Outlander and Kennedy give Elliott another big-race first
Outlander provided another first in a year of firsts for Gordon Elliott when landing a thrilling renewal of the Lexus Chase under 17-year-old Jack Kennedy.
On Tuesday Elliott had won the Paddy Power Handicap Chase for the first time with Noble Endeavor, adding to his victories in the Galway Plate and the Kerry and Munster Nationals – all of them firsts – and Outlander's win was achieved with a two-and-a-quarter-length defeat of stablemate Don Poli, who won the race for Willie Mullins 12 months ago.
The first two home are owned by Gigginstown House Stud and connections had been considering other targets for Outlander before deciding on the Leopardstown event.
Elliott said: "When Coneygree came out of the King George we thought about putting Outlander in the race but then Thistlecrack was confirmed a runner.
"We then thought about waiting and sending Outlander to Tramore on Sunday, but when the ground here began drying out we decided to let him take his chance and it has worked out brilliantly."
Asked if he was surprised by the win, Elliott replied: "Not really. He was going to win the Clonmel Oil Chase when he fell at the last and he was a good second to Djakadam [third here] in the John Durkan when one jump probably made the difference between winning and losing. That was his best run and he's improved on it again today."
"I'm thrilled for Jack. He gave him a brilliant ride. It's a first Grade 1 win for him and his 100th winner overall."
Kennedy also became the youngest jockey to ride a Grade 1 winner since the present jumps Pattern was created in 1994-95.
Don Poli raced with much more zest than on his reappearance at Down Royal, where he sulked his way around before being pulled up.
Sweetened by days in the hunting fields, his performance delighted Elliott, who said: "That was much more like Don Poli. The Grand National could be the plan for him, although the Gold Cups – here and at Cheltenham will be considered."
David Mullins, rider of Don Poli, reported: "He's run a very good race and would have preferred slower ground and at least another furlong."
'I had a lovely run'
Valseur Lido, who jumped the last upsides Don Poli and Outlander, weakened to finish fourth. "I had a lovely run. He arrived with a big chance at the last but didn't stay," Bryan Cooper said.
Michael O'Leary, owner of Valseur Lido, said: "We thought he would be our Gold Cup horse but he didn't stay and the Ryanair looks his likely Cheltenham target."
Ruby Walsh reported Djakadam, who finished a head behind Don Poli in third, had been "quite keen early on", while trainer Willie Mullins said: "Djakadam was keen but he jumped really well. He could have done with more ease in the ground. We'll have to decide whether he comes back here for the Irish Gold Cup or goes straight to Cheltenham."
Davy Russell said of Zabana, who finished seventh: "He's run well. It was a big step up for him and I was happy enough with him. He's better going right-handed."
Outlander is now a general 16-1 for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Ladbrokes biggest at 20-1.
Perhaps tellingly, several firms reacted by trimming favourite Thistlecrack, with Betfred and Stan James going odds-on about the King George winner (still available at 5-4).