Gordon Elliott has stressed “everything is open” for Gerri Colombe as bookmakers took evasive action anticipating a Boxing Day appearance in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
Following his winning return at Down Royal, Elliott had mentioned Leopardstown’s festive feature, the Savills Chase, or the Cotswold Chase on Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day card would be the destination for the next step on the seven-year-old’s path to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
But with both defending champion Bravemansgame and Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin fluffing their lines at Haydock and Ascot respectively over the weekend, the Cullentra House handler sent the King George market spinning when briefly suggesting a trip to Kempton was possible in an interview following the victory of Imagine at Punchestown on Sunday.
Gerri Colombe has since attracted significant support in the King George market, usurping Bravemansgame as the favourite with some layers.
However, speaking to the PA news agency on Monday, Elliott confirmed no decision has been made yet, with conditions nearer the time set to determine Gerri Colombe’s next move.
“Everything is still kind of up in the air and everything is open,” said Elliott.
“We’ve got the King George, Leopardstown and the race at Cheltenham. There’s no decision made, we will just wait to see what the ground is and make a decision nearer the time.
“We won’t know for two weeks what we are doing.”
When asked if the drama-filled events over the weekend make saddling a first King George runner since Don Cossack in 2015 more tempting, Elliott added: “To be honest, I just worry about my own horse, I don’t worry about anyone else.”
Don Cossack was a late faller when sent off 15-8 favourite for Kempton’s Christmas showpiece that year, before going on to taste Gold Cup glory the following March.
And the Robcour-owned Gerri Colombe is also currently disputing favouritism with Willie Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs at the head of the Gold Cup betting.
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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.”
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.”
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.”
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Gerri Colombe galloped to a dogged success in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Gordon Elliott’s gelding was one of a top-class field of four contesting the Grade One, with Elliott and Henry de Bromhead each responsible for two horses.
The quartet travelled as a group for much of the race and turning for home any one of them could have gone on to win, though Minella Indo was the first to fold and Gerri Colombe switched sharply from one side of the track to the other.
Conflated and Envoi Allen were left to jump the last in unison and it looked as though the latter horse may have the advantage, but Gerri Colombe was steadily gaining ground on the outside and just got his head in front to prevail under Jack Kennedy as the 4-7 favourite.
Elliott said: “We were delighted with him – we knew there would be improvement in him today, his first run in open company.
“As Brian (Acheson, of owner Robcour) said, he only came back in on September 19, so there’s loads of improvement.
“We’ll have one run now and then the Gold Cup. He showed that he is in the mix now for the Gold Cup, he stays very well and that’s what you need.
“I was delighted that he settled into a rhythm, the other horse (Conflated) was going a bit left and was taking Jack’s horse’s eye off the fence a bit. I was a bit worried the whole way because Conflated does go left, but I did tell Jack to give him a bit of light and get him into a rhythm.
“Jack said he was a bit rusty early, but I thought he was pretty much foot-perfect apart from one for a novice stepping into open company. The sky is the limit.
“He’s a great horse because he shows you absolutely nothing at home – he’s very laid-back, he’s a gentleman.”
Gerri Colombe has suffered just one defeat under rules, when edged out in last season’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Elliott added: “We were all gutted coming out of Cheltenham last year, it just didn’t happen for us on the day but, in fairness to Brian, he said ‘we will be back here in 12 months time’.
“Willie’s horse (Mullins, Galopin Des Champs) is very, very good but this horse has a great attitude and, as I said, he is only back in eight weeks. That’s why I think three miles and two furlongs is going to suit him perfectly.”
Gerri Colombe was cut from 6-1 to 5-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with bookmakers Coral, but Acheson intends to cross that bridge when he comes to it in March.
“I thought he was beaten three or four times over,” he said.
“In March we have to come up against the best horse, I think, since Kauto Star in Galopin (Des Champs) and a lot of water under the bridge until then. He (Galopin Des Champs) is a rocket.
“Let’s try to get to March first and then we’ll worry about it.
“It’s great for your man (Elliott), he always said ‘we will be fine for Down Royal’.
“The horse is back in eight weeks and he was in Puppy (Robbie) Power’s for six weeks doing dressage and stuff like that. That horse will come on plenty from that.”
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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.”
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Gerri Colombe will have to wait an extra week to start out on the Cheltenham Gold Cup trail after Down Royal’s two-day meeting on Friday and Saturday was postponed by seven days to now take place on November 10 and November 11.
