in both the Champion Bumper and at the Punchestown Festival, and Elliott is keen to avoid bumping into one of Closutton’s hottest prospects once again as the pair embark on their respective novice hurdle campaigns.
“American Mike has been schooling great, has got strong and we decided we’d step him out in trip as Willie Mullins’ Facile Vega looks very good over two miles,” said Elliott ahead of his hurdling bow.
“We said we’d find out early if that (two-mile-six-furlong) trip is a problem, but I don’t think it will be.”
American Mike will be partnered by Jack Kennedy for the first time and is set to face a maximum of seven rivals, where Gavin Cromwell’s Letsbeclearaboutit could pose the biggest threat.
A three-time bumper winner, he finished second in Pattern races to both Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit on the only occasions he has tasted defeat and now returns from 580 days off the track.
Ground conditions are likely to dictate whether Fil Dor or Pied Piper will represent Elliott in the WKD Hurdle.
The Caldwell Construction-owned pair finished second and third behind Vauban in the Triumph Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, but appear unlikely to renew rivalry in Northern Ireland.
Pied Piper proved his well-being when making an impressive return at Cheltenham a fortnight ago, while Fil Dor has been off the track since again finding only Vauban too strong at Punchestown in April.
The stablemates are well clear of the three other horses declared for the Grade Two contest on official ratings, but only one is set to line up.
Joey Logan, racing manager for the owners, said: “To be quite honest, we’re aiming towards (running) Pied Piper, but if the rain continues Fil Dor could run. They won’t both run.
“It depends on the weather. We are getting a lot of rain here, he (Fil Dor) loves soft ground and he’s fit and well. If he doesn’t run he could go to Naas next weekend.
“We’ll give him one run over hurdles and see how he goes. The option is there to go chasing, but if it works out we could keep him hurdling for the year.
“We’re very happy with Pied Piper. He got very strong over the summer and he definitely stays hurdling for the season.”
It promises to be a big afternoon for Elliott and the Caldwell team, with dual Grade One-winning hurdler Mighty Potter making his debut over fences in the Tote Always SP Or Better At Down Royal Beginners Chase – a race the trainer has won with Delta Work, Samcro and Envoi Allen in recent years.
“Mighty Potter schooled on Wednesday and is very, very good,” Logan added.
“He’s a novice, but he was always bought to go chasing and what he did over hurdles, winning two Grade Ones, was a bonus. We’re all looking forward to him going chasing.”
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