Elliott keen to take Gold Cup chance with Conflated
Gordon Elliott is hoping he might get his way and persuade Michael O’Leary to run Conflated in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup rather than the Ryanair Chase.
O’Leary stated on Sunday he expected the surprise Irish Gold Cup winner would drop back in trip at the Cheltenham Festival, in preference to trying him over three and a quarter miles against stablemate Galvin in the blue riband.
However, Elliott feels Allaho could be a tough nut to crack in the Ryanair and favours giving his charge a chance in what appears an open Gold Cup year.
He said: “(I’d go for) the Gold Cup. Michael wants to go for the Ryanair, I want to go for the Gold Cup so we’ll probably have an argument for five minutes and normally he gets his way, but I hope I get mine.
“There’s only one Gold Cup. If you win the Ryanair, that’s grand, but the Gold Cup is the Gold Cup.
“I just think the way the Ryanair will be run, with the likes of Allaho in there, if he does make a mistake or miss a fence, he might not get back into the race. The Gold Cup, they might not go as quick early.
“It is a bit of a worry about the stamina, but it is a Gold Cup and there’s a worry about the stamina of a lot of horses.”
Conflated is a general 12-1 shot for the Gold Cup, with the Ronnie Bartlett-owned Galvin 4-1 second-favourite behind A Plus Tard for the Festival highlight.
Galvin has won two of his three starts this term, landing a Punchestown Grade Three on his seasonal bow before chasing home Frodon in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in late October.
The eight-year-old took another leap forward when shading A Plus Tard by a short head in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, and Elliott reports him to be sharpening up nicely at home.
He said: “Galvin has done nothing wrong all year. I think there’s maybe a question you could ask of every horse in the race.
“With Galvin you could maybe say he lacks a gear, but his work since Leopardstown has been very good. He’s been working with a few quicker horses and working well – we’re very happy with him.
“We know he stays, he’s won round Cheltenham, he relaxes, he jumps. If he’s within firing distance at the second-last, you know he will come home strong.”
Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll is set for his swansong in the Glenfarclas Chase – the cross-country race he has won three times previously.
The 12-year-old is a five-time winner at the Festival in all, having landed the 2014 Triumph Hurdle and the 2017 National Hunt Chase, and Elliott has his fingers crossed conditions will allow for a glorious farewell with O’Leary planning to retire his superstar afterwards.
The Cullentra trainer said: “He’s been the horse of a lifetime. We had him at Cheltenham over the banks last week and he was good.
“I suppose the one negative would be if it’s soft. Tiger Roll is not the same horse on soft. The better the ground, the better chance he has. I don’t think there’s an awful lot of rain in the next couple of weeks, so if the ground keeps drying out, we’re happy.
“He’s getting older so it’s hard to say if he’s as good as he was in his pomp, but if he turns up in the form he has the past couple of years, he will take all the beating.”
At the other end of the scale, Weatherbys Champion Bumper contender American Mike is set to have just his third start under rules.
A comfortable winner at Down Royal and Navan before Christmas, Elliott expects American Mike to face a stern test at Cheltenham, headed by the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Facile Vega.
He said: “He’s good form, Jamie Codd rode him this morning and we’re very happy with him. He will probably work at Leopardstown next Monday, but we’re very happy with him. He’s spot on.
“Obviously Willie’s horse sets a very high standard. Jamie’s rode in most of the bumpers and knows it’s going to be a tough race, but we won’t lie down.”
Elliott houses both the second- and third-favourites for the JCB Triumph Hurdle in Cheltenham winner Pied Piper and Leopardstown runner-up Fil Dor and while both hold alternative Festival options, the juvenile championship is a likely target for both.
He said: “At the moment I would say both of them will go for the Triumph. I think the track will suit Fil Dor very well. They’re two very good horses.”
Elliott could also be double-handed in the Unibet Champion Hurdle with Zanahiyr and Teahupoo taking on the mighty Honeysuckle.
He added: “We’ve a good team – maybe a bit light on the middle distance and we’ve nothing for the Queen Mother or maybe the Stayers’ Hurdle, but we’ll have runners in most of the races.
“We’ll probably have our biggest team, numbers wise, going over so we’re looking forward to it.”
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