Gordon Elliott set to be double-handed in Irish Gold Cup

Gordon Elliott

Don Poli and Empire Of Dirt are set to represent Gordon Elliott in the Stan James Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday week.

The Cullentra handler currently has four horses engaged for the Grade One contest, but is ready to cut that team in half.

Outlander, winner of the Lexus Chase over the same course and distance last month, is set to miss out, as is Roi Des Francs.

Lexus runner-up Don Poli is the 5-2 favourite in ante-post lists, with his Troytown Chase-winning stable companion Empire Of Dirt second best in the market at 4-1.

“Don Poli and Empire Of Dirt will be the two for the Irish Gold Cup,” said Elliott.

“Outlander won’t go. He’ll go straight to Cheltenham.

“Don Poli seems to be in good form. You wouldn’t know with him as he’s that slow at home to be honest, but he seems in good form.

“If he runs the race he ran the last day he’d take all the beating and I’d say the ease in the ground will suit him better.

“Empire Of Dirt is in great form. He’s a horse that is hard enough on himself at home so you never really know where you are with him. He seems to be well, but it’s a big step up.”

Elliott’s star performer in the novice hurdle division is undoubtedly Death Duty.

The Shantou gelding completed a four-timer with an impressive Grade One success at Naas earlier this month and has the option of running in either the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The six-year-old holds an entry in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in the meantime, but will not take up that engagement.

Elliott said: “He definitely won’t run at Leopardstown and he’ll go straight to Cheltenham.

“I’m leaning towards the Albert Bartlett with him. I think it’ll suit him, as he settles so well. You could drop him in and follow them around and you know he’s going to stay.”

  • Douvan will face a maximum of five rivals in the BoyleSports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.

The seven-year-old has won each of his 12 starts since joining Willie Mullins and stretched his unbeaten record over fences to eight at Leopardstown last month.

Douvan is already an odds-on favourite to claim what would be his third Cheltenham Festival success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March, following his previous victories in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy, and he will undoubtedly be a very warm order for this weekend’s Grade Two assignment.

Gordon Elliott, who poses a serious threat to Mullins’ status as champion trainer this season, has entered Clarcam and Realt Mor.

Officially the second best horse in the field is the Mouse Morris-trained Smashing, although he is some 18lb shy of the 174-rated Douvan.

  • Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air is to revert to hurdles for an intended crack at the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old, owned by JP McManus, was third behind stable companion Altior in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park last March.

Henderson said: “It’s something that’s been at the back of my mind for a while.

“We got Barry (Geraghty) down to school him this morning and at 8am we weren’t sure whether we were going to school him over hurdles or fences!

“He’s done well over fences and we might go down that route again in the future, but he was also a very good novice hurdler last season and he’s such a slick jumper.

“We schooled him over hurdles this morning and he was like an arrow, so that’s the route we’re going to go down.”

Elaborating on plans, the Seven Barrows handler added: “He won’t run in the Scilly Isles and he won’t go in the Contenders Hurdle as JP has Yanworth going there.

“The race we’re looking at is the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso. We won it last year with Top Notch and it’s a race and track that I like.

“I think two and a quarter miles there on a bit of soft ground will be absolutely perfect for Buveur D’Air and we’ll take it from there.”


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