Conflated, “fresh and well,” and all set to make his mark in Gold Cup.
After deciding not to bid for back-to-back victories in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last weekend, Gordon Elliott is confident that Conflated is “in the mix” for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The nine-year-old ran well before falling in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and pushing Clan Des Obeaux close in the Aintree Bowl to show that he was not a fluke when he won the feature race at the Dublin Racing Festival a year ago.
Conflated dominated Leopardstown’s Savills Chase over the Christmas period after a promising comeback run at Down Royal in the fall. However, Elliott chose to keep his powder dry for the blue riband in the Cotswolds next month.
The Cullentra handler acknowledged that he was encouraged to see Fury Road finish a similar distance behind Cheltenham Gold Cup favorite Galopin Des Champs when third again on Saturday during a press event at his County Meath yard on Tuesday morning.
“We decided not to run him in the Irish Gold Cup and he’ll go to Cheltenham fresh and well,” he said.
“I suppose the fact that Fury Road led over the last the other day would give me hope that Conflated could run a good race in Cheltenham.
“I probably ran him in the wrong race last year going for the Ryanair. The way he ran in Aintree last season and the way he ran in Leopardstown the last day, I think the Gold Cup will suit him.”
With an eight-length victory at Leopardstown, the Galopin Des Champs, trained by Willie Mullins, strengthened his position at the top of the Gold Cup market. Although not everyone was blown away by the performance, Elliott anticipates that he will be difficult to crack.
He added: “Galopin Des Champs sets the standard and he’s the horse we all have to beat, but I think we’re in the mix.
“When you look at the re-run, I thought Galopin Des Champs was probably more impressive than when you watched it the first time. Paul (Townend) had him asleep and it probably took him a bit to wake him up, but he galloped from the last to the line well.
“I just worry about my own horse, but I wouldn’t mind having him!”
In less than five weeks, Elliott will send another formidable team to Prestbury Park, including a particularly strong novice chasing team, and Conflated will be a part of that team.
He owns the ante-post favorite for Saturday’s Scilly Isles winner, Gerri Colombe, in the three-mile Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, and Mighty Potter, who won his fourth Grade One race at Leopardstown on Sunday, is undervalued in the Turners’ Novices’ Chase.
“Over two and a half miles softer ground would suit Gerri Colombe, but he’s not a mud lark and is not as slow as you’d think – he’s just so relaxed,” said Elliott.
“I’d say over three miles plus in the Brown Advisory he’ll be fine on better ground and I think the further he goes the better he’ll be.
“He’s a very unassuming horse who doesn’t do anything exciting at home, but he knows how to win.
“He’s so relaxed and I think the Brown Advisory is made for him.
“Mighty Potter is probably relaxing more with racing. He jumped great the other day and it was only when you watch the re-run of the race that you realise how good he was,” said Elliott.
“He’s an unassuming type of horse and it wouldn’t worry me to come back to two miles, but at the moment we’re going for the middle-distance race.
“Envoi Allen was the real thing and there was Samcro and Don Cossack. We’ve had a few nice novice chasers, but I’d say he could be bang up there.”
After defeating Honeysuckle for the first time in his career in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse and successfully stepping up to three miles in the Galmoy at Gowran, Teahupoo is a major hope for the Elliott team in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.
The six-year-old was widely expected to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but Elliott attributes that performance more to the trip than the course.
He added: “I’d say he just got took off his feet over two miles last year. He’s not a big, heavy horse and I don’t see why over three miles he shouldn’t be OK.
“It’s not going to be quick ground and if you listen to likes of Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh over the years talking about Stayers’ Hurdle horses, they always say they have to race behind the bridle and be relaxed and that is exactly what Teahupoo is – nothing fazes him.”
Even though Conflated, Gerri Colombe, Mighty Potter, and Teahupoo all have strong claims going into Cheltenham, Elliott seems especially optimistic about Delta Work’s chances, who is all set to defend his title in the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country course.
When denying his dual Grand National and five-time Festival-winning stablemate Tiger Roll last year, the multiple Grade One winner acted like a pantomime villain. However, after finishing third under a heavy weight at the track last month, he will return as a red-hot favorite.
“I won the race so I didn’t mind, but it would have been the perfect send-off for Tiger Roll to have won last year obviously. It wasn’t to be, but he got a great reception,” said Elliott.
“I was very happy with Delta Work’s run the other day. He was giving the winner and the second a lot of weight and off level weights, it looks like he’s thrown in.”
A few of the pieces are beginning to fit together, but Elliott is still working on running plans for some squad members.
He added: “Three Card Brag will probably go for the Albert Bartlett along with Favori De Champdou. Cool Survivor ran well the other day and he’ll probably go for the Martin Pipe or he could go for the Albert Bartlett as well.
“Absolute Notions might not be badly handicapped and he can probably go for a handicap more so than a Grade One.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t run American Mike in Leopardstown the other day. He scoped bad after Navan and there was something wrong with him, so we’ve missed a good part of the season.
“I was looking forward to running him the other day, but couldn’t due to personal reasons and it’s hard to find a race for him now.
“He’s entered in a Listed race over two miles at Navan on Sunday, which isn’t ideal, but I kind of need to get a run into him because he can be a fresh horse and I just want to knock the freshness off him.
“Better Days Ahead will go straight to Cheltenham for the Champion Bumper. I’d say the bumper horses in Ireland just mightn’t be as strong as they have been, but my horse is a good horse.
“King Of Kingsfield will run in it as well and Pour Les Filles who won in Leopardstown under Harry Swan, we’ll probably run the three of them.”
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