Tag Archive for: Delta Work

So close, but Elliott has to give best to Mullins again

Gordon Elliott again had to give best to the “thorn in his side” that is Willie Mullins, with Delta Work finding only I Am Maximus too good for Delta Work in the Randox Grand National at Aintree.

The two powerhouse trainers have long matched strides at the top of Irish racing, with Elliott having to settle for second in the Irish trainers’ championship on multiple occasions as well as on some of the biggest of British stages, including when Gerri Colombe chased home Galopin Des Champs in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Elliott fielded seven in his bid for a fourth Grand National following Silver Birch (2007) and dual hero Tiger Roll (2018 and 2019), with particularly high hopes for Delta Work who was having a third crack at the race having finished third in 2022 and unseated his rider last year.

But as has been the story for much of the season, Mullins was a cut above the rest, with I Am Maximus coming home seven and a half lengths ahead of Delta Work, with fellow Elliott runner Galvin a further length back in fourth.

While disappointed to be denied, Elliott hailed the both the efforts of his runners and the “exceptional” winner.

He said: “It just didn’t happen for us. No one remembers second, I don’t anyway.

“Delta Work was awesome and Galvin is a warrior, I’m so proud of him and I’m so lucky with the horses I have.

“Delta Work was flying come here and I thought this was his year. He ran his race and just got beat by a better horse, that’s it.

“The winner is exceptional and Willie Mullins remains a thorn in my side.”

Jack Kennedy was aboard Delta Work and added: “He ran a cracker, delighted with him. He made a couple of mistakes but travelled well and ran a great race.”

The gelding did not return to the winner’s enclosure and Elliott explained: “Delta Work didn’t come back in, but he’s fine, he just has a cut on a hind leg.”

Minella Indo (centre) had to settle for third
Minella Indo (centre) had to settle for third (Bradley Collyer/PA)

It briefly looked as though Rachael Blackmore was going to add a second National to her historic first win aboard Minella Times three years ago when Minella Indo jumped the last in front, but she was overhauled on the run to the line, eventually coming home third aboard the 2021 Gold Cup winner.

She said: “It was a massive run, he’s some horse. He gave me a great ride around there and I felt for a split second we were going to do it, but then I blinked and I could see the green and gold (colours of owner JP McManus) flash by me in a shot.

“He was in against younger legs, but it was a brilliant run and congratulations to Paul Townend, JP and Willie.”

Minella Indo’s trainer Henry de Bromhead admitted he believed another famous success could be on the cards – but he was nevertheless thrilled in defeat, with future plans for the 11-year-old yet to be discussed.

Henry de Bromhead was delighted with the performances of his two runners
Henry de Bromhead was delighted with the performances of his two runners (Mike Egerton/PA)

De Bromhead said: “He’s a warrior, isn’t he? Just brilliant. I’m delighted with him.

“I thought we were going to win it there for a second, he travelled so well for Rachael, she was brilliant and they were both brilliant together.

“To get horses like him is incredible, we’ve had so much fun with him.

“We’ll see about next year, we’ll enjoy today and see – he obviously owes us nothing and all we want to do is look after him. But I tell you what, the way he jumped round there he looked like he loved every minute of it.”

De Bromhead also saddled Ain’t That A Shame to finish sixth for amateur rider and owner David Maxwell, who purchased the horse last month specifically to ride in the National.

He added: “David gave Ain’t That A Shame a super ride, he was brilliant on him the whole way. I’m delighted for him as he got such a thrill from it.”

Maxwell thoroughly enjoyed his National spin and said: “That was as much fun as you can have with your trousers on!

“Crossing the Melling Road I couldn’t believe I was still in touch, but I could also see so many going well. It wasn’t like there was just the three of us travelling well. I thought ‘bloody hell, I’m going to finish the Grand National’, then I thought ‘I’m going to finish somewhere near the frame’. I’ve never thought it would go like this. It was such a thrill.

“Damn right I’ll be back here next year. The horse is going to have to run in the race until he is 15!”

I Am Maximus (centre) on his way to Aintree success
I Am Maximus (centre) on his way to Aintree success (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Kitty’s Light fared best of the numerically limited British-trained challenge among the 32 starters, coming home a 10-and-quarter-length fifth for trainer Christian Williams and jockey Jack Tudor.

Williams said: “He travelled and jumped so well, I thought we were the winners all the way. I’m immensely proud of him and those were graded horses in front of him at the finish, including a Gold Cup winner.

“I’m unsure where he will go, because I really wanted him to win the National, but we will probably look at Sandown (for the bet365 Gold Cup).”

Last year’s National winner Corach Rambler got no further than the first fence this time, with Derek Fox unseated on landing after the Lucinda Russell-trained runner had cleared the obstacle.

The horse carried on running loose with the field and fell at the next fence but was reported to have returned unscathed.