Gordon Elliott’s talented stayer is the second-favourite for Gold Cup glory following a fine novice chase campaign last term and was due to step into open company in the feature Ladbrokes Champion Chase, where rivals could have included established stars Conflated, Envoi Allen and Minella Indo.
However, with Down Royal currently unraceable, the decision has been made to shift the whole meeting back in the calendar with fresh entries for the meeting set to close on Monday and Tuesday.
Down Royal clerk Tracey O’Meara said: “We have just taken another look at the track and consulted with the River Agencies within the locality. The situation here is that we’ve been informed the River Lagan will continue to rise over the next 48 hours which will not enable the standing water on the course to subside.
“We were hoping for a more positive outcome when we started work on the track this morning to remove the water, but the situation with the River Lagan leaves us with no option but to make the difficult decision to cancel both Friday and Saturday as the track will simply not be ready in time.
“We were giving the meeting every chance but have made the decision at the earliest possible opportunity with the industry and public in mind. We are pleased to say that everyone is in a position to reschedule the fixtures for Friday 10 and Saturday 11 of November and the forecast into next week looks to be more favourable. Fresh entries will close on Monday for Friday and Tuesday for Saturday.”
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Gerri Colombe will lead a strong team for Gordon Elliott in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
While the seven-year-old lost his unbeaten record at the Cheltenham Festival in March when beaten a short head by The Real Whacker, he gained some compensation in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree.
That victory took his record under rules to eight wins from nine outings, with three victories at the top level already.
Elliott has already stated this season is all about the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he feels this is the perfect starting point.
Stablemates Conflated and Delta Work are also likely to take their chance, with only six left in contention at Tuesday’s confirmation stage.
“We’ll definitely run two or three in it. It’s a Grade One race and you’ve got to support these races,” Elliott told the track.
“We’ll run Conflated, a Grade One winner last year, Gerri Colombe who did nothing wrong last year and we’ll probably run maybe Delta Work as well.
“It’s Gerri’s first run of the season, Cheltenham is the plan and we’re planning on maybe two runs before it. This looks the ideal one to start off in.”
Elliott also Galway Plate winner Ash Tree Meadow in contention.
A former Elliott inmate, Envoi Allen, now with Henry de Bromhead is a possible as is his stablemate, the 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.
He made a winning return to action at Punchestown recently where he had Delta Work and Conflated behind him.
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Gerri Colombe put a narrow Cheltenham Festival reverse behind him with a dominant victory in the Air Charter Service Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree under Davy Russell.
The Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old won two bumpers, two novices hurdles and his first three starts over fences, ensuring he was a hot favourite to maintain his unbeaten record in last month’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in the Cotswolds.
Gerri Colombe came off second-best in a titanic tussle with The Real Whacker at Cheltenham, going down by a short head, and was a 4-6 shot to reward those who kept the faith.
And anyone who took the cramped odds will have had few concerns for the duration of the extended three-mile contest, with Elliott’s charge travelling as smooth as silk for much of the way and moving ominously into the slipstream of Galia Des Liteaux early in the home straight.
Once asked to go about his business, Gerri Colombe readily extended clear and Russell saluted the crowd as his mount passed the post with seven and a half lengths in hand over the Paul Nicholls-trained Complete Unknown.
It was a notable success for the veteran rider, who called time on his glittering career in December only to return in the new year to fill in for the sidelined Jack Kennedy.
Russell endured a frustrating week at Cheltenham, standing himself down before he was due to take the ride on Elliott’s Conflated in the Gold Cup, but thrust himself back into the big-race spotlight aboard the exciting Gerri Colombe, who looks a Gold Cup horse in the making.
Of going on to Aintree, Russell said: “Gordon was the instigator. I was finished and he wasn’t happy with me finishing the way I finished. I was done, I was finished – again! And he wasn’t happy with the way the ending was and he said he wanted me to ride here.
“That’s great. All your life you’re trying to please trainers and owners, put yourself out there and let them know you’re the person for the job.
“It’s a tough sport, there are no pats on the back at all – you’re up, you’re down, you’re in, you’re out. You never get a pat on the back, you just have to keep moving on to the next day. When someone as high-profile as Gordon gives you a pat on the back or kick in the backside that you need, that’s the part of your career you have you make it work.
“I’m lucky that for the last couple of years Gordon has been behind me all the way, and his huge team of staff.”
