Gordon Elliott: Thoughts on my Saturday runners at Aintree and Navan
Betfair Ambassador Gordon Elliott has runners in action on both sides of the Irish sea on Saturday - at Aintree and Navan - and here he discusses their form and picks his best chance...
Best Chance:14:10 - Gun Digger
"After doing fine over hurdles last season, he got his chasing career off to a promising start at Gowran a couple of weeks ago where he finished off strongly... He will improve plenty for that run and a performance similar to the one he produced last time should see him run well."
Don Poli returns from injury with his ability intact
13:30 - Don Poli
We've got two runners in the Becher Chase and it's less than ideal that both horses are lining up off long layoffs but, with the way the ground has been over the last couple of months, there's been very little opportunity to get a prep run into either of them.
Don Poli runs for the first time since he finished a good third to Sizing John in the 2017 Irish Gold Cup. He has to carry top weight, and this will be his first experience of the Grand National course at Aintree, but I'm happy with how he is going in his work. He is showing me that he retains all the ability that was there when he picked up an injury in the days before the 2017 Gold Cup which has kept him off until now.
Obviously, he is going to improve for his first run in nearly two years and it won't be easy giving weight all round, but if he takes to the Aintree experience I'm hoping he will show up well. It's just great to see him back and hopefully he can make up for lost time over the coming months.
Classy chaser could be National contender
13:30 - Noble Endeavour
Noble Endeavor is a high class staying chaser and he won the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown a couple of seasons ago before going to be placed at Cheltenham on his next start. I've always thought of him as a horse that could be a serious contender for either the English or Irish Grand Nationals.
As is the case with Don Poli he has been off for a good while but he too has been going well at home and I'm hoping that there is more to come from him, as he is a horse that hasn't had a huge amount of racing throughout his career. This run will bring him forward nicely but I'd be expecting that he will take to this challenge and show us that he could develop into a contender for the National by the time April comes around.
Honest filly should go well
14:40 - Smiling Eliza
She will bid for some black type in a Listed fillies only juvenile hurdle and I think that she will run well. Ideally, I would prefer to see better ground for her as she is a filly that appreciates a sound surface. On the other hand she has taken really well to hurdling over the last few months with two wins and a good run against older opposition in a handicap hurdle at Perth in September. She is an honest filly who loves jumping and her experience will stand to her. This race has been a long term goal for her so I'm hoping she will go well.
French runner will run solid race
12:00 - Eclair De Beaufeu https://btfr.co/
He will take his chance in this two mile maiden. Since coming to us from France, he has run three solid races in defeat and he has shown enough to suggest that he is more than capable of winning a maiden. From what I've seen of him, he would ideally prefer to be going two-and-a-half miles, but this stiff two miles will suit him. I'd expect him to run his usual solid race and the experience that he has picked up over the last few weeks will stand to him.
Cornakill set for debut over hurdles
12:30 - Cornakill Rose
Cornakill Rose makes her debut over hurdles and she should improve as a result of this first outing in a maiden hurdle. She ran six times in bumpers and showed enough on a couple of occasions to suggest that she might be able to win one so I'm hoping that she will be able to make her mark over hurdles. She is probably best watched this time.
Best foot forward for Swingbridge?
13:05 - Swingbridge
He had a good time of things during the summer and, even though he finished ninth in the Troytown last time out, I thought that he ran quite respectably. He has run a number of decent races in handicap hurdles over the last 12 months. I think he is more than capable of running well if he puts his best foot forward.
Askari is bidding for victory
13:05 - Askari
Askari has been running well recently and deserves to get his head in front. He has gone close to winning on three of his last four starts and was only narrowly beaten over a similar trip to this at Thurles last week. If he matches the form he has shown lately he should be closely involved.
There's more to come from Hardline
13:35 - Hardline
After winning impressively on his chasing debut, he was beaten seven lengths into second by Voix Du Reve in a Grade 2 at Punchestown last month. He looked to be beaten fair and square that day and the winner won well but he did make one bad mistake after halfway and I think with a cleaner round of jumping he would have been a good bit closer. Hopefully, that last run will have taught him plenty, and I still expect him to do well in good company over the coming months. There is more to come from him as a chaser and I'd expecting him to go close here.
Ben Dundee will benefit from this experience
13:35 - Ben Dundee
It will be interesting to see how Ben Dundee gets on. He is dropping back in trip after winning over two-and-a-half miles last time but he did show some decent form over two miles as a hurdler. I was delighted with his win at Punchestown last time and he showed there that he has a definite future at graded level. He has some good entries over Christmas but, before he moves into a Grade 1, I was keen to get some more experience into him and this stiff two miles should be ideal. He gives us a strong hand here.
Gun Digger aims for another big performance
14:10 - Gun Digger
After doing fine over hurdles last season, he got his chasing career off to a promising start at Gowran a couple of weeks ago where he finished off strongly in the closing stages to be beaten three lengths into third in what looked quite a useful beginner's chase. I feel that he will improve plenty for that run and a performance similar to the one he produced last time should see him run well.
Can Burren Life seize his chance?
14:45 - Burren Life
Burren Life lines up in his first handicap chase here. Obviously, he will be at a disadvantage in terms of experience, but when he was placed at Naas last month I thought he jumped like a seasoned handicapper and it's worth letting him take his chance for this valuable prize. To date, I've been happy with what he has shown as a chaser. He's run some solid races and, much like Duca De Thaix last week, he might find a switch to handicaps easier than competing against classy types of level weights in beginner's chases.
Lamb Or Cod makes debut
14:45 - Lamb Or Cod
Lamb Or Cod is a horse that was picked up at the sales a few months ago. At his best he was quite a decent handicap chaser and hopefully he's a horse that we will be able to have some fun with over the next few months. I was keen to get a run into him before Christmas and this looked a suitable race to start him off in although the trip is short of his best and he will need this run.
The Very Man should go nicely
15:20 - The Very Man
The Very Man is a nice type who looked a horse with a good future when he won his second point-to-point start last May. He goes nicely and looks like a horse who should be up to holding his own in bumpers so I'd be hoping for a good showing from him.
Ready for the Big time?
15:20 - Bigbadandbeautiful
Bigbadandbeautiful is a nice filly who is just ready to start off. She doesn't have the benefit of previous point-to-point experience and she will probably be a bit green and raw for this, but I'm hoping for a solid showing from her and she should do much better with this run behind her.
Best Chance: Gun Digger (14:10)