Russell said: “It was obviously disappointing what happened, but I was more worried when I saw him come down at the second. Thankfully he’s fine, no problems and the owners are just delighted that he has come home safe and sound.”

Navan warm-up on the agenda again for Delta Work

Delta Work is to follow a tried-and-tested route when he returns to the track in the William Hill Boyne Hurdle.

Gordon Elliott’s 11-year-old ran in the Navan Grade Two event last year, finishing sixth to Blazing Khal, before going on to successfully defend his cross country crown at the Cheltenham Festival and is set to make his first appearance since November in the two-mile-five-furlong event on February 11.

He has finished his campaign in the Grand National the past two seasons and all roads seem to lead to a third crack at the Aintree showpiece in April, having finished third behind Noble Yeats in 2022 before unseating Keith Donoghue when travelling kindly on the second circuit last year.

However, Delta Work will have his well-being to prove on his return to the track this time, having arrived home lame following an outing at Cheltenham earlier in the season.

“He was lame after Cheltenham and is OK again now,” said Eddie O’Leary of owners Gigginstown House Stud.

“The plan is to go Boyne Hurdle, Cross Country at Cheltenham and then Grand National.

“Everything is fine at the moment but he was sore after (his run at Cheltenham). Hopefully we see him at Navan.”

Cotswold Chase emerges as possible option for Gerri Colombe

Gerri Colombe will have Leopardstown or Cheltenham next on the agenda as Gordon Elliott eyes one more run before a shot at the Gold Cup in March.

Beaten only once in six starts over the larger obstacles, the stamina of Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old came to the fore when making a winning return at Down Royal earlier this month.

Now he has either the Savills Chase – the traditional Christmas destination for Ireland’s top staying chasers – or the Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day on January 27 as his big-race options in preparation for his main March objective.

Elliott said: “He’s in the Savills and that will be depending on ground. If the ground is safe he would go there, but if not he could go to Cheltenham at the end of January. We have all those options.

“He doesn’t actually mind nice ground, but you wouldn’t want to be chancing it at that time of year.”

On his Down Royal comeback, Elliott added: “He will have come on an awful lot for Down Royal. He’s only been back cantering since the middle of September and Jack (Kennedy) said he was proper blowing. There will be loads of improvement in him.

“I was impressed with him by the line, but my heart was in my mouth. Speaking to Jack after you would have to be happy. I suppose the one thing he has is the will to win. He wants to win and that is a great attribute to have, you know.”

Trainer Gordon Elliott has plenty of respect for Gentlemansgame
Trainer Gordon Elliott has plenty of respect for Gentlemansgame (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gerri Colombe finds himself as short of 7-2 for the Cheltenham blue riband with, a race where he could come up against Charlie Hall Chase winner Gentlemansgame who is also owned by Brian Acheson’s Robcour operation.

Although available at much bigger odds than Gerri Colombe, Elliott believes Mouse Morris’ charge warrants plenty of respect having claimed the scalp of Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame at Wetherby.

“I will worry about Gerri and Mouse will worry about Gentlemansgame,” added Elliott.

“He’s a good horse and I don’t think he’s getting the credit he deserves at the moment. For what he’s done on his third or fourth run over fences, I was impressed with him anyway.”

Conflated could try his hand over the cross-country fences at Cheltenham
Conflated could try his hand over the cross-country fences at Cheltenham (Niall Carson/PA)

It is still to be decided if Gerri Colombe will be joined by last year’s third Conflated in the Gold Cup in March, with Elliott toying with the idea of switching the Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old to the cross-country sphere.

“I imagine he will go Leopardstown (Savills Chase) and then we will decide whether we go Gold Cup or cross-country at Cheltenham,” said Elliott.

“We’ve schooled him to go cross-country. It didn’t surprise me (when third at Down Royal behind Gerri Colombe) and I knew there was more improvement to come from Punchestown, so it didn’t shock me. He’s a good horse, he was third in the Gold Cup last year.”

If heading down the cross-country route, Conflated would be adding to a strong hand Elliott possesses in a race he has dominated in recent years at the Cheltenham Festival.

He won it last year with Delta Work, with Galvin another of Elliott’s string poised to navigate the twists and turns of the cross-country track in March. However, the defending champion Delta Work finished lame when when reappearing at Prestbury Park last Friday.

“He’s lame, it’s nothing serious, but you can see that half way through the race his jumping went to pot,” said Elliott.

“We’ll get him back and train him for Cheltenham. He will probably go for a hurdle race in February and then onto Cheltenham for the cross-country race off level weights.”

Delta Work and Galvin clash again at Cheltenham

Connections of Delta Work believe the dual Festival hero has plenty on his plate as he goes in search of a third win around Cheltenham’s cross-country course in Friday’s Glenfarclas Handicap Chase.

The five-time Grade One winner was something of a pantomime villain when denying his stablemate Tiger Roll a fairytale farewell at Prestbury Park in 2022, but punters roared him home when he successfully defended his crown in March at the chief expense of another Elliott-trained runner in Galvin.

