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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Greg Wood at Leopardstown

Conflated holds off Minella Indo and Frodon to take Irish Gold Cup

Davy Russell rides Conflated to victory at Leopardstown.
Davy Russell rides Conflated to victory at Leopardstown. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

“If you’d told me this time last year that I wouldn’t be at Cheltenham, I’d have laughed at you,” Gordon Elliott said after winning the Irish Gold Cup. “And if you’d asked me in September if I’d have the team I have now, I’d have laughed at you as well. That’s a testament to everyone who has backed me.”

On an afternoon that reflected the troughs and returning peaks of the past 12 months, Elliott had just seen Conflated, an 18-1 outsider, soothe the pain of three beaten Grade One favourites earlier in the afternoon with a six-and-a-half-length defeat of Minella Indo, last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, in the feature race.

The win was particularly satisfying as the eight-year-old, who runs for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud operation, was being steered towards a valuable handicap on Sunday’s card here until Elliott insisted that it was worth having a crack at the Dublin Racing Festival’s main event.

“I wanted to find out where I was going [with him],” he said. “He’s a horse with a big engine and I said before the race that he’d either win or pull up, and thankfully, 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-last, my head would have been on the ground.”

Frodon and Bryony Frost cut out the running until the third-last fence, where Davy Russell committed aboard Conflated and surged into a clear lead going around the home turn. Minella Indo’s stamina began to kick in up the straight but Russell had seized more than enough ground to keep him at bay.

Janidil was third with Asterion Forlonge, Kemboy and Frodon all well beaten.

Conflated’s odds for a follow-up in next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup are now down to around 12-1, from 66-1 on Saturday morning. He benefited from an impeccably judged ride by Russell, however, and Minella Indo, who is guaranteed to appreciate the sterner test at Cheltenham, is only 6-1 to repeat his success last season.

Kempton Park 1.40 Aphelios 2.15 Mellys Flyer 2.50 Tranquil Night 3.25 Old Port 4.00 La Tihaty 4.30 Larado 

Musselburgh 1.00 Broadway Joe 1.32 Inca Prince (nap) 2.05 Since Day One 2.40 Brorson 3.15 Sarasota Star (nb) 3.50 Pookie Pekan 4.20 Zafar

A Plus Tard, the runner-up at Cheltenham last March, heads the market at 7-2, while Galvin, another likely runner for the Elliott stable, is a 9-2 chance.

Elliott’s three favourites earlier on the card were beaten by runners from the Willie Mullins stable, including Vauban, who breezed past Elliott’s Fil Dor on the run to the final flight in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle and quickened three lengths clear at the line.

Vauban finished half a length behind another Elliott-trained juvenile, Pied Piper, on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown in December and the two horses are now joint-favourites 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 a nice achievement for him anyhow.”

Blue Lord benefited from a last-fence mistake by Elliott’s Riviere D’Etel to win the Irish Arkle Novice Chase but remains joint-favourite with Edwardstone for its equivalent at the Festival, while at Sandown, Charlie Deutsch recorded the first Grade One win of his career as the impressive L’Homme Presse took the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

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