Cheltenham Gold Cup hopeful Gerri Colombe galloped to a dogged success and defeated Envoi Allen and Conflated in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Gordon Elliott’s gelding was one of a top-class field of four contesting the Grade One, with Elliott and Henry de Bromhead each responsible for two horses.
The quartet travelled as a group for much of the race and turning for home any one of them could have gone on to win, though Minella Indo was the first to fold and Gerri Colombe switched sharply from one side of the track to the other.
Conflated and Envoi Allen were left to jump the last in unison and it looked as though the latter horse may have the advantage, but Gerri Colombe was steadily gaining ground on the outside and just got his head in front to prevail under Jack Kennedy as the 4-7 favourite.
Elliott said: “We were delighted with him – we knew there would be improvement in him today, his first run in open company.
“As Brian [Acheson, of owner Robcour] said, he only came back in on September 19, so there’s loads of improvement.
“We’ll have one run now and then the Gold Cup. He showed that he is in the mix now for the Gold Cup, he stays very well and that’s what you need.
“I was delighted that he settled into a rhythm, the other horse [Conflated] was going a bit left and was taking Jack’s horse’s eye off the fence a bit. I was a bit worried the whole way because Conflated does go left, but I did tell Jack to give him a bit of light and get him into a rhythm.
“Jack said he was a bit rusty early, but I thought he was pretty much foot-perfect apart from one for a novice stepping into open company. The sky is the limit.
“He’s a great horse because he shows you absolutely nothing at home – he’s very laid-back, he’s a gentleman.”
Gerri Colombe has suffered just one defeat under rules, when edged out in last season’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Elliott added: “We were all gutted coming out of Cheltenham last year, it just didn’t happen for us on the day but, in fairness to Brian, he said, ‘we will be back here in 12 months’ time’.
“Willie’s horse [Mullins, Galopin Des Champs] is very, very good but this horse has a great attitude and, as I said, he is only back in eight weeks. That’s why I think three miles and two furlongs is going to suit him perfectly.”
Gerri Colombe was cut from 6-1 to 5-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with bookmakers Coral.