Fury Road effort gives Elliott hope for Conflated
Galopin des Champs cemented his position at the head of the market for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup with what was ultimately an emphatic victory in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday. However, he perhaps had to work a bit harder to master Fury Road than many might have expected, needing to be shaken up early in the straight and only in a share of the lead at the final fence.
From that point Galopin des Champs pulled clear to score by eight lengths from his Willie Mullins-trained Stattler, who stayed on well to relegate Fury Road for third. But the fact Fury Road proved so competitive for so long offers plenty of encouragement for his trainer Gordon Elliott who has a bigger gun to fire in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Conflated, last season's Irish Gold Cup winner who also landed the Savills Chase when last seen.
Conflated contested the Ryanair Chase at the Festival last season – and was in a battle for second before falling two out – but this time around has the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his agenda.
Elliott said: "He can run well fresh and I thought he'll be going there fresh and well. We probably put him in the wrong race last year. But the way he ran at Aintree [when runner-up in the Bowl] and the way he ran at Leopardstown the last day, I think the race will suit him.
"The fact Fury Road led over the last would give me a lot of hope that Conflated could run a good race. Obviously Galopin sets the standard and is the horse we all have to beat but I think we're in the mix."
The Cheltenham Gold Cup, run over a trip in excess of three and a quarter miles around a stiff track, is likely to pose a sterner test of stamina than anything Conflated has faced so far, but Elliott is confident it will bring out the best in the nine-year-old who he believes has become more professional with experience.
Elliott added: "He's a good horse. He's settled down a good bit in the last year. He was a bit of a headcase, he wasn't straightforward, but he's really settling now and is more professional. You can ride a race on him now, whereas before you were always trying to settle him and the race was over nearly before you could put him into it. I think it's an open Gold Cup and he's got a chance.
"I think [the test] will suit us better. If you look at his run at Aintree and the way he stayed on at Leopardstown he looks made for it."
Elliott expecting Gerri Colombe to benefit from step up in trip
Elliott enjoyed a Grade 1 novice chase double at the weekend, starting with Gerri Colombe at Sandown, who produced a tough display to justify favouritism in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase and extend his unbeaten record.
The bulk of Gerri Colombe's efforts have been on testing ground, though the going on Saturday was described as good to soft and the prospect of a sound surface at Cheltenham doesn't worry Elliott, who believes a step up in trip can help bring about an even bigger effort.
Elliott said: "I'd say over two and a half miles the softer ground would have suited, but he's not a mudlark, he's not as slow as you'd think, he's just so relaxed. I'd say over that trip, three miles-plus in the Brown Advisory, he'll be okay."
He added: "I think the further he goes the better he'll be. He's a very unassuming horse, he doesn't do anything exciting at home but he knows how to win and I loved when the horse passed him the other day in Sandown and you could just see him dropping his head [and battling]. It's a great thing to see in a horse.
"I think over the longer trip he can get into a beautiful rhythm, he's so relaxed. I think the race is made for him to be honest.
"Apart from one [fence] the other day he was foot-perfect. He's a gorgeous horse, so laidback, he's a gentleman, a lovely horse. He's a big old-fashioned chaser."
Mighty Potter gave Elliott a second Grade 1 winner at the weekend, landing the Ladbrokes Novice Chase by eight and a half lengths to strengthen his position at the head of the betting for the Turners Novices' Chase, a race Elliott confirmed is the plan.
Victory on Sunday provided Mighty Potter with a second successive Grade 1 win over fences, and a fourth overall.
He had been an impressive winner of the Drinmore at Fairyhouse on his previous start, showing his class to overcome a couple of stumbles on landing.
Elliott said: "He's got so much talent, everything is nearly too easy for him at home. I'd say he learned an awful lot from Fairyhouse that day. To make those mistakes and be back on the bridle a stride later, he looks good."
On his Leopardstown performance, Elliott said: "He's relaxing more with his racing. He jumped great. It was only when you look at the re-run you realise how good he was.
"I loved when you see after going by the line he was only getting into top gear nearly as the race was over."
Mighty Potter disappointed in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last season, pulling up, but Elliott is happy to draw a line through that performance and said: "He's a big horse now, but he was every bit as big last year and gangly. He's probably still not the finished article – another summer at grass and he's going to be a lot stronger.
“If you look at the re-run of the Supreme last year he never got into a rhythm. I think he landed on top of the third or fourth hurdle and it was race over then."
Teahupoo's attitude marks him out as ideal type for Stayers' Hurdle
Teahupoo also disappointed at Cheltenham last season, failing to beat a rival in the Champion Hurdle, but he has since established himself as a leading player for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle over nearly a mile further.
The pick of his form, including wins in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle and an impressive success in the Galmoy, has come on testing ground, but Elliott is unconcerned about the prospect of a sounder surface or travelling to Cheltenham.
"I'd say he just got taken off his feet over two miles last year," said Elliott. "He's not a big, massive heavy horse, so I don't see why over three miles he shouldn't be okay [on decent ground].
"It's not going to be quick ground and if you listen to the likes of Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh over the years talking about Stayers' Hurdle horses they have to be behind the bridle and relaxed, and that's what he is, nothing fazes him.
"To me it's probably the most open division of all the championship races at Cheltenham this year."
He added: "He was good in Fairyhouse and was good in Gowran the last day. He's a fair horse but doesn't do anything exciting at home – he goes around on a big loose rein and wouldn't impress you but he seems to do it on the track."
Elliott bullish about Delta Work's claims
One horse who has been there and done it at Cheltenham is Delta Work.
The five-time Grade 1 winner got the better of a famous battle with stablemate Tiger Roll in last season's Cross Country Chase and warmed up for a repeat bid with a creditable third under top weight in a handicap over course and distance on Trials Day.
Delta Work will enjoy a huge swing at the weights at the Festival, when he takes on his rivals on level terms, and Elliott said: "I was very happy. He gave the winner 16 lb and the second 18 lb – off level weights he looks thrown in. There will be plenty of improvement in him from the last day."