Elliott was delighted to gain compensation for the Gerri Colombe’s Cheltenham defeat.
He said: “He’s a good horse. We were disappointed after Cheltenham. We felt he was the best horse in the race and that proved it today.
“He’s a horse to be excited about next year.”
Owner Brian Acheson felt The Real Whacker was a deserved victor last month, but is keen to see what the future holds for Gerri Colombe,
He said: “The one thing I will say, on the day at Cheltenham I felt the best horse won on the day, he jumped better than us and Sam (Twiston-Davies) got a great tune out of him.
“He’s come back and won today, let’s see where he goes from there.
“In fairness to Jordan (Gainford, jockey) at Cheltenham, he was possibly a bit intimidated by the new whip rules. He’s Jordan’s ride if Jack isn’t there and Davy retires. but I just think it possibly caught him out, but on the day at Cheltenham the best horse won, The Real Whacker is a very good horse.
“Every day is a learning day with him, he’s won eight out of nine now. I read somewhere today someone said he was unreliable, well I wouldn’t mind a few more unreliable types.
“The ground today was the same as Sandown, he doesn’t need it very soft.”
Nicholls was more than satisfied with Complete Unknown and expects him to be a stayer next term.
He said: “The track didn’t suit us that well and he was a bit flat out. But I loved the way he galloped all the way to the line. Races like the Welsh National and the Hennessy should be just the job for him next season.”
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Gordon Elliott is confident Conflated is “in the mix” for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup after deciding against bidding for back-to-back victories in Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last weekend.
The nine-year-old was a surprise winner of the Dublin Racing Festival feature 12 months ago, but proved that was no fluke by running well before falling in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham before pushing Clan Des Obeaux close in the Aintree Bowl.
Following a promising comeback run at Down Royal in the autumn, Conflated dominated Leopardstown’s Savills Chase over the Christmas period, but Elliott elected to keep his powder dry for the blue riband in the Cotswolds next month.
Speaking at a press event at his County Meath yard on Tuesday morning, the Cullentra handler admitted he was heartened to see Fury Road – third behind Conflated over the festive period – finish a similar distance behind Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs when third again on Saturday.
“We decided not to run him in the Irish Gold Cup and he’ll go to Cheltenham fresh and well,” he said.
“I suppose the fact that Fury Road led over the last the other day would give me hope that Conflated could run a good race in Cheltenham.
“I probably ran him in the wrong race last year going for the Ryanair. The way he ran in Aintree last season and the way he ran in Leopardstown the last day, I think the Gold Cup will suit him.”
The Willie Mullins-trained Galopin Des Champs strengthened his position at the head of the Gold Cup market with an eight-length verdict at Leopardstown – and while not everyone was blown away by the performance, Elliott expects him to prove a tough nut to crack.
He added: “Galopin Des Champs sets the standard and he’s the horse we all have to beat, but I think we’re in the mix.
“When you look at the re-run, I thought Galopin Des Champs was probably more impressive than when you watched it the first time. Paul (Townend) had him asleep and it probably took him a bit to wake him up, but he galloped from the last to the line well.
“I just worry about my own horse, but I wouldn’t mind having him!”
Conflated will be part of another formidable team Elliott is preparing to send to Prestbury Park in less than five weeks’ time, with his novice chasing squad particularly strong.
He houses the ante-post favourite for the three-mile Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in Saturday’s Scilly Isles victor Gerri Colombe, while Mighty Potter is cramped odds for the Turners’ Novices’ Chase after bagging his fourth Grade One win at Leopardstown on Sunday.
“Over two and a half miles softer ground would suit Gerri Colombe, but he’s not a mud lark and is not as slow as you’d think – he’s just so relaxed,” said Elliott.
“I’d say over three miles plus in the Brown Advisory he’ll be fine on better ground and I think the further he goes the better he’ll be.
“He’s a very unassuming horse who doesn’t do anything exciting at home, but he knows how to win.
“He’s so relaxed and I think the Brown Advisory is made for him.
“Mighty Potter is probably relaxing more with racing. He jumped great the other day and it was only when you watch the re-run of the race that you realise how good he was,” said Elliott.
“He’s an unassuming type of horse and it wouldn’t worry me to come back to two miles, but at the moment we’re going for the middle-distance race.
“Envoi Allen was the real thing and there was Samcro and Don Cossack. We’ve had a few nice novice chasers, but I’d say he could be bang up there.”
