FOR the third time in five years, Gordon Elliott struck gold in the Grade 3 Markaye Contracts Ltd Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle as The Goffer turned out in the form of his life to put himself in the picture for a trip to Cheltenham.

One of the seven winners for his trainer on that famous day at Navan in early December, The Goffer had since run respectably in a couple of conditions races but evidently more was expected here as he was sent off a well supported 5/2 second favourite.

The Allan Snow-owned five-year-old was always well positioned in second for Jordan Gainford, deputising for the sidelined Davy Russell, and he moved to the head of the field turning for home.

At this stage all six of the runners were still in contention and The Goffer wasn’t travelling as well as others. However, a good jump at the second last enabled him to consolidate his advantage and another quick leap at the last helped him to get home by a length and a quarter from Berkshire Royal with Captain Conby the same distance away in third.

Grand horse

“He’s a grand horse who has been improving away all season and I thought that was a nice effort coming back in trip,” stated Elliott.

“We gave him an entry in the Martin Pipe this week and Blow By Blow won this race and the Martin Pipe a few years so I’d say we will follow the same route. It’s lovely for the owners to have a nice horse as they’re great supporters of ours.”

Liz Doyle could have a nice type on her hands in Mitiva (14/1) who made a winning debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares INH Flat Race.

The Motivator half-sister to smart sorts in England and France cruised up menacingly for Jody Townend to move into the front rank approaching the straight.

From the turn-in, it always seemed that Mitiva was going that bit better than the favourite Brookline and while the latter fought on tenaciously, she could do no more inside the final furlong as her promising four-year-old rival forged on to score by two and a quarter lengths.

“She is really nice and could be very smart and she jumps like a cat too. She is one to look forward to,” declared the trainer.

O’Dwyer second

The father and son team of Conor and Charlie O’Dwyer combined for their second success of the season as the reliable Rajsalad (4/1) landed the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle over just short of three miles.

The 111-rated Hugo Kane-owned gelding had filled the runner-up spot behind Falcon Eight over this course and distance a couple of weeks ago and built on that effort in likeable fashion.

He took control before the third last and maintained a decent lead from the turn-in to finish half a dozen lengths ahead of Gali Flight.

Flame reignited for Cromwell

THE day kicked off with a quality running of the two-and-three-quarter-mile Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Chase where Jeremys Flame (11/4) continued her fine season. Despite finishing in front of Dolcita and Minella Melody on her last two starts the Flushfarm Racing Syndicate-owned mare was actually sent off the outsider of this trio at 11/4. However, the 135-rated mare was much too strong for her old rivals as she looked to progress on her fine second in a Grade 2 here last month.

Keith Donoghue’s mount looked to have everything covered when she loomed on the inner to dispute the lead well before the last and she soon moved clear for a smooth five-length triumph over Dolcita.

Rock solid

“She’s plenty of experience and her form was rock solid. I couldn’t understand the other two mares were ahead of her in the betting, but she’s done it the way I hoped she would. I think she can improve again,” declared the rider.

Espion Du Chenet, who has been a fine standard bearer for Louise Lyons over the last couple of seasons, notched up his fifth win for the trainer in the two-mile handicap chase. Nothing was going better than the winner when he eased into second on the approach to the straight.

Ryan Treacy never had to get animated for the Nicholas Teehan-owned eight-year-old to sweep aside Western Sea on the approach to the last en route to a six-and-a-half-length triumph Presented Well.

A tilt at the Grade B Shamrock Chase at Gowran in two weeks’ time will be next for the winner who has had Treacy on board for all of his wins in Ireland.

Great few days for Connell

A TERRIFIC week for Barry Connell yielded a third winner in as many days as Balkito came good to record the first success of his career in the 0-109 rated amateur rider’s handicap chase over an extended three miles.

The seven-year-old was as big as 50/1 when betting on this race opened but he was returned at 12/1 under Jack Hendrick as he looked to push his trainer into double figures for the season.

Balkito was at the rear of the field when making a mistake at the last fence on the penultimate circuit but that seemed to spur him into action and by the time he turned for home again he had only Johngus for company at the head of the field.

That one appeared to be going better at this stage but a clumsy jump at the last put an end to his chances as Balkito capitalised to score by seven lengths.

Second success

Almost exactly seven years to the day after he won his first race – a mile maiden at Kempton for Paul Cole – Danegeld (14/1) notched up his second success over timber in the Connolly’s Red Mills Ladies Handicap Hurdle over two miles.

The John Morrison-owned and trained 10-year-old was dashed into a commanding lead by Rochelle Murphy in between the last two flights en route to a 10-length success over Tohellortoconnacht.