Outlander beats Don in Elliott 1-2
Outlander edged out stablemate Don Poli, with Djakadam a close-up third after a cracking fight for the 2016 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
Outlander (nearest) and Jack Kennedy jump the last to win the Lexus Chase from Don Poli and Valseur Lido (both obscured).
Turning for home, three Gigginstown-owned horses were scrapping it out for the lead with Ruby Walsh asking Djakadam for everything just in behind.
If anything, it was Valseur Lido and Bryan Cooper, who'd had the choice of the Gigginstown rides, who just held the advantage among the quartet.
But he was just unable to maintain his effort from that point and despite Don Poli, who had raced sweetly under David Mullins from the off, giving his all, it was the consistent Outlander and 17-year-old Jack Kennedy who found most, scoring by two and a quarter lengths. Kennedy was claiming the biggest victory of his fledgling career.
Djakadam, who was shuffled back heading into the home turn and momentarily lost momentum, stayed on steadily for third without ever looking as he if was quite going to get on terms.
Elliott had originally planned to run the 11/1 winner in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day but made a late decision to miss the race when Thistlecrack was announced as a runner.
It proved an inspired move as he produced a career-best effort on what was his fifth start of the season since leaving Willie Mullins.
Second behind Djakadam in the John Durkan at Punchestown, he improved for the three-mile trip and provided the winning owners with a third successive victory in the Lexus after Road To Riches in 2014 and Don Poli last season.
The trainer was evidently just as pleased with Don Poli, who had previously shown no enthusiasm at all on his first run for the yard at Down Royal.
"Don Poli was brilliant, David was brilliant, Outlander was good and Jack was great," Elliott said. "I feel a bit sorry for Bryan, who had to make the decision, but he'll be back.
"We've been out hunting with Don Poli and took the headgear off to try and sweeten him up today and it looked it worked, then Jack was riding Outlander to be placed and coming to the last I started to get excited.
"I thought Outlander's last run was his career-best and, sure, he improved again today, didn't he?"
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Elliott went on: "It was touch and go whether he ran here or went to Tramore (on Sunday for a Listed race), but with the ground drying out we decided to come here.
"He was only beaten about a length by Djakadam at Punchestown the last day, and one jump made the difference between winning and losing.
"I suppose the obvious race is to come back here for the Irish Gold Cup (in February).
"I'm delighted with Don Poli, and I'd say the Grand National is the plan with him."
Winning owner Michael O'Leary said: "The best news from the race was probably Don Poli after the way he ran in Down Royal.
"It was a great training performance by Gordon with the first two. Outlander only ran a few weeks ago, and he's also done a great job getting Don Poli back to form.
"I thought coming here that if we had a Gold Cup horse it was Valseur Lido (who finished fourth).
"He didn't finish out his race and maybe he will go back for the Ryanair."
Mullins, former trainer of both Outlander and Don Poli, was asked on At The Races whether he felt the race had come too soon after Djakadam's victory in the John Durkan on his previous start.
"Who knows? The winner ran in the same race as well," he said.
"I thought he jumped fantastic, I thought he stayed the whole way. We might try a different tactic with him the next time. We might just let the horse enjoy himself more because he was jumping so well.
"He ran a terrific race and I thought Outlander ran very well. He was always a decent horse – they're all decent horses. On the day, it depends who gets the run of the race, I think."
Djakadam is now set to go straight to Cheltenham for the Timico Gold Cup, in which he has been second for the last two years.
"I think the Irish Gold Cup is too close, so we might go straight there," said Mullins.
Spokesman Michael Shinners commented: "It was a cracking finish, but I'm not sure whether anyone learnt a great deal from this year's Lexus, other than perhaps three miles on good ground might have been an insufficient test for Djakadam's stamina.
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