Naas preview: Doctor Phoenix seeks more big-race honours

Sat 24 Feb 2018

Doctor Phoenix bids for further big-race honours in the Paddy's Rewards Chase at Naas on Sunday.

Formerly trained in Britain by David Dennis, the 10-year-old was snapped up for £10,000 at the Goffs UK Spring Sale last May and has proved an extremely shrewd purchase by Gordon Elliott and the Nick Bradley Racing Club.

After finishing second on his Irish debut at Cork in October, Doctor Phoenix returned to the Mallow circuit the following month to open his account for his new connections and while he was well beaten on his next start at Fairyhouse, he bounced back to form to land the 100,000 euro Dan Moore Memorial Chase at the same track last month.

He faces just four rivals at Grade Three level this weekend and looks the one to beat.

Will Smith, National Hunt racing manager for the syndicate, said: "Gordon has done a fantastic job with him so far this season. He showed some very good form in Britain, but Gordon just seems to have added that 5 per cent extra and he's certainly getting the best out of him.

"After he won first time for us at Cork the Dan Moore was a race we looked at. Gordon is a brilliant target trainer and it was fantastic to see him go and win a race like that.

"It's a cliche, but anything he achieves for the rest of the season is a bit of a bonus.

"He's well treated by the conditions of the race on Sunday. He's getting weight all round and he's well-in, so if he can pick up some more prize-money we'd be delighted."

Doctor Phoenix holds entries in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, but all plans are on hold until after this latest assignment.

Smith added: "We just took the view that if you're not in you can't win. The Champion Chase entry is a bit of a dream, but if the ground came up very soft and a couple of the big guns came out you never know.

"He's also in the Grand Annual, but again the ground would need to be soft for us to be thinking about it and there might be some more suitable races for him at home in the spring.

"We'll see how he goes this weekend and wherever Gordon decides he should go afterwards will be where he goes."

Doctor Phoenix is one of three runners for Elliott along with the Gigginstown House Stud-owned pair of Ball D'Arc and Tell Us More.

Elliott's title rival Willie Mullins relies on American Tom, who was third behind Ball D'Arc over this course and distance back in November before chasing home A Toi Phil in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "His jumping can be a little bit erratic and he jumped out to his left around Thurles the last day.

"We're putting a tongue-strap on him for the first time and going left-handed again, so hopefully the combination of the two will help him. He has been a little bit frustrating so far this season, so we're more hopeful than confident."

Last year's winner Alisier D'Irlande, trained by Henry de Bromhead, completes the line-up.

Grade Two honours are up for grabs in the preceding Paddy Power Onside App Novice Hurdle.

Elliott saddles Hardline, Cartwright and Defi Bleu, while Mullins sends Makitorix into battle.

The latter bounced back from a few disappointing efforts in graded novice company to finish a creditable fourth in the fiercely-competitive Coral Hurdle at Leopardstown earlier this month.

Mullins junior said: "He ran a fantastic race in Leopardstown. He jumped and settled much better than he had in his previous races.

"He's horse with an awful lot of speed and if he can reproduce his Leopardstown run, hopefully he'll start to fulfil the promise that he shows us at home."

Joseph O'Brien's Speak Easy drops in distance and class after finishing fifth behind Next Destination in the Grade One Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle here in early January.

"We thought plenty of him and pitched him into the deep end last time and maybe we would have been better going for a race like this," said O'Brien. "We do think he's a nice horse and we think that he's learned from his last run in Naas."

Jessica Harrington's Impact Factor, Discorama from Paul Nolan's yard and the Tom Mullins-trained Tara Dylan make up the eight-strong field.

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