O’Leary: Outlander and Valseur Lido our best Gold Cup chances
Eddie O’Leary believes Outlander and Valseur Lido represent Gigginstown House Stud's best chances of winning a third Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, while reigning champion Don Cossack still faces a "long road back" if he is to defend his crown.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack has been on the sidelines with tendon trouble since winning the Gold Cup last season and, while his recovery has gone well, O’Leary believes Outlander and Valseur Lido are ahead in the Gold Cup pecking order.
He said: “Don Cossack is grand but doing very little and it’s a long road back. Outlander has improved a ton since joining Gordon Elliott, and if he continues to improve and Valseur Lido comes back to form they would be our best chances in the Gold Cup.”
Reflecting on the Lexus Chase, in which Outlander led home Don Poli, with Valseur Lido in fourth, O’Leary added: “Outlander did it very well but I’m not too downhearted about Valseur Lido either. He looked like he didn’t stay but we know he does stay, so he deserves another crack at it and he may run in the Irish Gold Cup in February.
'Not a spent force yet'
“I'd very much doubt Don Poli would be good enough to win a Gold Cup, though. He’s probably more of an Aintree Grand National horse, but he'll run in the Gold Cup as there's plenty of time between the two. He’s not a spent force just yet.”
As well as being responsible for three of the first four horses home in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, Gigginstown’s maroon and white jersey was carried to victory in the Ryanair Hurdle when the Henry de Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir landed his first Grade 1 success.
After that performance bookmakers slashed the grey’s Stan James Champion Hurdle odds to a general of 10-1, but O’Leary isn’t getting carried away.
He said: “Petit Mouchoir is entitled to enter the Champion Hurdle picture now but, while it was a very impressive performance at Leopardstown, there was no Faugheen or Annie Power in the line-up.
“He didn’t surprise us because we thought we had the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in the bag with him before he fell last month at Newcastle.
With number-one rider Bryan Cooper out of action for up to eight weeks with a broken pelvis, Davy Russell, David Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Jack Kennedy are set to come in for some top rides.
The first of those looks to be on unbeaten novice hurdler Death Duty, who is on target to run in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday and may be joined by Blood Crazed Tiger.
On the equine comeback trail, O’Leary remains hopeful both Identity Thief and Alpha Des Obeaux can return to form this season, having been pulled up in their respective Grade 1s at Leopardstown.
“Alpha Des Obeaux bled, unfortunately, and hopefully he'll be able to come back, as it’s nothing he has done before.
“As for Identity Thief, he got struck into early on in the Racing Post Novice Chase and at the time we thought he had actually fractured his pelvis.
"Thankfully, that wasn’t the case and he's just stiff and sore. Henry [de Bromhead] is quite positive about him so hopefully we'll have him back this season.”