“If you had told me at this time last year that I wouldn’t be at Cheltenham I would have laughed at you,” Gordon Elliott said after winning the Irish Gold Cup. “And if you had asked me in September if I would have the team that I have now, I would have laughed at you too. It is a testimony for all those who supported me.
On an afternoon that mirrored the comeback lows and highs of the last 12 months, Elliott had just watched Conflated, an 18-1 underdog, ease the pain of three beaten freshman favorites earlier in the post. -noon with a six-and-a-half -long defeat of Minella Indo, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year, in the distance race.
The win was particularly satisfying as the eight-year-old, who races for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud operation, was headed for a valuable handicap on Sunday’s card until Elliott insisted it was worth having a chance at the Dublin Racing Festival. main event.
“I wanted to know where I was going [with him],” he said. “He’s a horse with a big engine and I said before the race he would win or quit, and luckily he won.
“Second, second, second. I thought it was going to be one of those days. But at least they were running well, if they had all been second to last I would have had my head on the ground.
Frodo and Bryony Frost halted the race until the penultimate fence, where Davy Russell got on board Conflated and took a clear lead as they circled the home. Minella Indo’s stamina started to show on the straight, but Russell had taken up more ground than needed to keep him at bay.
Janidil was third with Asterion Forlonge, Kemboy and Frodo all well beaten.
Conflated’s chances for a follow-up in next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup are now down to around 12-1, down from 66-1 on Saturday morning. He did, however, benefit from an impeccably judged run by Russell, and Minella Indo, who is sure to relish the tougher test at Cheltenham, is just 6-1 down to repeat her success from last season.
A Plus Tard, the runner-up to Cheltenham last March, leads the market at 7-2, while Galvin, another likely runner from the Elliott stable, has a 9-2 chance.
Elliott’s three favorites earlier on the map were beaten by runners from the Willie Mullins stable, including Vauban, who passed Elliott’s Fil Dor while running towards the final flight of the Spring Juvenile Hurdle and accelerated three lengths ahead of the line.
Vauban finished half a length behind another Elliott-trained juvenile, Pied Piper, on his hurdle debut at Leopardstown in December and both horses are now favorites for next month’s Triumph Hurdle at around 5-2.
“We knew he was a serious flat horse and we just had to teach him how to jump,” Mullins said. “I don’t know if many horses break their maiden in a Grade One, but it’s still a great achievement for him.”
Blue Lord took advantage of a late closing error by Elliott’s Riviere D’Etel to win the Irish Arkle Novice Chase but remains favorite with Edwardstone for its Festival equivalent, while at Sandown Charlie Deutsch recorded the first Grade One victory of his career as the impressive L’Homme Presse won the Isles of Scilly Novices pursuit.