The Cullentra pair lock horns again in the Cotswolds on day one of the November meeting – but while their class came to the fore in a conditions race at the Festival, this contest is a handicap, meaning they will have to concede weight to the rest of the field.

Keith Donoghue and Delta Work after winning at the Festival in March
Keith Donoghue and Delta Work after winning at the Festival in March (Tim Goode/PA)

With 7lb-claiming amateur Rob James offsetting some of Galvin’s 12st burden, Delta Work will carry top-weight of 11st 13lb under Keith Donoghue – and that hefty load, combined with the rain-softened ground, means Gigginstown House Stud’s Eddie O’Leary is not overly optimistic.

He said: “As expected he’s carrying an awful lot of weight and it’s very hard to fancy him in that ground off that weight.

“We’d be hopeful more than confident, I’d say. There’s a big difference (with the weights) in March on March ground.”

Elliott’s duo are joined on the trip from Ireland by the Mouse Morris-trained Foxy Jacks and Gearoid O’Loughlin’s Whatsyourstatus, while the home team is headed by Martin Keighley’s Back On The Lash, who bids to win the race for a third time.

Back On The Lash (centre) winning at Cheltenham in January
Back On The Lash (centre) winning at Cheltenham in January (David Davies/PA)

The nine-year-old struck gold in 2021 and in last season’s renewal when it was run in January. He was subsequently pulled up behind Delta Work at the Festival and again failed to complete in the Grand National or on his recent reappearance at Exeter, but Keighley is hopeful of an improved performance.

“He schooled around there last week and he was really good,” he said.

“Obviously the two Gordon Elliott horses are going to be really hard to beat, but he loves it round there and it’d be great to see him bounce back to form. We could just do with not too much more rain.

“He needed that run (at Exeter), he seems in top form again now. He just comes alive around the cross-country jumps, he loves it round there as long as the ground is not too soft.

“He’s actually 2lb lower than when he last won it. He’s won this race the last two years, so hopefully he can make it a third.”

Diesel D’Allier has won at Cheltenham before
Diesel D’Allier has won at Cheltenham before (Mike Egerton/PA)

Diesel D’Allier finished third to Back On The Lash in 2021 before winning at the track the following month and finishing fourth to Delta Work in March.

His last two runs over the fences have not been so positive, but trainer Richard Bandey was encouraged by a comeback run over hurdles at Worcester last month.

He said: “He had a nice run over hurdles the other week, just as a prep run which he hasn’t had before, so it was good to get that into him.

“He’s in much better form than he was last year – we were always up against it last season with a few little issues, but we’ve had a much clearer run this year so hopefully he’ll give a good account of himself on Friday.

“It’s always going to be hard work with Delta Work and Galvin in there, but we’ll give it a go.”

Elliott: Conflated will benefit from reappearance run

Gordon Elliott expects Conflated to improve significantly for the run ahead of his reappearance in the Irish Daily Star – Best For Racing Coverage Chase at Punchestown on Wednesday.

The nine-year-old won the Irish Gold Cup and the Savills Chase at Leopardstown last year and finished an honourable third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

However, he has not been seen in competitive action since pulling up in the Aintree Bowl the following month, and Elliott admits there is plenty to work on in the fitness department.

Conflated is hosed down during a visit to Gordon Elliott’s yard
Conflated is hosed down during a visit to Gordon Elliott’s yard (Niall Carson/PA)

“Conflated is in good form, but will come on for the run,” said the Cullentra handler.

“He needed the run when starting off last season in Down Royal and will need the run even more this time. We need to get a run into him to see where we are with a view to going back to Down Royal again.”

Conflated is set to be joined by two stablemates in Delta Work and Hurricane Georgie.

Five-time Grade One winner Delta Work, who was last seen unseating his rider in the Grand National, has a third win in the Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as his primary target.

Delta Work after winning at last season's Cheltenham Festival
Delta Work after winning at last season’s Cheltenham Festival (Tim Goode/PA)

Elliott added: “Delta Work needs some rain overnight. We might tip away in a few cross-country races with him and head back to Cheltenham again.

“We’re trying to get some black type with Hurricane Georgie.”

The presence of Henry de Bromhead’s 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo adds further spice to the Grade Three contest, with Fighter Allen (Willie Mullins) and Panda Boy (Martin Brassil) completing the line-up.

Elliott looking to Delta to deliver fourth National success

Gordon Elliott is sweet on Delta Work as he goes in search of a joint-record fourth victory in Randox Grand National on Saturday.

The master of Cullentra was a fresh-faced and relatively unknown 29-year-old when first claiming the world’s most famous steeplechase with Silver Birch in 2007. But he is now very much established as one of National Hunt racing’s elite trainers.

Elliott has fond memories of that day 16 years ago, but does not believe Silver Birch’s triumph was a major factor in his meteoric rise through the ranks.

