Gordon Elliott’s hopes of reclaiming his Ballymore Novices' Hurdle crown may have received a massive boost after Ginto stormed to Grade 1 glory at Naas on Sunday, writes Will Jennings.
The six-year-old star held off Henry de Bromhead’s Grand Jury and stablemate Hollow Games in the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles and further outline his potential ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Elliott, 43, has now won the Naas showpiece on four of the last six occasions after Death Duty, Battleoverdoyen and Envoi Allen sped to victory in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Grand Jury and Hollow Games sought to reel Elliott’s ace in on the final straight but Ginto, who has now raced three times over hurdles, held on strongly to get his 2022 off to a flyer.
De Bromhead’s Bob Olinger won the race last year before going on to triumph in the Ballymore at Cheltenham – and Ginto’s odds have now also been slashed to as low as 8-1 ahead of the Cotswolds showdown.
Elliott won the Ballymore with Samcro and Envoi Allen in 2018 and 2020 and the king of Cullentra could now aim Ginto at the race to complete a hat-trick in March.
But the trainer could also opt to prepare Ginto for the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, a race he’s still yet to win despite clinching 32 Festival triumphs and being crowned leading trainer on two occasions.
Elsewhere at Naas on Sunday, Blue Lord won the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase in the second race of the day to claim a prize pot of €11,505 for Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend.