By HRI Foreign Staff — GOLD CUP hopeful Delta Work will step up his preparations for a potential tilt at the Cheltenham Festival feature with a run in the three-mile Savills Chase at Leopardstown in Ireland over Christmas.
The eight-year-old was pencilled in for a second attempt at the star event at the home of jumps racing last March – one of British racing’s biggest races – but connections were forced to withdraw the five-time Grade 1 winner with a small fracture sustained in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.
The Gigginstown star returned to action at Down Royal this season, finishing down the field in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase, a run that trainer Gordon Elliott saw as encouraging.
He will step up his return this month with the three-mile test at Leopardstown on December 28, a race he won in 2019 but 12 months later failed to complete as he unseated jockey Sean Flanagan at the ninth.
Now Elliott will see how he fares in a big field against opposition he will likely meet in next year’s Gold Cup, with Henry de Bromhead pair, A Plus Tard and Envoi Allen, both in line to participate.
While De Bromhead will run another of his Gold Cup hopefuls, Minella Indo, at Kempton on December 26 in the King George VI, his contenders for the big race next March are all in line for Christmas run-oust.
Minella Indo is targeted towards a repeat win after taking the honours at Cheltenham this year, with A Plus Tard looking to go one better than his second-place finish behind his stablemate.
Gambling firms have priced the three De Bromhead horses at the head of the Gold Cup field, A Plus Tard the favorite at 3/1 (+300) while Delta Work is currently an outsider, trading at 33/1 (+3300) with bet offers.
Elliott has also entered Galvin for the Leopardstown race, the seven-year-old finished in front of Delta Work at Down Royal in October but behind Paul Nicholls’ Frodon who was three quarters of a length ahead at the finish – the British trainer sending a rare runner over the sea to take on his Irish rivals.
“I was very happy with Delta Work, we know he always takes a run,” said Elliott. “He’s in good form and the plan is to go (to Leopardstown) and Galvin will join him.
“He (Galvin) had race-fitness on his side, but he’ll like Leopardstown and he’ll like the ground.
“Hopefully Jack Kennedy will be back in time to ride Delta Work as he gets on better with him than anyone.
“Galvin is probably stuck between a rock and a hard place, whether he’s Grade One material is the question. He did run well at Down Royal, but this will be a bigger test. He could end up being a horse that could run well in the Grand National in time.”
Delta Work was a live contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a seven-year-old, installed as 5-1 (+500) second favorite for the feature in 2020, only to run well below the level expected. He jumped poorly before ending up in fifth spot, six lengths behind the winner Al Boum Photo, also entered for the Savills Chase.
He was around 25/1 (+2500) on his second attempt to claim the Gold Cup this year before injury halted a season that fell very much into the disappointing category – his three outings resulted in the two finishes down the field and one failure to complete.
But at his peak he is clearly a horse that can compete with the very best staying chasers in Ireland and Britain, and a good run in one of the highlights of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival will see him move up the betting for next year’s Gold Cup.
Among the more interesting Leopardstown entries are the British duo Champ and Protektorat, both targeting a serious test of their stayers’ credentials with the pair available in the futures betting market for the Gold Cup.