Gordon Elliott with Silver Birch
Gordon Elliott with Silver Birch (Niall Carson/PA)

“I didn’t get one horse out of training Silver Birch. I got my name out after that, but I had to prove I could go and train winners,” he said.

“We trained an awful of mid-range winners in the north of England after Silver Birch and that is what really got us going. That got a lot of owners on board to get us in a great position.”

Elliott was a household name by the time his second National winner came around, with the hugely-popular Tiger Roll striking gold in 2018.

Also a five-time winner at the Cheltenham Festival, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding became an Aintree legend by making it back-to-back victories in 2019.

Those triumphs have put Elliott on the verge of joining George Dockeray, Fred Rimell and Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain as a four-time winner.

Elliott added: “The Grand National has been a special race to me and I have won it three times. Obviously, I would love to win it again. Hopefully, I have at least another 20 or 30 years of my training career left, so hopefully it will happen at some stage.

“I rode around Aintree a few times and broke my arm the last time I rode there on a horse called Sheltering for Edward O’Grady (in the 2003 Fox Hunters’ Chase).

“I didn’t have much luck there as a rider, but I was just an ordinary amateur and enjoyed it. I like training a lot more.”

The shortest-priced of Elliott’s five-strong team is Delta Work, who denied Tiger Roll the fairytale ending to his career in the cross-country chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival before finishing third in the Grand National.

The 10-year-old successfully defended his crown at Cheltenham last month and Elliott is confident he will be in the thick of the action again on his return to Aintree.

He said: “If I had to pick a horse to ride this year, it would be Delta Work. He got a little bit far back early last year, but ran a very good race.

“He was a bit careful, but he is in great form now and we couldn’t be happier with him.”

Elliott’s second string appears to be Galvin, who was runner-up to Delta Work at Cheltenham just over four weeks ago and will be ridden by Davy Russell, who steered Tiger Roll to his two National wins.

Russell came out of retirement to stand in for the sidelined Jack Kennedy earlier in the season and it would be a fitting end to his riding career if he can go out on a blaze of glory.

Galvin will be ridden by Davy Russell
Galvin will be ridden by Davy Russell (Donall Farmer/PA)

Elliott, who also runs Dunboyne (Jack Tudor), Fury Road (Jonjo O’Neill Jnr) and Coko Beach (Harry Cobden), added: “With Galvin, the drier the ground, the better chance he has.

“He will have come on a lot from Cheltenham and is in good form. We are very, very happy with him.”

The horse bidding to emulate Tiger Roll by securing back-to-back Grand National wins is the Emmet Mullins-trained Noble Yeats.

The eight-year-old gave distinguished amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen the perfect send-off last year, returning to Aintree to win the Many Clouds Chase in December before finishing third and fourth in the Cotswold Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup respectively.

Mullins is hoping Sean Bowen can repeat Waley-Cohen’s tactics from 12 months ago, saying: “He was last over the first last time. He wasn’t in contention for the first two miles, but it all worked out in his favour.

Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen winning last year's Grand National
Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen winning last year’s Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“There’s no rule of thumb for it, it’s just getting the horse happy and confident in a bit of space and running into the gaps. It’ll probably have to be the brave man’s route to get that space. He negotiated it last year and fingers crossed he can do it again.

“I think he’s getting a bit wiser every time and looking after himself a bit more. He’s just holding a bit back for himself, but hopefully we can get it out of him.

“Just a bit of space is ideal for him, it’s going to be hard in a National with 40 runners but I suppose I’ll just keep telling Sean to go back and look at Sam’s ride last year.”

In a market otherwise dominated by the Irish, the clear outlier is Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler.

It is six years since Russell’s One For Arthur became only the second Scottish-trained winner of the Aintree showpiece, after Rubstic in 1979, and there is no doubt her latest contender has a lot going for him.

Corach Rambler lines up officially 10lb well-in at the weights, with the handicapper unable to penalise him for his successful defence of the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival last month, and his trainer feels he provides her with a “fantastic chance” of bagging a second National.

“It was funny really because going in I didn’t expect to win at Cheltenham at all, I certainly didn’t expect him to win as he did,” said the Kinross handler.

“We knew that he had improved this season and before the race we knew that he had improved, so it was exciting to see him be able to go on and win like that. But the slightly scary thing is, I think he has improved again.

“Scu (Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner) rode him just afterwards and he said that he had come out of that race so well. So if he can do (improve again), Aintree is the race for him.”

Stamina is Corach Rambler’s strong suit and with just 10st 5lb on his back, and One For Arthur’s rider Derek Fox set to return from injury just in time to take the ride, everything points to a huge run.

“Technically, if you look at it, he is extremely well in on the handicap,” Russell added.

“He’s gone up in the weights since Cheltenham and I think he has improved as well. From that point of view, technically, I think has got a fantastic chance.

“He has to take to the fences, he has to take to the whole Aintree experience, but again I am pretty confident that he will do that.”

