Ucello Conti takes aim at Thyestes Chase at Gowran
Last year’s winner Champagne West back for another go for de Bromhead
Ucello Conti during the 2017 Grand National at Aintree. “The horse is probably his own worst enemy as he runs well every day. He’ll be going back to Aintree, all being well.” Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Ucello Conti will try to finally win a race for Gordon Elliott when he takes aim at the Goffs Thyestes Chase at Gowran on Thursday. The 10-year-old French import has produced some big displays in big staying races under the stewardship of the Co Meath handler, but has not hit the target in 11 starts for Elliott.
Ucello Conti is, however, prominent in the betting for the Thyestes after having finished a good runner-up to Anibale Fly in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Elliott said: “He loves testing ground, and runs well every day he runs. He’s in very good form. I’m running plenty as it’s a nice race and we haven’t won it yet, we’ve only been placed. It’s a great track and a great race.
“Ucello Conti has been knocking on the door in all those big handicaps. He’s a great horse and he deserves to win one like the Thyestes.”
Elliott still wants to run Ucello Conti in the Grand National at Aintree for a third consecutive season. “The horse is probably his own worst enemy as he runs well every day. He’ll be going back to Aintree, all being well.”
Elliott also saddles Flaxen Flare, Monbeg Notorious, Woods Well, Space Cadet and Out Sam, who will be ridden by jockey-of-the-moment James Bowen.
Last year’s winner Champagne West is back for another go for Henry de Bromhead. The 10-year-old has struggled in two previous starts this season and wears first-time cheekpieces from the head of the weights.
De Bromhead said: “He’s been a bit disappointing this year, to be honest, so we’re going back to where we’ve had success before. He handled conditions well last year but he’s 5lb higher. He needs to find his form, but we’re hoping he’s back to his best. Hopefully the drop in class will suit him.”
Fine Theatre’s sole success over fences so far came at Gowran, and trainer Paul Nolan is hoping that will stand the eight-year-old in good stead. Nolan has been pleased with Fine Theatre’s two runs so far this winter, especially his return to fences at Limerick over an inadequate trip.
“His last two runs have been good and consistent. He was a bit unlucky when beaten a short distance on his first run of the season in a hurdle race at Clonmel and he ran creditably the last day [at Limerick] over probably too short a trip,” said the Co Wexford handler. “He hit the ditch four out, but rallied back and got up for fourth.
“We’re hoping the ground, the trip and the track should suit him. He won his beginners’ chase in Gowran and I’m hoping he will be competitive.”
Joseph O’Brien will next month head to the Dublin Festival at Leopardstown with potentially exciting chaser Vieux Morvan. Having previously been based in France, the nine-year-old gelding made an encouraging debut for the young Melbourne Cup-winning trainer when fifth in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas.
Vieux Morvan had been in contention for the Thyestes Chase at Gowran on Thursday, but O’Brien said on Twitter his new recruit would instead run at Leopardstown in a Grade A handicap over two miles and five furlongs.
“We’re going to wait with him and hopefully get a run in the Chanelle Pharma Handicap Chase [aka the Leopardstown Chase] at the Dublin Racing Festival.”