Gordon Elliott edges prize money battle with Willie Mullins at Fairyhouse

Doctor Phoenix and Mitchouka bring Elliott to the verge of €3m in prize money for season

Davy Russell rode Doctor Phoenix to glory in €100,000 Bar One Dan Moore Handicap Chase. Photograph: iStock

Davy Russell rode Doctor Phoenix to glory in €100,000 Bar One Dan Moore Handicap Chase. Photograph: iStock

 

Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins drew 2-2 in terms of winners at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Crucially, for Elliott’s hopes of dethroning his rival as champion trainer however it was Doctor Phoenix’s success in the first six-figure pot of 2018 which paid best.

The veteran 10-year-old recouped with plenty to spare the “ten grand” owner Nick Bradley paid for him seven months previously by landing the €100,000 Bar One Dan Moore Handicap Chase.

The 13-2 shot was nine lengths too good for Kilcarry Bridge as Mullins’s odds-on favourite Acapella Bourgeois flopped. The 9-10 favourite was pulled up having reportedly burst a blood vessel.

In contrast, Doctor Phoenix collected €59,000 for first and along with Mitchouka’s smooth hurdles victory earlier, it took Elliott to the verge of €3 million in prize money for the season.

It also renewed a near half million prize money gap to Mullins after the reigning champion trainer’s Punchestown hat-trick the day before.

Getabird’s potential looked limitless after his Moscow Flyer Hurdle rout of Mengli Khan on Saturday and he has been backed down to 4-1 favourite for the Supreme at Cheltenham.

Doctor Phoenix was given a festival option by his owner when put into the Champion Chase during the week. However, Davy Russell reflected a general sense of “job done” with the horse on Sunday.

Priority

“He’s won a big pot now so they can’t complain about much,” said the season’s leading rider, while Elliott added: “Nick [Bradley] is ballsy enough with his entries but if it’s up to me we would be looking at a little conditions race.”

Mitchouka beat Veneer Of Charm for an Elliott 1-2 in the juvenile hurdle and could wind up in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham. Continuing to pick up prize money however will be his priority.

“As long as he keeps picking up prize money we’re happy,” Elliott said. “The Fred Winter is only half a stone between top and bottom now and you can’t be clever in handicaps there anymore because you won’t get in if you are.”

The bumper saw a real head-to-head between the sport’s two leading trainers as Mullins’s evens favourite Tornado Flyer beat Elliott’s Getaway John by a head.

“He has Hurricane Fly in his pedigree and he showed that toughness in the last 200 yards,” said Mullins who’d earlier got the better of another battle with Elliott as Saturnas won the Beginners Chase.

Mullins said on Sunday that Faugheen is continuing to please him in his work after being dramatically pulled up at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Faugheen is a 5-4 favourite for the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle in three weeks and Mullins added: “He’s fine, riding out as usual. The next thing will be to do some fast work with him and see what happens.”

The locally trained Dromore Lad won his fourth race of the season by getting the better of a sustained duel with Fitzhenry in the handicap hurdle.

Danny Hand rode the 3-1 favourite and trainer Dermot McLoughlin said: “He’s improving and it’s the best he’s jumped. He’s won over two and a half [miles] but three is obviously his trip.”  

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