Elliott keen on ‘one last hurrah’ at Aintree for Russell with Galvin

Gordon Elliott would love to give Davy Russell the chance of a fitting finale to his career at Aintree, with the ride on Galvin in the Randox Grand National reserved for the veteran jockey should he opt to take it.

Russell had retired from the weighing room in December, but answered an SOS from Cullentra House to return to the riding ranks when stable number one Jack Kennedy suffered a broken leg in January.

The 43-year-old was thrust straight into big-race action and scooped Grade One honours aboard Mighty Potter at the Dublin Racing Festival. But he endured a frustrating week at the Cheltenham Festival, failing to get on the scoreboard and standing himself down ahead of his intended ride on Conflated in them Gold Cup.

Elliott believes that would be the wrong way for Russell to bow out and feels Aintree is the perfect spot for the man who partnered Tiger Roll to back-to-back triumphs in the world’s most famous steeplechase to take his curtain call.

Davy Russell celebrates National glory with Tiger Roll
Davy Russell celebrates National glory with Tiger Roll (Mike Egerton/PA)

“If Galvin is there, it is Davy’s ride if he wants it,” said Elliott.

“I suppose it all depends on if Jack gets back, but Davy has been a big part of Cullentra since I started training and he’s coming to the end of his days. I wouldn’t like to see him finish up on the note he finished on at Cheltenham.

“He was sore after Cheltenham and he made the decision he didn’t feel 100 per cent right to ride in the Gold Cup. It was a big call, but that is the man he is – he would never do wrong by the horse and the owners.

“Obviously he was very sore and made the right decision not to ride on, but I would like to give him a better send-off than that. I don’t think there would be any better way for him to finish off than in the National.

Davy Russell celebrates with owner Ronnie Bartlett after winning the Savills Chase on board Galvin at Leopardstown
Davy Russell celebrates with owner Ronnie Bartlett after winning the Savills Chase on board Galvin at Leopardstown (Donall Farmer/PA)

“If Jack doesn’t come back there will be plenty of other rides for him at the meeting, but I’m not 100 per cent sure what he is going to do.

“I would like to see one last hurrah for him at Aintree. It’s him and that’s the type of jockey he is – you saw at the Dublin Racing Festival, up until he got the fall that he was riding like a man in his 20s.

“I think, for Davy Russell and for the whole of horse racing, he deserves a better send-off than if he finished at Cheltenham.”

As well as Kennedy and Russell’s injury absence, Elliott’s other regular pilots Jordan Gainford and Sam Ewing have also been on the sidelines, with the latter suffering a broken arm last month.

Trainer Gordon Elliott could run up to six in the Randox Grand National at Aintree
Trainer Gordon Elliott could run up to six in the Randox Grand National at Aintree (Mike Egerton/PA)

However, the trainer is not worrying about jockey plans for Aintree, where he could have six runners in the big race itself.

He said: “Jack Kennedy is number one jockey here and I would hope we have him back.

“If we don’t have him back, we will work from the top down and use the best available. That’s where we are.”

Elliott’s National squad is spearheaded by last year’s third Delta Work, while Galvin will also head to Merseyside with leading claims following his pleasing reappearance behind his stablemate in the cross-country at Cheltenham.

Delta Work at Gordon Elliott's yard on Wednesday morning
Delta Work at Gordon Elliott’s yard on Wednesday morning (PA)

“Delta Work was third in the race last year, he got a little bit far back early but ran a very good race,” continued Elliott.

“He was a little careful early but he’s in great form and I couldn’t be happier with him, he’s working very well.

“Galvin – the drier the ground, the better a chance he has. He will have come on a lot from Cheltenham, he’s in good form and I’m very happy with him.”

Others set to represent the three-time Grand National-winning handler in the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile contest include Punchestown Grand National Trial winner Coko Beach, the classy Fury Road, last year’s ninth Escaria Ten and Dunboyne, who was a staying-on third in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival.

Coko Beach in action during the Randox Grand National last year
Coko Beach in action during the Randox Grand National last year (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Coko ran very well in the race last year and finished eighth. He won the Grand National Trial at Punchestown,” said Elliott.

“For Fury Road it is the first time stepping up to this trip. He’s a Grade One horse and a classy horse. Again a bit of nice ground would suit him, but he’s in very, very good form.

“Escaria Ten travelled well for a long way last year but just didn’t get home. We’re going to drop him in and take our time with him, ride him a little bit different this year.

“Dunboyne gets in off 10st. He’s going to wear blinkers and stays really well. If he gets into a rhythm and doesn’t get too far back early, he will come home strong.”

No National tilt for Conflated this year, with Bowl the plan at Aintree

Conflated will attempt to go one place better than last year’s second in the Aintree Bowl following his fine performance to finish third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Taking part in the blue riband for the first time, Gordon Elliott’s Irish Gold Cup and Savills Chase hero ran a stormer in the hands of Sam Ewing – still well in the mix at two out and only giving way to the high-class front two of Galopin Des Champs and Bravemansgame in the closing stages.

