Death Duty no bigger than 5-2 for Albert Bartlett after Naas success
Sunday 8 January 2017
Gordon Elliott indicated that Death Duty's Cheltenham Festival objective would be the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle after the six-year-old extended his winning spree in dramatic style at Naas on Sunday.
Death Duty won the Grade One Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle by nine lengths but the result of the 2m4f event might have been very different had market rival Augusta Kate not crashed out at the final flight when upsides. Ruby Walsh was sent flying but, thankfully, he and the horse were quickly back on their feet.
Some bookmakers trimmed Death Duty for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, for which he is a best-priced 8-1, but the Albert Bartlett, over half a mile farther, looks the race for him. Most firms cut him to 9-4 but bet365 and Betfair go 5-2.
"To be honest, I thought they didn't go fast enough," Elliott said. "I thought Blood Crazed Tiger would make them go a good gallop. Our lad is just an out-and-out stayer.
"They were upsides when the mare fell, so it's hard to say but the one thing you know about our horse is that he would have kept pulling out. Jack thought he had it covered.
"You never know when Ruby is upsides you, but our lad is a very good horse.
Fall guy: Walsh is sent flying as Augusta Kate's fall at the last leaves Death Duty clear (Racingfotos.com)
"He has his job done again and that will be it now until Cheltenham."
Assessing targets, Elliott added: "There is a long way to go between now and Cheltenham, but if the race was tomorrow, I'd be saying the Albert Bartlett definitely.
"He's a proper, big three-mile chaser. At this stage, of all the good horses I've had, none of them were ever as good as hurdlers as him, but that doesn't mean they'll do it as chasers. I'd say he's a fair one."
The dual bumper winner had made a big impression in winning his first three outings over timber, including successive Graded-race victories at Navan.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding was the 5-6 favourite stepped up to Grade One level for the first time and duly obliged, but might have been fortunate.
Turcagua made much of the running under Paul Townend, but both Death Duty and Jack Kennedy and Augusta Kate under Ruby Walsh moved towards the front jumping the second last.
There was little to choose between Death Duty and Augusta Kate jumping the final obstacle when the latter crashed out, leaving the market leader in a clear lead.
In the end, Death Duty passed the post with plenty in hand over Turcagua, with Blood Crazed Tiger in third.
Elliott said: "He's honest and you even see walking around the parade ring nothing fazes him. He'd kind of frighten you, he's that laid back.
"He'll have a couple of easy weeks now and then Cheltenham will be the plan."
Augusta Kate, owned by a syndicate that includes Alan Shearer, Lee Westwood and Ant & Dec, was cut to 16-1 by most firms for the Neptune and she is as short as 8-1 for the Albert Bartlett. She is a best-priced 7-1 with Coral for the Mares' Novices Hurdle.
Her trainer Willie Mullins reported the smart mare to be none the worse following her heavy fall.
He said: "She trotted up fine. I'm sure she'll be a little bit sore in the morning.
"She was running a good race and Ruby felt he had a little bit left, but there was still a lot of racing to do.
"The winner is a fair machine, so we're just happy our mare was running a good race. Whether she'd have won or not is another day's work."
Asked whether Augusta Kate could run again before the Festival, Mullins said: "We'll see how she comes out of the race and go from there."