It is a definite case of quality over quantity for the rearranged Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Gordon Elliott has not shied away from running two of his stable stars, with Gerri Colombe and Conflated both part of the line up.
Gerri Colombe has been defeated only once in his career, suffering a narrow loss to The Real Whacker in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham in March but he has passed every other test – including a seven-and-a-half-length success in the Mildmay at Aintree.
He makes his return for the campaign at Down Royal and Elliott is happy with how he has fared since he was last seen.
“It’s his first run of the season. He didn’t do much wrong last year, he went from strength to strength,” the trainer said.
“He looks strong, he’s in good form, he’s not a good work horse and doesn’t do anything very flash but he’s a typical big, staying chaser. He’s in good form and we’re happy with him.”
Conflated, a nine-year-old gelding owned by Gigginstown House Stud, also enjoyed Grade One success last term when taking the Savills Chase at Leopardstown before finishing third behind Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
His first effort this season was a beaten run at Punchestown in October but Elliott expects him to come on for that experience.
“Conflated was a Grade One winner last year. He’ll have come on from Punchestown and we’re really looking forward to running him,” Elliott told Down Royal.
“He needed it badly. He’d been a little bit delayed after a setback and we said we’d give him a run to get him fit and you’ll see an awful lot of improvement in him.”
Henry de Bromhead will field the other two runners in Envoi Allen and Minella Indo, the latter of whom has already hit the ground running when winning the Punchestown race in which Conflated was last of five.
Last year’s winner Envoi Allen has also had a start this term, but his was not a winning one as he finished third in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park in late September.
Richard Thompson of owners Cheveley Park Stud said: “He was a bit disappointing last time out, a bit rusty.
“He has those days, but I’m told he’s in great form and he obviously won this race last year.
“He’s won eight Grade Ones now, he’s a three-time Cheltenham winner and has been fantastic for us.”
De Bromhead added: “Envoi Allen is in great form so we’re hoping for a good run. We were disappointed obviously not to win at Gowran but the form has been franked (with runner-up Gentlemansgame winning the Charlie Hall Chase).
“With hindsight it was a good run and he will definitely improve fitness-wise.”
Minella Indo’s Punchestown victory was just his second since winning the 2021 Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
“Minella Indo was brilliant the last day and will also hopefully improve from his recent run. He was pretty good in Punchestown, we’re happy and hopefully he will also give a good account of himself,” said his trainer.
“He only had a couple of runs last season and the Gold Cup was obviously disappointing, but the day at Tramore was incredible.”