American Mike (centre) ridden by jockey Jack Kennedy on their way to winning the William Hill Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan Racecourse in County Meath. Alamy Stock Photo

American Mike toughs it out for Ten Up triumph

Gordon Elliott’s gelding gets the better of Nick Rockett at Navan.

AMERICAN MIKE came out on top after a good battle with Nick Rockett in the William Hill Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan.

Gordon Elliott’s gelding won on his seasonal debut at the track in November, making a successful start to his chasing career over a lesser trip of two miles and four furlongs.

His next outing was in the Grade One Faugheen Chase, where he came home fourth of five runners when 25 lengths behind Gaelic Warrior at Limerick.

Stepped up to three miles at Navan, the bay was a 7-2 chance under Jack Kennedy and travelled well throughout, jumping soundly on the whole and finding himself in the lead approaching the last.

From there, he seemed to dither slightly and it appeared that Willie Mullins’ Nick Rockett might pass him, but as the two locked horns approached the line, it was American Mike who eventually pulled away to win by a length and a quarter.

As a result of the victory, he was clipped from 33-1 to 20-1 for the Turners Novices’ Chase with Betfair and from 25-1 to 12-1 for the same race with Coral.

“To be honest, he’s probably one of the horses that makes me scratch my head more than any other. He keeps disappointing me and then he comes back with a good one again,” said Elliott.

“He has obviously got a big engine on his day, when he’s right, but he’s not easy to train. I thought Jack gave him a great ride.

“I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going with him, he’s a horse that baffles me.

“We’ve just tipped away with him steady at home and haven’t over-worked him, as he was very fit going to Christmas but just didn’t get home.

“He’s in a few of the novice chases at Cheltenham and he could go for an Irish National. I don’t know what I’m going to do with him, to be honest.

“We’ll enjoy today, he’s won a graded race for Noel and Valerie (Moran, owners) at their local track, they are big supporters of Navan and the whole game.”

Runner-up Nick Rockett lost nothing in defeat and was trimmed to 5-1 from 6-1 for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham by Betfair.

Earlier, Hiddenvalley Lake made a successful return to the smaller obstacles in the William Hill Boyne Hurdle.

Henry de Bromhead’s chestnut had a good reputation as a novice hurdler but did not quite deliver at the highest level when ninth in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last March.

He started out over fences this time around and contested a beginners chase at this venue in December, where he fell three from home.

Subsequently switched back to hurdling, the seven-year-old always looked happy in the Grade Two event, as he travelled well under Darragh O’Keeffe in the absence of the suspended Rachael Blackmore.

Over the penultimate flight, he already looked the winner and from there he only strengthened his position to triumph by three and a quarter lengths as the 3-1 favourite.

Robbie Power, racing manager to owners Robour, said: “It was a good performance. The plan was obviously to go chasing with him this year and he fell here in a beginners chase before Christmas.

“It took him a little bit of time to recover after that, and it was getting a bit late in the season, so we thought we’d come back over hurdles and then probably go chasing next season.

“He’s done plenty of schooling back over hurdles and Henry’s done a lot of work with him. He’s a very good jumper of a fence and was just unfortunate the last day.

“He loves heavy ground and Darragh said the further he went, the better he jumped. When they stepped on the pace, he jumped better up the straight.

“We knew he’d stay well over that trip and that ground probably suited him as well. It’s great to get that and we’ll see where we go next.

“He stays three miles as well and we’ll have a look at all the big festivals coming up and see what the options are.

“He’s a fresh horse, he’s only had the two runs and that’s his first completed run this season.”

Charles Byrne’s Blazing Khal won the Boyne Hurdle last season before injury halted his campaign in the spring, and the bay returned to action to contest the same race again.

This time, he was pulled up two fences from home by rider Philip Byrnes and was reported to be showing some abnormalities in the post-race veterinary check.

“He’s not right, I think he has a fibrillating heart,” said Byrnes.

“We’ve had a bad rocky road with him, but we’ll see.”

Finally, Brighterdaysahead looks set to head to Cheltenham with high hopes after winning the Apple’s Jade Mares Novice Hurdle with ease.

The Gordon Elliott-trained five-year-old came into the race unbeaten in four starts, having taken two bumpers and a couple of hurdle contests – latterly the Grade Three Feathard Lady Mares Novice Hurdle at Down Royal in November.

She was the 1-3 favourite when stepping up in trip at Navan for a Listed heat over two miles and five furlongs, a significant increase from her previous outings at two miles or two miles and a furlong.

The extra distance clearly did not hinder her at all, however, as she travelled and jumped with ease throughout and was left to stroll home to a 12-length success under Jack Kennedy.

Her odds have now been trimmed for the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, moving from 7-2 to 3-1 with Betfair and Coral.

“She’s a good mare, a proper mare. She is very, very good, I don’t say that about too many,” said Elliott.

“Jack said he couldn’t get a lead any longer on her and he said she wasn’t doing a stroke in front.

“She’ll come on from it too, as we missed a little bit of time with her – nothing serious, just niggly things.

“She’s got a pedigree to be nice and her future is in front of her. She looks like a chaser.

“I’d say at the moment she doesn’t want that far, she’s got a bit of boot for a big mare, but we had nothing else to run her in because I missed her last engagement and I didn’t want to go to England with her.”

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