Davy Russell, Gordon Elliott and Robbie Power after winning with Teahupoo. Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Gold Cup and Stayers' Hurdle stars - The Gordon Elliott horses to watch at Cheltenham

The countdown is on the big March showdowns in the Cotswolds.

THE STRENGTH AND depth of Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham Festival team was in evidence at Cullentra on Monday. Here are five of members of that team who could run big races at Cheltenham in two weeks’ time.

1. Conflated (Gold Cup)

Winner of the Irish Gold Cup last season, Conflated probably would have finished second behind Allaho in the Ryanair Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival had he not come down at the second last fence.

A close-up third in the Champion Chase at Down Royal on his debut this season, the Gigginstown House Stud horse stepped forward from that last time when he won the Savills Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

He was very good in winning that day. He could have been called as the most likely winner from a long way out, and he stayed on powerfully to win by five lengths, probably with more than that in hand. He hasn’t run since then, but that was always the plan straight from Christmas to Cheltenham without another run, and he should be happier over the Gold Cup distance this season than he was over the intermediate trip of the Ryanair 12 months ago. We know that he can operate at the track, and he could be flying a little under the radar in the Gold Cup.

jack-kennedy-onboard-conflated-celebrates-winning Jack Kennedy on board Conflated celebrates winning The Savills Steeplechase. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

2. Teahupoo (Stayers’ Hurdle)

Teahupoo was a progressive hurdler last season, but he has reached a new level this term.

On his debut this season at Fairyhouse in December, he won the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, the race in which the redoubtable Honeysuckle suffered her first defeat. There was no fluke about that win though, Teahupoo battled on well to get the better of Klassical Dream, the pair of them pulling just over two lengths clear of Honeysuckle.

The Robcour gelding stepped up in trip to three miles for the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park on Thyestes Chase day last time, and he was a bit of a revelation. He was sent off at odds-on for the Galmoy Hurdle, he was fully expected to win, but he did so with such authority that he was catapulted to the top of the Stayers’ Hurdle market. He has since been usurped as Stayers’ Hurdle favourite by Boyne Hurdle winner Blazing Khal, but he remains a big player in the race.

All Teahupoo’s best form is on soft or heavy ground, but his trainer is not unduly concerned about the prospect of faster conditions at Cheltenham. The Masked Marvel gelding is a progressive young staying hurdler who put up the best performance of his life on his latest run, on his first attempt at the Stayers’ Hurdle distance, and there is every chance that he can step forward again.

3. Mighty Potter (Turners Chase)

A dual Grade 1 winner last season as a novice hurdler, Mighty Potter has stepped forward again this season, his first over fences.

Winner of his beginners’ chase on his chasing bow at Down Royal in early November, he stepped forward from that next time in winning the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in early December.

He was in front from a fair way out that day, and he made mistakes at the fourth last and third last fences, but he stayed on well over the last two fences to beat Gaillard Du Mesnil by over four lengths, and Gaillard Du Mesnil added ballast to that form when he won the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival next time.

davy-russell-on-mighty-potter-celebrates-winning Davy Russell on Mighty Potter after success at Leopardstown. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Mighty Potter himself won next time too, he stayed on strongly to win the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, when he had old rival Gaillard Du Mesnil behind him in third place. The Caldwell Construction gelding is a really exciting young steeplechaser who could progress again next season as he steps up in trip but, for now, the intermediate distance of the Turners Chase is a good distance for him.

4. Gerri Colombe (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase)

Gerri Colombe is similar to Mighty Potter in that he is a really exciting novice chaser, but he is very different too. According to his trainer, he doesn’t do anything flashy at home.

On the racecourse, however, he has never been beaten. He has run in one point-to-point, two bumpers, two hurdle races and three chases, and he has won them all. He went to Limerick at Christmas and, racing over almost two and a half miles on ground that was officially described as soft to heavy, he won the Grade 1 Faugheen Chase. Earlier this month, he went to Sandown and won the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase on good to soft ground.

He did well to win at Sandown. Two and a half miles on good to soft ground at Sandown was probably a sharper test than ideal for the Robcour gelding, but he showed his trademark grit and determination to come back at Balco Coastal on the run to the final fence, and he stayed on well up the run-in to win by almost two lengths.

The Saddler Maker gelding should appreciate the step up to an extended three miles in the Brown Advisory Chase and, still unbeaten, we still don’t know where the ceiling of his ability lies.

5. Three Card Brag (Albert Bartlett Hurdle)

Three Card Brag holds entries in the Coral Cup and in the Martin Pipe Hurdle, but the Albert Bartlett Hurdle could be the race for him.

He won his maiden hurdle over two miles at Galway in October, but he has always shaped like a stayer. Third in the Grade 3 For Auction Hurdle at Navan in November over two miles and second in the Grade 2 Navan Hurdle at Naas in December over two and a half, he stayed on well at Fairyhouse last time to win a two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle by 12 lengths.

A half-brother to RSA Chase runner-up Idle Talk and to Belon Gale, a winner over four miles, there is lots of stamina in his pedigree and he could improve again when he steps up in trip.

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