Newbury prize on Cause agenda
The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury is next on the agenda for Cause Of Causes after he supplemented his surprise victory in The Ladbroke with a tenacious triumph at Navan.
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Gordon Elliott sends his runners to Britain more than the majority of Irish trainers and that tactic has paid of handsomely with Cause Of Causes, who built on a fine third in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham by running away with one of the most fiercely competitive handicaps of the season at Ascot last month.
Despite those notable efforts the five-year-old was not even favourite for his latest assignment back in Ireland, taking second billing in the betting at 6-4 behind the hat-trick-seeking Midnight Game at 5-6.
The market appeared to have got it right at the top of the home straight, with the Willie Mullins-trained leader Midnight Game travelling far better in the hands of Davy Russell than a ridden-along Cause Of Causes under Davy Condon.
Russell was still sat motionless jumping the final flight, but Condon kept working and his endeavour was rewarded as his mount winged the last and galloped strongly to the line to get up by a short head.
Cause Of Causes is now a best-priced 12-1 for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, an obvious race to target for his owners, the Timeform Betfair Racing Club.
Elliott said: "It was a bit of a cat and mouse race and a better pace would have suited.
"He's an honest horse. He'll go now for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 9.
"We'll look for something in Cheltenham after that. I might run him in the Supreme (Novices' Hurdle). He's got loads of experience, I'm not saying he's good enough to beat the real good ones, but he'll come home strong in a race like that.
"He could be a good Flat handicapper during the summer."
Smart hurdler Alderwood made it third time lucky over fences in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase.
The winner of last season's County Hurdle at Cheltenham before claiming major novice prizes at the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals, Alderwood slipped on his fencing bow at Navan before finishing third at Fairyhouse.
Sent off the 8-11 favourite, Tom Mullins' stable star fenced fluently at the few obstacles that could be seen in the gathering fog and beat off Prima Vista after the final fence by a length and a half.
Mullins said: "I'm delighted that he's won again after last season. Mark (Walsh) said the ground was more testing than he wanted.
"It turned into a bit of a slog in the end but I'm happy nonetheless. We'll try to keep him away from that ground and he may run in a handicap before Cheltenham.
"That was not an Arkle performance and I'd be thinking in terms of a handicap for him at Cheltenham (Festival)."
Liz Doyle's Rich Revival (8-1) edged out Fever Pitch by a head in a close finish to the feature Foxrock Handicap Chase.
Doyle's partner, Barry Murphy, said: "It's nice to come up here on a Sunday and get a good pot like that.
"He loves that ground and he needs a bit of time between his races. We may look at a better class handicap in February."
Ruby Walsh struck gold on his only ride of the day as Limerick bumper winner Suntiep (7-4 favourite) made a winning start to his jumping career in the Navan Golf Course Maiden Hurdle.
Winning trainer Willie Mullins said: "This fellow gallops all day and jumps fantastic.
"We'll be aiming him at that sort of trip again. We'll probably be looking at Fairyhouse at Easter for him, but the owner is from England, so he might want him to travel (to Cheltenham)."
Blissful Moment (15-8 favourite) opened his account over obstacles at the sixth attempt with a determined effort in the 2013 Navan Membership Maiden Hurdle for Noel Meade and Paul Carberry.
Meade said: "At no stage did I think he was going to win. In fairness though he probably doesn't want the ground that heavy and he does want further."
Elliott and Carberry combined for doubles as 3-1 favourite Barneys Honour cruised clear in the Meath Handicap Hurdle, while Charlie Swan's 16-1 shot Agent James claimed the bumper.