Noble Endeavor lands Paddy Power Chase for Gordon Elliott

Major gamble pays dividends in the most valuable race of the holiday period

Noble Endeavor ridden by Davy Russell wins the Paddy Power Steeplechase during day two of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse.  Photograph: PA Wire

Noble Endeavor ridden by Davy Russell wins the Paddy Power Steeplechase during day two of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Willie Mullins’s Christmas domination had his rival Gordon Elliott feeling the pressure but Noble Endeavor’s gambled-on success in the Paddy Power Chase was lucrative proof of how the season’s leading trainer hadn’t gone away.

 The €190,000 highlight is the most valuable race of the holiday period and just the latest big handicap to fall to Elliott this season, helping to maintain his lead over Mullins in the fight to be crowned champion trainer for the first time.

 “We needed it!” smiled Elliott.

“The horses have been running well but we’ve been hitting the crossbar all week even if it’s better to be finishing second than second last.”

 That didn’t stop Noble Endeavor being backed down to 6-1 second favourite behind Mullins’s hope, The Crafty Butcher, who started an 11-4 market leader under the in-form Ruby Walsh who put up 1lb overweight.

 It proved irrelevant as Davy Russell looked in control from some way out on the winner which carries the colours of property developer, and Leopardstown Committee member, Chris Jones, who will be represented by Zabana in Wednesday’s Lexus Chase.

 It was a significant step up for Noble Endeavor who started favourite for last month’s Troytown but could finish only fourth to his stable companion, Empire Of Dirt.

Major factor

 With the Easter highlight now worth half a million Euro, and neither Mullins or Elliott ever having won it before, the biggest Irish handicap prize of all could yet become a major factor in the destination of the trainers’ championship.

 Russell knows what a prolonged struggle for the jockeys’ championship is like but he was content to relish winning the latest top handicap of the season.

 “To be honest I thought I would never win the likes of a Paddy Power because of my weight. We thought he would run a big race in the Troytown, and he did. But it was his first run in a handicap and he improved for it. The drier ground helped as well, and Gordon had him spot on,” he said.

“A big handicap like this gives the rest of us a chance to get a good payday!”

 The Crafty Butcher came up three and a half lengths short of the winner, a rare reverse for Mullins who saddled five of the seven winners on the card.

Well back

It was Mullins’s brother, Tom, who stepped into the winners enclosure for the handicap hurdle after the 3-1 favourite That’s A Wrap came from well back to pounce on Vainard under a superb Ruby Walsh ride.

“Jumping the last my heart was in my mouth. Ruby gave him an extraordinary ride. He nearly left it too late – but he didn’t!” the trainer said.

“He’s progressive and chasing will be his game. He might come back for the Coral Hurdle. JP [McManus] will probably have half the field in it!”

 Walsh stepped in for the ride on That’s A Wrap after Mark Walsh picked up an injury on Monday.

 Ballyward brought up a second successive cross-country ‘six-timer’ of the week for the Mullins team when winning the bumper in impressive style.

Jockey Patrick Mullins landed the Limerick opener before getting to Dublin in time for the 16-length winner.

Leopardstown’s second-day festival crowd of 17,783 was up over 300 on the corresponding 2015 figure. Despite that betting figures were marginally down.

The Tote generated €717,470 compared to €770,259. Bookmakers handled €1,072,377, down from €1,117,441.

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