Teahupoo is a major hope for the Elliott team in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle after inflicting a first career defeat on Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse before successfully stepping up to three miles in the Galmoy at Gowran.
The six-year-old was bitterly disappointing when quietly fancied for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but Elliott is putting that performance down to the trip rather than the track.
He added: “I’d say he just got took off his feet over two miles last year. He’s not a big, heavy horse and I don’t see why over three miles he shouldn’t be OK.
“It’s not going to be quick ground and if you listen to likes of Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh over the years talking about Stayers’ Hurdle horses, they always say they have to race behind the bridle and be relaxed and that is exactly what Teahupoo is – nothing fazes him.”
While Conflated, Gerri Colombe, Mighty Potter and Teahupoo will all head to Cheltenham with solid claims, Elliott appears particularly confident about the chances of Delta Work, who is all set to defend his crown in the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country course.
The multiple Grade One winner played the role of pantomime villain last year when denying his dual Grand National and five-time Festival-winning stablemate Tiger Roll, but he will return 12 months on as a red-hot favourite after finishing third under a big weight at the track last month.
“I won the race so I didn’t mind, but it would have been the perfect send-off for Tiger Roll to have won last year obviously. It wasn’t to be, but he got a great reception,” said Elliott.
“I was very happy with Delta Work’s run the other day. He was giving the winner and the second a lot of weight and off level weights, it looks like he’s thrown in.”
While Elliott is still finalising running plans for some members of a squad, a few of the pieces are beginning to fall into place.
He added: “Three Card Brag will probably go for the Albert Bartlett along with Favori De Champdou. Cool Survivor ran well the other day and he’ll probably go for the Martin Pipe or he could go for the Albert Bartlett as well.
“Absolute Notions might not be badly handicapped and he can probably go for a handicap more so than a Grade One.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t run American Mike in Leopardstown the other day. He scoped bad after Navan and there was something wrong with him, so we’ve missed a good part of the season.
“I was looking forward to running him the other day, but couldn’t due to personal reasons and it’s hard to find a race for him now.
“He’s entered in a Listed race over two miles at Navan on Sunday, which isn’t ideal, but I kind of need to get a run into him because he can be a fresh horse and I just want to knock the freshness off him.
“Better Days Ahead will go straight to Cheltenham for the Champion Bumper. I’d say the bumper horses in Ireland just mightn’t be as strong as they have been, but my horse is a good horse.
“King Of Kingsfield will run in it as well and Pour Les Filles who won in Leopardstown under Harry Swan, we’ll probably run the three of them.”
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Gerri Colombe produced a gutsy performance to land the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
Gordon Elliott’s Irish raider arrived at the Esher track unbeaten, having won two bumpers, a pair of hurdles and two chases, the last of which came in the Grade One Guinness Faugheen Chase at Limerick over Christmas.
Sent off the 10-11 favourite under Jordan Gainford, the seven-year-old looked to be cruising behind Balco Coastal before taking it up down the back on the final circuit.
However, he got in tight at the last of the Railway fences and briefly lost momentum.
It handed the advantage to Nicky Henderson’s runner and jockey Nico de Boinville kicked for home.
At the Pond Fence, Gerri Colombe still had a bit to do and looked laboured, yet Gainford galvanised him and he responded to his rider’s urging and having gone upsides between the last two fences, a good leap at the last sealed the deal and he strode up the hill to score by a length and three-quarters.
Thunder Rock, who had been patiently ridden at the back of the field throughout much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, made some late gains to finish third.
“We were delighted. We knew we’d be taking a risk going over two and half miles,” Elliott, who was at Leopardstown, told Racing TV.
“In fairness to the horse, he looked like he was beaten three out, but he stayed galloping really well. It was a good performance, we’re delighted with him.
“We were a bit worried that the ground was not as deep as it usually is, but Jordan went over and walked the track this morning. We knew it wasn’t as soft as ideal, but we knew we had to take our chances, being a Grade One.”
Coral were impressed by the performance and cut Gerri Colombe to 4-1 favourite from 10-1 for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Elliott added: “Before today I was thinking trying to qualify him for the National Hunt Chase. It looks like we are going to be tight for that now, but he looks made for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase doesn’t he? So I would say that’s where we’ll go.”