The nine-year-old holds an entry for the Randox Grand National on April 15 with his Cullentra House handler stating he would love to have a crack at the £500,000 contest with what he believes is “one of the best-handicapped horses in the race.”

However, owners Gigginstown House Stud are preferring to hold fire on a National tilt for this year in favour of another attempt at the opening day three-mile Grade One in which Conflated finished a length second to Clan Des Obeaux 12 months ago.

“It was a fantastic run (in the Gold Cup), we were thrilled with the performance and it was a great ride,” said Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O’Leary.

“He’s a very nice horse and two very good horses beat us. But we know we have a nice horse and we’ll enjoy him while he’s around.”

When asked about the possibility of running in the National, he added: “I would say maybe next year and this year all being well he will go back to Aintree for the Bowl.

“I know Gordon says he’s well handicapped and he may well be, but if he goes back to the Bowl, hopefully we won’t meet the Gold cup first or second there. He’s better going left-handed so we would rather go to Aintree than Punchestown.”

Conflated may have to bide his time to represent the leading owners in the world’s most famous steeplechase, but one assured of his place on the teamsheet is last year’s third Delta Work.

Cheltenham Festival 2023 – Festival Wednesday – Cheltenham Racecourse
Delta Work ridden by jockey Keith Donoghue on their way to winning the Glenfarclas Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival (Tim Goode/PA)

He was sent off at 10-1 in last year’s race and despite being slowly away, took well to the challenge and was smuggled into the race under a patient ride from Jack Kennedy to stay on for a place on the podium.

The 10-year-old will now return to Merseyside off a 1lb lower mark and with one of his spring targets already secured, having defended his Glenfarclas Chase title at the Cheltenham Festival.

“The plan all year was the cross-country and then Grand National,” continued O’Leary.

“They were his two main targets and he’s got one in the bank. Now we’ll have a go at the second one all going well and as long as Gordon is happy.

“He missed the start last year which is really important for him as he doesn’t like horses around him. He had a ruck of horses around him, but ran a fantastic race to be third and hopefully he will get away better this year and give himself a chance.”

Delta Work edges Galvin in Elliott cross-country domination

Delta Work defended his Glenfarclas Chase title as Gordon Elliott won the Cheltenham Festival cross-country feature for the fifth time in seven years.

Last year Delta Work had to play the role of pantomime villain as he spoiled the retirement party of Tiger Roll by edging out the dual Grand National winner in a thriller.

But this time around he was the people’s favourite, with the 10-year-old was sent off the heavily-backed 11-10 market leader.

Kept in the perfect place throughout by Keith Donoghue, he edged his way to the lead shortly after jumping the Aintree fence for the final time.

Delta Work was soon joined at the head of proceedings by stablemate and 11-4 second-favourite Galvin and it was soon obvious the classy Elliott duo were the only ones with a real chance of taking home the first prize.

Matching strides approaching the last, Donoghue always looked to be holding on to that little bit more than Davy Russell aboard Galvin and so it proved in the closing stages as Delta Work came home with a two-and-a-half-length advantage.

Donoghue was picking up his fourth victory in the race having steered Tiger Roll to success in 2018, 19 and 21, while both the winner and runner-up will now head to Aintree for the Randox Grand National.

Betfair make Delta Work 14-1 from 20-1, while Galvin is 16-1 from 25s for success in Liverpool on April 15.

Elliott said: “I love the cross-country race. It was great to have the one-two and see Galvin run a great race because he will come on for it.

Keith Donoghue returns in victory
Keith Donoghue returns in victory (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’m pleased for Keith who is having his best ever season, but Jack (Kennedy, injured stable jockey) is a team player and he’s here lending his support. Jack will be back on these horses when he’s passed fit to return.

“Both horses will now go for the Grand National.”

He added: “I hoped it would be Delta’s day, to be honest, but really I don’t care what wins as I just love having winners.”

Successful owner Michael O’Leary said: “He has been a great horse around Cheltenham. He won a Pertemps here one year and that is his second cross-country chase win and it is wonderful to have a winner around here. It is a great training performance by Gordon to win that race again.

“Every winner at the Festival is a big winner. It is so hard to win races here. Gordon and the team at Cullentra (House) are one of the top teams and we are privileged to have days like this and winners like Delta.

“I was devastated 12 months ago (after beating Tiger Roll) and I was like ‘kick him out’ (said tongue in cheek), but now I’m very grateful. I thought Galvin was going easier and Davy was tracking us the whole way. Galvin is a very good horse and he is owned by Ronnie Bartlett, who is a very good friend of mine, and if it wasn’t going to be won by us I would have liked to have seen Ronnie win it as at least it was going to stay at Gordon’s.

