Gerri Colombe battled to victory to take the William Hill Bowl Chase at Aintree.

Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up was sent off the 9-4 favourite and travelled competitively throughout under Jack Kennedy.

He was ridden rounding the home turn but as stamina came to the fore up the run in, he locked horns with Ahoy Senor.

While Lucinda Russell’s charge did his best to fight back up the inside, Gerri Colombe was just too strong and came home half a length in front.

Corbetts Cross finished a further two and a quarter lengths back in third.

Gold Cup runner-up Gerri Colombe will meet last year’s winner Shishkin in the Aintree Bowl on Thursday.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, Gerri Colombe put up a game fight in the blue riband at Cheltenham when beating all bar reigning champion Galopin Des Champs.

Gerri Colombe is owned by Brian Acheson’s Robcour operation and the same colours will be sported by the Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame.

Shishkin, winner of the race 12 months ago for Nicky Henderson, will attempt to put a dreadful Cheltenham Festival behind the trainer after he withdrew many of his intended runners due to the form of his string.

Corbetts Cross, so impressive in the National Hunt Chase, will step into open company for the first time while Bravemansgame, Ahoy Senor and Thunder Rock are also running in a field of seven.

Champion Hurdle third Luccia will step up in trip for the William Hill Aintree Hurdle.

One of only a few to run well for Henderson at Cheltenham, she will face the likes of Impaire Et Passe and Bob Olinger in a field of eight, with Coral Cup winner Langer Dan stepping up in grade.

Grey Dawning and Ginny’s Destiny will meet again in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase.

The pair served up a real treat in the Turners at Cheltenham, with Dan Skelton’s Grey Dawning coming out on top by two lengths.

Il Etait Temps, third in the Arkle, steps up in trip for Willie Mullins, while Blow Your Wad and Colonel Harry complete the quintet.

Sir Gino, a Cheltenham absentee for Henderson, will get the chance to strut his stuff in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

He will take on Mullins’ Kargese, who finished second to stable companion Majborough in the Triumph Hurdle, the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair of Intellotto and Nurburgring, Paul Nicholls’ Kalif Du Berlais and Dirty Den.

There are 22 in the Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase which include Cheltenham runner-up Its On The Line and Cat Tiger for David Maxwell.

Owner Brian Acheson believes Galopin Des Champs is the best horse since Kauto Star and has conceded his Gerri Colombe will be running for second place when he tackles Willie Mullins’ defending champion in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Galopin Des Champs was an imperious winner of the blue riband in March but had since suffered defeat twice at the hands of Martin Brassil’s Fastorslow, with Acheson’s Gerri Colombe emerging as a real Gold Cup contender when making a winning return at Down Royal.

The two talented stayers clashed for the first time at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase and with the Closutton Cheltenham hero back to his very best, Gerri Colombe was helpless as Galopin Des Champs romped to a brilliant 23-length success.

That shot the eight-year-old back to the top of the Gold Cup market, with Gerri Colombe eased to a best price of 11-1 with Unibet, and Acheson – who runs his horses under the Robcour banner – feels there is no way of turning the tables when they meet again at Prestbury Park in March.

He said: “Galopin is the best horse since Kauto Star and I’ve said it since the day of the Turners (Novices’ Chase, at Cheltenham). He is an absolute rocket, a weapon.

“We lost nothing in defeat and I don’t think there is a horse in training that can stay with him, he’s just a machine.

“You are running for second place. In the era where we don’t have enough good horses, if I didn’t have Gerri in the race, then you would love him to win by half the track just to make him look a superstar – and he is a superstar, I would love to own him.

“Hats off to him and it was actually an honour to run against him, he’s so good.

“We will take him on but there is only one winner.”

Acheson also outlined plans for his plethora of stars in the staying hurdle division.

Bob Olinger and Irish Point have both thrown their names into the mix with victories over the Christmas period, but it is last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle third Teahupoo who is currently carrying his owner’s main hopes following his second Hatton’s Grace success last month.

“Bob Olinger will be going to Aintree,” said Acheson. “If you had three horses, would you run three horses in the Stayers’?

“At the moment, I have two horses who could run in the Stayers’ and the one horse who is going there if he is fit and well is Teahupoo.

