Cause for celebration after Elliott turns Flat flop into Festival Supreme prospect

Cheltenham on the cards as Irish novice hurdler shows raw courage to match a fancy pedigree

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The Independent Online

It's a fair assumption that the Niarchos family, best known for having their colours carried with distinction in the world's top Flat races, did not have Cheltenham in mind when they sent their broodmare Angel In My Heart to the high-class American stallion Dynaformer six years ago. She had, after all, already produced a Derby winner in Kris Kin.

But, as everyone in the breeding business knows, there is no accounting for genetic inheritance, whose unpredictability is exactly what keeps the bloodstock industry going (and fires debate about whether or not a horse like Frankel will succeed in his second career perfectly valid).

The result of Angel In My Heart's 2007 tryst in Kentucky was Cause Of Causes, who did not actually appear on a racecourse until four months after the Derby he could have run in, the one won by Pour Moi. Shortly afterwards he was summarily despatched to market but, happily, one man's Flat flop is another man's hurdler, and yesterday at Navan this one looked notably progressive in that department.

Cause Of Causes joined Gordon Elliott at a cost of €52,000 (£42,000) to race for the Timeform Betfair Racing Club, and has already paid for himself twice with his earnings, let alone bets landed. His last four runs have now yielded three victories, including the Ladbroke at Ascot last month, and he will be back in Britain next month for another valuable handicap, the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Yesterday's success could hardly have been closer. In a tactical three-runner affair he was out-jumped and out-travelled by the hat-trick-seeking favourite Midnight Game until the last five strides, when his momentum after winging the final hurdle and his courage under a determined Davy Condon drive landed the spoils by a short head. "I was standing by the last as they jumped it," said Elliott, "and I knew he'd stay every inch home. He just tries his heart out every day, everything he does is honest."

Cause Of Causes' upward mobility as he has matured physically has surprised even his shrewd trainer, and plans are becoming increasingly ambitious, with a step up from handicap company at the Festival a possibility. Yesterday was the five-year-old's 12th start over hurdles but because he did not win until May, he is technically still a novice.

"Newbury is next," said Elliott. "But at Cheltenham we might look at the Supreme Novices. He's got more experience than most in the race will have, and he'll like the way it will be run, a strong pace for him to have a run at. From winning his maiden down in little Kilbeggan to all this – the dream is still alive."

Alive and kicking: Darlan, who fell at the last when poised to win last year's Betfair Hurdle, went on to run second in the Supreme Novices. The solid 9-2 favourite for the Newbury race is another Nicky Henderson inmate, Friday's easy Huntingdon winner My Tent Or Yours, with Cause Of Causes vying for second spot at 12-1.

Turf account

CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: Alezanna (1.25 Lingfield)

A rare runner at this time of year for James Toller's yard, but is on a very fair mark for her comeback on a course where she won her maiden and over a distance which should suit her.

NEXT BEST: Polar Kite (1.50 Wolverhampton)

Too headstrong for his own good last time in a better race but was quite progressive on turf last year and the drop to claiming company did the trick two runs ago.

ONE TO WATCH: Hada Men (Venetia Williams) produced a sound effort on his first try over three miles last Saturday at Warwick and will be seen to better effect once the ground dries out.

WHERE THE MONEY'S GOING: Last year's County Hurdle winner Alderwood was cut to 12-1 from 14s by BetVictor for the Grand Annual back at the Festival after a cosy first win over fences at Navan yesterday.