Ard Abhainn has forced her way into Gordon Elliot’s team for the upcoming Cheltenham Festival after impressing with a win in a Thurles treble at the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle.
The six-year-old was the 7/4 favourite to take the win following a great performance at Punchestown last month, an event in which she placed third behind Minella Melody.
Ard Abhainn was one of three mares in line jumping the first flight in the home straight but stole a gallop on Rebel Og and Heaven Help Us on the final obstacle and was able to beat the Willie Mullins-trained Rebel Og by three lengths.
“I thought the trip was a bit short for her and she missed the third last, but Davy was happy with her. She is honest and stays galloping,” said Elliott, via Racing TV.
“We’ll see how she is and I’d say the further she goes, the better she’ll be.
“She is a valuable broodmare now, having been Listed placed and is now a Listed winner and will definitely be going to Cheltenham, probably for the mares’ novices’ hurdle.”
The hurdle is still two months away but punters could take advantage of ante-post betting for Cheltenham Festival 2020. Where Ard Abhainn is concerned, odds are already available with the likes of Bet365, Ladbrokes and William Hill, with the latter offering 25/1 while the other two bookmakers have 20/1 going on the Elliot-trained ace.
Dolcita and Lamarckise are the favourites at the moment, with both mares at 5/1 with Betfair while Maries Rock is a 7/1 bet at Paddy Power and Floressa has been posted as a 10/1 shot by BetVictor. The latter bookmaker also has 10/1 on Royal Illusion, as do Coral.
Elliot also saw success with Elwood and Tronador. The 9/2 Elwood ran the www.thurlesraces.ie Beginners’ Chase, getting past the post two and three-quarter lengths ahead of Henry de Bromhead-trained Mormon, who was the 11/8 favourite.
“They looked like they were going quick in front and we looked like we were going to finish a bad third or fourth,” Elliot said. “It ended up suiting us as they all fell apart and we picked the pieces up, although Eddie Harty’s horse (Advantage Point) looked like he had the winning of it when he fell two out.
“He (Elwood) is more of a handicapper than a graded horse.”
Tronador, meanwhile, took the Adare Manor Opportunity Maiden Hurdle, having gone into it as an 11/10 favourite.
“We’ll find something small and see where we go, Elliot said after being asked whether Cheltenham’s Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle could be an option. “We can dream with him and that’s what this game is all about.”
If you’re keen on a quick Cheltenham Festival rundown, the event runs from March 10-13, with four days each featuring seven races on offer. The festival is second only to April’s Grand National in terms of its prize pool and will be the first major event of 2020 as it pertains to Britain’s impressive horse racing calendar.