“I used to be the most critical of this cros-country race and why do we bother. When you are struggling for a winner at Cheltenham I will take the cross-country, the Martin Pipe, anything at all. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, but a winner at the Festival is a winner.

“Some horses take to it and some don’t. Tiger took to it and Delta has taken to it well again. It (the National) will be on the agenda, but I have won the Grand National three times already and no owner I think has won it more than three times so I’ve had my fill.

“He will go to Aintree, but will he win, no he won’t.”

Delta Work tops 20 in the running for Glenfarclas gold

Defending champion Delta Work heads 20 entries for the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross country course at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 10-year-old gave Gordon Elliott his fourth win in the race 12 months ago when playing the role of pantomime villain and spoiling the retirement party of five-time Festival winner Tiger Roll.

He went on to finish second in the Grand National and connections are treading the same path once again with the son of Network, who is the general even-money favourite for his return to Prestbury Park.

“Two weeks is a long time in racing, but hopefully he gets there in piece,” said Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud.

“The plan is to go there then Aintree. He’s all grand this year and if the next two weeks go well, then all systems are go.

“Last year was brilliant and just goes to show racing is fair and above board. We would have all loved Tiger to have won, but Delta had to work too.

“He’s a brilliant horse and he seems to enjoy this test, especially the Cheltenham cross country, and it’s fantastic to have those races available to put a smile on these older horses’ faces.”

Gordon Elliott Stable Visit – Longwood
Gordon Elliott with Delta Work at his yard at Longwood in County Meath, Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

Delta Work is joined in the list of potential starters by stablemate and last year’s Gold Cup fourth Galvin, while Snow Leopardess and Trials Day one-two Back On The Lash and Deise Aba are other names of note.

However, there will be no French challenge this year with the connections of Hip Hop Conti and Galcoflaur both electing to stay at home.

Willie Mullins boasts 14 of the 44 entries for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, although there is no place for his recent Punchestown scorer Ballyburn – who was as short as 7-1 in places for the closing race on day two of the Festival.

The Closutton battalion is led by ante-post favourite It’s For Me, while the hand of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede is bolstered by stablemate and Leopardstown scorer Fun Fun Fun, with the mare also high up in the betting.

The JP McManus-owned Fact To File went close when second in a bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival and is another possible for the Mullins teamsheet, although the fly in the ointment could well be the unbeaten A Dream To Share, who quickened the best part of three lengths clear of Fact To File to claim Grade Two honours at Leopardstown.

The John Kiely-trained five-year-old was quickly snapped up by McManus in the aftermath of that contest and his racing manager Frank Berry is hopeful the green and gold will have strong representation at Cheltenham.

He said: “They are both in good form at the minute and their trainers are very happy with them. The intention is they will both run.

“Time will tell how the Leopardstown race works out, but it looked a competitive race on the day and both horses performed well with the winner quickening up nicely. Hopefully if they both get a clear run, they will both turn up there (Cheltenham).”

Billaway made it third time lucky in the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase when edging out Winged Leader 12 months ago and both feature amongst the 35 entries for the amateur jockeys’ contest.

Elliott backs Delta Work to lead his Aintree charge

Delta Work – the horse who foiled Tiger Roll’s fairytale farewell at Cheltenham last season – appears to be Gordon Elliott’s main fancy as the trainer seeks a fourth success in the Randox Grand National.

Third to Noble Yeats last April having narrowly played the role of party pooper against his then stablemate in the cross-country chase, the 10-year-old will be heading to Liverpool with experience under his belt this season.

Having run a fine race over the cross-country course in January, he had a spin over hurdles last time out at Navan when sixth to Blazing Khal and he has been allotted 11st 4lb.

“This has been the plan all season. He has a nice weight for the race and I’m happy with that,” said Elliott.

“We just switched him back to hurdles on his last start to sharpen him up a bit as he had gone a little bit rusty. It was a race we had run Tiger Roll in before he went to Cheltenham and then on to Aintree.

“I thought he ran very well in the National last season behind Noble Yeats. He got a little bit far back early on and he had lots to do. Having had that experience over the fences, we go back there with plenty of confidence and we are looking forward to it.”

Coko Beach (11st) bounced back to form at Punchestown last week in a Grand National Trial but, unfortunately for him, the handicapper had time to reassess the winner of that race this year.

Elliott said: “It was a great run to win the Grand National Trial at Punchestown on Sunday. He jumps great and he enjoyed the ground. He will definitely run in the race.

Coko Beach catapulted himself in the Grand National picture on Sunday
Coko Beach catapulted himself in the Grand National picture on Sunday (Niall Carson/PA)

“I thought it was a good run in the race last year when he finished eighth and he is another we are looking forward to taking back over again.”

Galvin (11st 11lb) has not been at his best so far this term but still finds himself towards the head of the weights.

“He started off the season very well winning a Grade Three at Punchestown but his form has just tapered off a bit. He has just had a little procedure done on his back and he is back working well,” said Elliott.

