Galvin, Conflated and Fil Dor are among the big names set to be in action for Gordon Elliott over the festive period as manager Cullentra shuffles his pack for the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
Elliott has enjoyed huge success at the four-day meeting in recent years, with a thrilling Galvin Savills Chase victory over A Plus Late a highlight in 2021.
The eight-year-old will return to Foxrock with a point to prove after disappointing on his seasonal comeback in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal last month and is set to be joined by two stablemates in Conflated and Fury Road.
Conflated won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last season and is expected to improve for his run when third in the same race Down Royal, while Fury Road won a grade two on the same card.
“I was very happy with Conflated in Down Royal. He had a good shot and he came around a lot for the run,” Elliott said during a media morning in his backyard on Monday.
“That will be his next target and he is a good horse. He probably surprised me a bit in the Irish Gold Cup, but he’s a fair horse on his day.”
Of Galvin, he added: “He got dirty after Down Royal but he’s back well now and I’d imagine he’ll go again at Leopardstown.
“He’s got a big heart and he finished fourth in the (Cheltenham) Gold Cup. It probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
“We’ll probably run Fury Road as well. He always seemed to be a bridle horse but I liked the way he dropped his head in Down Royal and he will also like the ground at Leopardstown.”
As usual, Elliott is well-stocked in all areas, but his team of rookie chasers looks particularly strong.
Fil Dor, a first-class juvenile hurdler last season, made a smart start to his career at Navan on Sunday and is set for an immediate step up to Grade I level in the Racing Post Novice Chase on December 26.
Elliott said: “It probably looks like we have a good bunch of newbie followers. We also have some nice novice hurdlers, but I would say we might be a little strong with the novice chasers at the moment.
“I thought Fil Dor jumped really well in Navan – he had perfect feet and attacked his fences. He always looked like he was going to be a stalker and I thought he was good.
“I would imagine Leopardstown is where he will go. It would look perfect in time and he’s strong on summer grass so he’ll be heading there.”
One of Fil Dor’s biggest rivals could prove to be fellow Elliott Hollow Games-owned filly who made a successful chasing debut at Navan earlier in the month.
The trainer added: “Hollow Games was in Navan this morning and jumped really well. I might have run him the wrong distance last year – I was trying to get him to stay but the way he won over two miles and a (furlong) in Navan last day, it might just be his trip.
“He’ll probably go to Navan on Sunday week and then go to Leopardstown as well.”
Mighty Potter’s festive target should become clearer after he contests this weekend’s Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse, while it is surely only a matter of time before Grade 1-winning hurdler Three Stripe Life to climb to the highest level over the fences after giving up his introduction. at Naas.
“It blew really hard after the race. He is a big, terrific horse and I would say there could be a lot of improvement from that race in Naas,” Elliott added.
“I’d say two and a half miles is as far as he’d go at this point.”
Other novice chasers vying to run at Christmas include Minella Crooner, who will run in the three-mile Neville Hotels Novice Chase.
Gerri Colombe is also in the mix for that Grade I heat, but only if the conditions at Leopardstown are milder than is often the case.
County Meath’s novice steeplechasers aren’t too shabby either, with Absolute Notions at the top of that pecking order.
The Milan gelding won 25-1 in a Punchestown bumper on his debut but proved it was no fluke when he returned to the same track to make a winning bow over hurdles earlier this month.
He is one of several Elliott-trained entrants for the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown, with Listowel winner Amir Kabir, Cork scorer Irish Point and Imagine narrowly denied a second win over hurdles at Gowran Park on Saturday.
Elliott said: “I would say Absolute Notions is a good horse. I would imagine it will grow on the trip. Not sure if it works for Future Champions.
“Amir Kabir was very good in Listowel and I would say he will probably go here. He had a cut in Listowel and missed a bit of work which is why he won’t run until Leopardstown.
“He’s a nice horse and I’d say he’ll like the ground at Leopardstown.
“Imagine he could go here – he’s a good horse. He might have won in Gowran if he jumped last, but the winner (Inothewayurthinkin) looked very smart.
“Irish Point looks very nice and we like him. He’s got a bit of class, a bit of boot and a bit of speed.”
Zanahiyr has had wind surgery since disappointing in the Lismullen at Navan and looks set to step up to three miles for the first time in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 28.
Elliott’s main hope for next afternoon’s Matheson Hurdle over two miles is Pied Piper, who has already won at Cheltenham and Down Royal this season and will be looking to make an impact in a Champion Hurdle market which is in currently dominated by the brilliant Constitution Hill pair. and honeysuckle.
Honeysuckle may be unbeaten in 16 races and is already a dual Champion Hurdle winner, but Constitution Hill is in with a chance of taking the crown after a blistering comeback in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth.
“I was really impressed with Constitution Hill – it will be great to see him and Honeysuckle go head-to-head in the Champion Hurdle,” said Elliott.
“I would imagine we’ll probably be driving the Pied Piper for Christmas. He’s two from two this year and will have to improve again to get to grade one, but he’s gotten stronger.”