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Gordon Elliott still favouring direct Cheltenham route for Galvin

Meanwhile Shishkin and Energumene in line for Clarence House clash.

Davy Russell celebrates are winning on Galvin at Leopardstown.
Davy Russell celebrates are winning on Galvin at Leopardstown.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

GORDON ELLIOTT HAS reiterated his desire to head straight for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Galvin – despite entering him for the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown next month.

The eight-year-old emerged as a serious contender for the blue riband when lunging late, with Davy Russell on board, to deny last year’s Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard back-to-back wins in Leopardstown’s Savills Chase in December.

Elliott stated afterwards that Galvin would not run again before the showpiece meeting at Prestbury Park in March, but did enter him for the Irish Gold Cup last week.

But while race sponsors Paddy Power are offering a €150,000 bonus to any horse who can complete the Gold Cup double, the Cullentra handler is keen to stick to Plan A.

He said: “He’s in at Leopardstown but I’d imagine he’ll go straight to the Gold Cup.

“We just stuck him in to give him an option, but he’ll go straight to the Gold Cup.”

Galvin is a best priced 5-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, making him the second-favourite behind A Plus Tard at 7-2.

Elsewhere Saturday’s big clash between Shishkin and Energumene remains on the cards as the big two headline five confirmations for the SBK Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin, last year’s Arkle winner, is unbeaten in six chase starts and looks the heir apparent to former stablemate Altior, who dominated the two-mile scene for so long.

However, in the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene he is set to meet possibly his toughest rival to date as his only defeat since moving to Ireland came in a bumper back in November 2019.

The pair were due to meet in last year’s Arkle only for Energumene to suffer a late setback.

Speaking on Monday, Henderson said: “He won’t be doing much between now and the race, I think, he doesn’t need to do much anyway.

“Nico (de Boinville) might feel he wants to jump a fence on him midweek at some stage, but he also might think there’s nothing to gain from that either, so we’ll see.

“I’d prefer it if there was a ferry strike in Ireland or something, but it doesn’t look like there will be!”

Both have only been seen once to date this season, with Shishkin beating Tingle Creek winner Greaneteen at Kempton over Christmas while Energumene won the Hilly Way at Cork.

Last year’s winner First Flow is also on target for the race.

Kim Bailey’s 10-year-old won the Peterborough Chase last time out but reverts to two miles at the Berkshire track.

He will be ridden by regular partner David Bass, who is already counting down the days.

“I can’t wait. Being involved in a race like this is a privilege really, to be going to Ascot on a Saturday to ride in a Grade One on a very, very good horse,” Bass told Sky Sports Racing.

“Look, the opposition are obviously very good horses but First Flow is consistent, he loves Ascot so we’ll give it a go.”

Paul Nicholls’ Hitman, second to stablemate Greaneteen in the Tingle Creek, could also line up with, Dan Skelton’s Amoola Gold the fifth and final possible in the mix for the Grade One.

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