Owner Brian Acheson said: “He made a little mistake at the last of the Railway fences and he just got a little bit tight, but then Jordan got him back. It is great when you have got a kid like Jordan on as you have huge confidence in the jockey. It is a Grade One and you don’t win them that easily.
“I’d be looking at next season with him and if Gordon doesn’t want to go to Cheltenham I’ve no issue with that. Cheltenham is very hard on novice chasers. Next season he could be a Gold Cup horse.
“This has taken the National Hunt Chase out of the equation and it is the Brown Advisory or nothing. He hasn’t run an awful lot as Gordon had it in his head he could be a Gold Cup horse, but we have to keep him sound.”
Gordon Elliott’s decision to split his aces has led to Gerri Colombe sidestepping this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival in favour of a trip to Sandown for the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.
The seven-year-old is unbeaten in six starts thus far, with a point-to-point success followed by two bumper wins, two triumphs in novice hurdles and two victories over fences.
He struck Grade One gold for the first time in the Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick over the Christmas period, but is set to encounter considerably quicker conditions in Esher this weekend.
“He’s a nice horse and doesn’t do anything too fancy at home, but everything he’s done we’ve obviously been pleased with on track, so we are looking forward to a good weekend,” said Elliott.
Gerri Colombe could quite easily have remained on home soil and lined up in Sunday’s Ladbrokes Novice Chase at Leopardstown, but Elliott has Mighty Potter lined up for that particular top-level prize and he saw little merit in allowing the pair to lock horns.
He added: “There are no soft Grade Ones. Ireland looks fairly competitive, and the race at Sandown looks a good race as well.
“You’ve got Olly Murphy’s horse (Thunder Rock) and the Paul Nicholls horse (Monmiral) in there and you have to respect them, but we are trying to split our horses up as much as anything.”
Thunder Rock has won seven of his 11 starts under rules for Murphy and was particularly impressive in winning his first two outings over fences in novice handicaps at Uttoxeter and Ascot respectively.
Murphy admitted to being disappointed with the Shirocco gelding’s third-placed finish in the Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and is hoping he can raise his game.
He said: “He’s in very good form. We’re really looking forward to running him as we’ve had this in the back of our minds for a while.
“I’m really looking forward to Saturday and if he gets into a rhythm then hopefully he’ll run very well.
“He just didn’t jump and travel with the same kind of enthusiasm that we saw in his first two starts over fences at Cheltenham last time.
“Whether he got caught out around the track going a good gallop over the extended two and a half miles, I don’t know, but I know that he is better than that run.”
Nicky Henderson relies on Balco Coastal, having decided not to declare Bold Endeavour.
The seven-year-old has had two starts over fences and won a novices’ limited handicap over an extended two and a half miles at Kempton on Boxing Day with a degree of ease last time out.
Henderson said: “He was very impressive at Kempton and he’s more like a Grade One horse than the other one is.
“He was very good and was impressive. He deserves his chance in a race like that. We’ll try him and see how we get on.”
Grade One hurdle winner Monmiral was runner-up to Jonbon on his chasing debut at Warwick for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
He then chased home The Real Whacker at Cheltenham, finishing a head in front of Thunder Rock in third.
“He has come up against two very smart horses in his first two races over fences,” Nicholls said in his Betfair blog.
“He was far from disgraced behind Jonbon at Warwick and then finished second again at Cheltenham to The Real Whacker, who had the run of the race in front.
“We will make plenty of use of Monmiral who is in good shape, jumps fine and will enjoy the stiff track at Sandown. He has a sound chance.”
Ben Pauling is under no illusions of the task facing Bowtogreatness, who is officially rated 135, some 19lb below Gerri Colombe.
Part-owned by former Premier League manager Harry Redknapp, the seven-year-old was beaten a short head on his seasonal bow at Exeter before placing third behind Complete Unknown at Ffos Las last month.
Pauling said: “He has got it all to do on ratings, but I have always liked this horse a lot and I’m at the stage of the season where I don’t want to lose his novice status for a pony race.
“So I’d rather he ran well in Graded races than lose his novice status next year. He will be a novice next year and I think hit the heights I fully expect him to do.
“By all means, if he goes and wins one of these, we’ll be delighted.
“Both times this season he’s needed it. The first time he needed it slightly and the second time I ran him quick after we had a lot of snow and he’d missed a lot of work, and he’s just a big, burly horse who takes a lot of getting fit.
“We go there with our eyes wide open, hoping for a nice performance.”
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