“The plan is to run him in the cross-country race at Cheltenham then on the National. We sort of thought last season that he could be one for the National as we thought he was probably just lacking a gear for races like the Gold Cup and those sort of Grade One races.

“He seems in good form and we are looking forward to running him in the National. I think he will be fine over the fences.”

Conflated is likely to wait until next year's Grand National
Conflated is likely to wait until next year’s Grand National (Niall Carson/PA)

Conflated (11st 12lb) is joint top-weight along with Any Second Now and Hewick, with Elliott feeling he may be more one for next year with the Gold Cup his main aim this season.

“He will go to Cheltenham first for the Gold Cup and we will see from there whether he will be one for the Grand National this season or next season,” said Elliott.

“He would be a very classy horse to have in the race. I could see him being a horse for the National, but it might be a year too early to run him in the race.”

Ryanair Chase-bound Fury Road (11st 6lb) is another unlikely to run.

“He will probably be a doubtful runner I would say at the moment. We will probably just go for the Ryanair and see after that,” said Elliott.

Pencilfulloflead (10st 12lb) is a possible, though, having finished third in the Thyestes last time out.

“He is a good horse and has a lovely weight on his back. He ran very well in the Thyestes the last day. He is good now, but we just had a few issues with him early on,” said Elliott.

“He is sound now and is in good form. He is on the right side of the 11st mark and is exactly in the sort of place where we want to be in the race. He should enjoy a test like this.”

Farclas (10st 10lb), fifth in 2021 as a seven-year-old, is another in the mix.

Elliott said: “He ran well in the race in 2021 when he finished fifth. The plan was to go there again last year but he got a little setback. He has a lovely weight on his back and all being well, he will go back there this year.”

Of Escaria Ten (10st 10lb), ninth last year, Elliott felt he had a nice weight but failed to see the trip out last season while Dunboyne, second in the Thyestes, would be an ideal type for the race but with only 10st, he might not make the cut.

Battleoverdoyen and Death Duty could also take their chances but Elliott feels Ash Tree Meadow will be better off waiting for next year, while Defi Bleu, Gevrey, Milan Native, Punitive, Fakiera and Mortal are unlikely to get in.

Back On The Lash back in front in Cheltenham cross country

Back On The Lash defended his Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase as Festival hero Delta Work had to settle for third at Cheltenham.

Delta Work was the villain of the piece at Prestbury Park in March when defeating Tiger Roll in the dual Grand National winner’s final outing, and Gordon Elliott’s veteran was sent off the 5-2 favourite for handicap action on this occasion.

However, the task of conceding weight to all but one of his 15 rivals took its toll and allowed Martin Keighley’s charge to taste success over the cross-country circuit for a second time.

Back On The Lash ridden by Sean Bowen (centre) clears a fence before going on to win the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase during Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham Racecourse
Back On The Lash ridden by Sean Bowen (centre) clears a fence before going on to win the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase during Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham Racecourse (David Davies/PA)

Sean Bowen expertly navigated the unique course in the centre of the track to bring the 6-1 shot home three-quarters of a length in front of Deise Aba.

Coral went 16-1 for the nine-year-old to thrive again at the Festival in March, with Betfair 20-1.

Keighley said: “He loves it here, doesn’t he? If anything Sean got there too soon! It was a great ride.

“We were so gutted to lose the first two races around here this season, he ran a good solid race here at the November meeting (when third in the Jewson Handicap Chase) and we’ve just kept him for this race since.

“It’s worked out well and we’ll keep him nice and fresh now and come back for the Festival. It will be level weights there, but he seems to be improving for every run around here and hopefully he can still be in the mix.

“Delta Work ran a good race in third and we were getting just over a stone today, so he’s going to have to improve again in March. Today the ground was probably a bit too good for him so hopefully we’ll get faster ground and we’ll see how it goes.

“We love having winners here, all the locals love a local winner so it makes for a really good atmosphere. Harry (Redknapp, joint-owner) is down in London today opening something, so he’s gutted he can’t be here!”

Philip Hobbs, trainer of Deise Aba, said: “He has run great and jumped beautifully.

“Unfortunately at the second-last he was a bit slow and lost some momentum at it, but he has run really well. It maybe cost him first place, but I’m not totally sure that it did.

“We might come back here for the Festival, but that is off level weights and will be a different job.”

Delta Work (right) in action
Delta Work (right) in action (David Davies/PA)

Gordon Elliott, meanwhile, saw plenty of positives in the effort of Delta Work.

He said: “I’m delighted with the run. He gave the winner and the second horse a lot of weight and we knew there would be plenty of improvement after today. He has only had one run over the banks around here so that is why we wanted to get more experience into him.

“I’m looking forward to coming back here off level weights. That will be his Gold Cup when he comes back here for the Festival. If you look there how he jumped the second-last and last you can see he just needed that bit more experience of the track so that will do him no harm. He galloped all the way to the line so we are very happy.”