Gordon Elliott won eleven of the fourteen races at the Festival event. Picture by Phil Magowan  / Press Eye.Gordon Elliott won eleven of the fourteen races at the Festival event. Picture by Phil Magowan  / Press Eye.
Gordon Elliott won eleven of the fourteen races at the Festival event. Picture by Phil Magowan / Press Eye.

Ladbrokes Champion Chase produces a thriller

Despite just four runners the feature of the Down Royal Festival – the Ladbrokes Champion Chase produced a thriller.

‘Conflated’ attempted to make all but consistently jumped left hindering others, including his stable companion and the winner Gerri Colombe partnered by stable jockey Jack Kennedy who had won Grade 1 races on the other three runners.

The winner ran second from three out and pushed along on outer before switching to inner and third before last and although two lengths down at the last stayed on to prevail by a neck at the line over ‘Envoi Alle’n under a patient ride from Rachael Blackmore and having lead at the final fence, while the front running Conflated with Ballyclare jockey Sam Ewing aboard filled third just a length behind the principal pair. The extra quarter mile of the Gold Cup looks designed for the Elliott trained winner and was cut from 13/2 to 5/1 for the Blue Riband event.

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. 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.”

The supporting feature the Grade 2 Novice Chase resulted in a match. The Elliott trained ‘Ash Tree Meadow’ made all too readily to deny ‘Visionarian’. Elliott said: “It’s a great day but, as I said before, I am very lucky with the horses I have and all the staff. I'm delighted for all the owners too.”

The Festival feature hurdle is always a very competitive affair, however the Elliott trained ‘Magic Tricks’ runner up in the race in 2019 gained compensation with talented claiming rider Carl Millar taking 7lbs off was seen to excellent advantage and having kept things simple leading before two out to win easily from ‘The Model Kingdom’ trained by Noel Meade and surprising with Elliott’s stable jockey Jack Kennedy aboard.

The opening race was a two horse contest for much of the trip however after a dour battle Wodhooh beat Cossack Charch a neck at the line but it would be no surprise to see the second reverse placing when the duo meet again.

Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: “She's tough and Jack Kennedy said it probably would have suited more if they had gone faster. He said he was kind of on his own in front and she was looking around her,. She's tough, she has won three now and she hasn't done anything wrong. She did (have to jump well today), she has learned more from today probably than she has in her last couple of runs. She will probably go to Newbury now for the Listed hurdle on the 5th December.”

‘Down Memory Lane’ partnered by multiple champion amateur Derek O’Connor and retained by owner JP McManus was content to take a lead in the Tayto Hurdle prior to recording a facile victory in the contest having winning three in a row – a point, bumper and over hurdles.

Elliott said: "Derek was very happy but look it wasn't a wonderful race on paper, so you would be disappointed if he didn't do that. I liked what I saw there. We'll get him home and see how he is and make a plan, I think we'll stick to two miles at the moment. “

The William Murphy trained Clonmeen claimed the handicap chase with Omagh jockey Simon Torrens aboard having been in the rear for much of the race but stayed on the better to deny the strongly supported local horse Cave Court which lost nothing in feat.

Torrens said: "We've always liked him. He has burst with me in the past and, in fairness to Willie (Murphy, trainer) and his team at home, they have given him a break and have brought him back. Whatever they are doing, I don't think they are galloping him as much. It seems to be with the last three fences being out, I thought that might be our only issue because he is very good to leap. The boys got racing at the back of the third-last and I was able to sit in behind. When I saw them getting racing, I thought I would bide my time in behind and do them late on and it worked out. He had some very good runs in novice chases and graded chases, so hopefully he can be a nice handicapper."

The Chris Mc Carthy trained ‘Big Dee’ proved much too good for the Elliott trained favourite ‘Cleatus Poolaw’ in the last race of the festival. Having always travelled well the winner with multiple points champion Johnny Barry in the saddle powered to the front almost half a mile from home for an emphatic victory.

McCarthy said: "Nothing really went to plan in the bumper at Listowel, they went no gallop and we just got outsprinted. He was just green and babyish. He learned from that experience on a big galloping track here and he settled much better for the experience. For a yard like mine, I'd hate to see him go - he's what we are looking for. I'd say he will stay the bumper route for now anyway. We'll see what is coming up on the programme.”

The winner is owned by Newry based Sean Maguire a long standing owner on the Irish scene.