LiveScore Racing News: Ginto underlines Cheltenham credentials
The Gordon Elliott-trained Ginto underlined his credentials for this year's Cheltenham Festival by claiming victory in the Grade One Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday.
The Bective Stud-owned six-year-old started the race as the 5/4 favourite following impressive victories on his first two starts over timber at Navan and he certainly delivered, leading from start to finish under the guidance of jockey Jack Kennedy.
Ginto did have to hold off a late challenge from the Henry de Bromhead-trained Grand Jury, who finished just over four lengths behind the winner, while another of the Elliott contingent, Hollow Games, was a neck further back in third.
The omens are good for Ginto, as the last two winners of the race, Envoi Allen and Bob Olinger, have both gone on to land the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival two months later.
That race certainly appears to be on the radar of Elliott for the son of Walk In The Park, although the County Meath-handler has suggested that the longer Albert Barlett Novices' Hurdle could also be targeted, as well as indicating there are still areas his latest Grade One winner needs to improve upon.
Elliott said: "Jack said he wasn't doing a stroke the whole way. He jumped well and stays well. He's very idle in front on his own.
"I think he'll stay further, I think all he does is stay. We had to stretch them and if it turned into a sprint it wouldn't have worked."
Elliott also felt Hollow Games showed plenty of potential and perhaps deserved to make it a one-two finish for his yard, with his two runners now potentially on course to lock horns once again at Cheltenham in March.
He added: "Hollow Games ran very well. He was stopped a couple of times and probably should have been second."
Last year's runner up in the Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle, Blue Lord, was also a winner on the card at Naas, triumphing in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase to make it two wins from two over fences.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old, who fell at the final flight in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham last year, now looks set for a return to Prestbury Park in the spring in the Arkle Trophy.
Mullins said: "That looks a nice improvement on what he did the first day and I'd say he's improving all the time.
"He galloped all the way to the line with Paul [Townend] and looks an Arkle horse."