“Irish Point won well last week, but Home By The Lee didn’t run his race and Asterion Forlonge was a great horse but is a little bit older now.

“Teahupoo’s run against Impaire Et Passe was better form-wise, so he’s number one, but this French horse (Theleme) is meant to be a superstar.”

With Galopin Des Champs and Fastorslow renewing rivalry, and Gerri Colombe looking to cement his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims, this year’s Savills Chase promises to be one to savour.

In an era where blockbuster clashes are bemoaned as a disappointing rarity, the feature event on day three of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival serves up a tantalising treat, with the aforementioned trio currently occupying to the top three spots in the betting for the blue riband at Prestbury Park in March.

Add to that the defending champion Conflated, another former winner of the race and Gold Cup hero in A Plus Tard and the latter’s stablemate Envoi Allen, and you have what could be a race for the ages.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father Willie, summed it up perfectly when saying: “It’s probably the race of Christmas and the race of the year so far.”

The big hope for Team Mullins clan is, of course, Galopin Des Champs, who looked set to become the dominant force in the staying chase division after winning the John Durkan at Punchestown, Leopardstown’s Irish Gold Cup and the Cheltenham Gold Cup last season. But he will line up on Thursday having suffered back-to-back defeats.

Many considered his shock reverse at the hands of Martin Brassil’s Fastorslow in April’s Punchestown Gold Cup as a freak result at the end of a long season, but the latter went some way to dispelling that notion when handing the Mullins ace another short-priced beating in the John Durkan last month.

Galopin Des Champs was only third on that occasion and Patrick Mullins is hoping he can show his true colours on Thursday.

He said: “We’re looking for Galopin Des Champs to bounce back. He didn’t jump well in the John Durkan, but he’s schooled very well since.

“I think he ran very well at Punchestown considering how badly he jumped, so if he jumps better, he should be back to his best.

“Fastorslow has beaten us the last twice, so it’s for us to come and beat him, not the other way around. Fastorslow sits top of that division at the moment.

“Gerri Colombe is a hard horse to get a gauge on because he just does the bare minimum, but I’d think Leopardstown after all the rain will suit him very well.”

Galopin Des Champs is one of five declared runners for the champion trainer, with Appreciate It, I Am Maximus, Capodanno and Janidil also in the mix.

Appreciate It split Fastorslow and Galopin Des Champs in the John Durkan when ridden by Mullins junior, who feels he again warrants respect.

He added: “Appreciate It ran a cracker in the John Durkan and he’ll be better going this direction.

“It’ll be a very differently run race I’d imagine, but we’d be hoping that he can confirm that his last run is the level he’s at.”

Fastorslow is out to prove there was no fluke about his successive Grade One wins at Punchestown.

“He’s in great form and I’m delighted with him, very happy,” said Brassil.

Gerri Colombe won the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal on his first start outside novice company and while his trainer Gordon Elliott flirted with the idea of travelling to Kempton for a tilt at the King George on Boxing Day, he instead remains on home soil.

Conflated was not beaten far when third behind his stable companion at Down Royal, and a return to a track where he won both the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup last year is clearly a positive.

A Plus Tard has looked a shadow of his former self since his scintillating victory in the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup, while Envoi Allen cannot be discounted after pushing Gerri Colombe to a neck last month.

Trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “Both are in good form and it will be nice to get A Plus Tard out again. He seems well at home and we’re hoping for a good run.

“We’re trying to find our form with him, we didn’t really see it last year but we didn’t get much opportunity to either.

“Envoi seems in great form. He ran a great race in Down Royal and if he ran something similar to that we’d be delighted.

“We could have done without the rain for both of them I suppose, but it is what it is.”

Gerri Colombe will sidestep the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day in favour of a run at Leopardstown.

Gordon Elliott’s charge has won five of his six starts over fences to date, with his only defeat coming when edged out by a short head in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in March.

The seven-year-old was a narrow winner on his return in last month’s Champion Chase at Down Royal and had been among the leading lights for Kempton’s Christmas feature.

However, with the ground at the Sunbury track currently described as good to soft, good in places, connections are concerned conditions may not suit and have decided to stay closer to home, raising the prospect of a stellar field for the Savills Chase on December 28.

Reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Galopin Des Champs could represent Willie Mullins in Leopardstown’s Grade One contest, with the Martin Brassil-trained Fastorslow – who has beaten Galopin Des Champs on his last two starts – another in the mix.

Elliott said: “The ground is just drying up a bit in Kempton and we’re just a bit worried about bringing him over on too good a ground, so we’ll keep him at home and run him at Leopardstown.

“It looks a good race at Leopardstown.”

Paddy Power make Gerri Colombe an 11-4 chance for the Leopardstown race, with Galopin Des Champs the 6-4 favourite and Fastorslow next best on 5-2.

The same firm has the Mullins-trained Allaho as the 11-8 market leader for the King George, ahead of Paul Nicholls’ defending champion Bravemansgame at 2-1.

Gerri Colombe appears increasingly likely to travel across the Irish Sea over the festive period to contest the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

So impressive when scoring at Aintree in the spring, Gordon Elliott’s charge made a successful reappearance with a last-gasp win in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal last month.

The leading Cheltenham Gold Cup contender has the option of remaining on home soil for the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, but Elliott is currently favouring the trip to Sunbury.

“He’s going to work Friday morning and if everything is okay, he’s going to go to Kempton,” the trainer said at Punchestown on Tuesday.

Gerri Colombe is the 11-4 second-favourite for the King George with the sponsors, who make last year’s winner Bravemansgame their 2-1 market leader despite suffering back-to-back defeats so far this season.

The Willie Mullins-trained Allaho is next on the list at 11-2, with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin a 6-1 shot to claim victory on what will effectively be his seasonal debut, having refused to start at Ascot last month before subsequently missing potential outings at Newcastle and Sandown.

Royale Pagaille, who beat Bravemansgame in last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock for Venetia Williams, is also a single-figure price at 8-1, as is Patrick Neville’s stable star The Real Whacker.

It is a definite case of quality over quantity for the rearranged Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Gordon Elliott has not shied away from running two of his stable stars, with Gerri Colombe and Conflated both part of the line up.

Gerri Colombe has been defeated only once in his career, suffering a narrow loss to The Real Whacker in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham in March but he has passed every other test – including a seven-and-a-half-length success in the Mildmay at Aintree.

He makes his return for the campaign at Down Royal and Elliott is happy with how he has fared since he was last seen.

“It’s his first run of the season. He didn’t do much wrong last year, he went from strength to strength,” the trainer said.

“He looks strong, he’s in good form, he’s not a good work horse and doesn’t do anything very flash but he’s a typical big, staying chaser. He’s in good form and we’re happy with him.”

Conflated, a nine-year-old gelding owned by Gigginstown House Stud, also enjoyed Grade One success last term when taking the Savills Chase at Leopardstown before finishing third behind Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

His first effort this season was a beaten run at Punchestown in October but Elliott expects him to come on for that experience.

“Conflated was a Grade One winner last year. He’ll have come on from Punchestown and we’re really looking forward to running him,” Elliott told Down Royal.

“He needed it badly. He’d been a little bit delayed after a setback and we said we’d give him a run to get him fit and you’ll see an awful lot of improvement in him.”

Henry de Bromhead will field the other two runners in Envoi Allen and Minella Indo, the latter of whom has already hit the ground running when winning the Punchestown race in which Conflated was last of five.

Last year’s winner Envoi Allen has also had a start this term, but his was not a winning one as he finished third in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park in late September.

Richard Thompson of owners Cheveley Park Stud said: “He was a bit disappointing last time out, a bit rusty.

“He has those days, but I’m told he’s in great form and he obviously won this race last year.

“He’s won eight Grade Ones now, he’s a three-time Cheltenham winner and has been fantastic for us.”

De Bromhead added: “Envoi Allen is in great form so we’re hoping for a good run. We were disappointed obviously not to win at Gowran but the form has been franked (with runner-up Gentlemansgame winning the Charlie Hall Chase).

“With hindsight it was a good run and he will definitely improve fitness-wise.”

Minella Indo’s Punchestown victory was just his second since winning the 2021 Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

“Minella Indo was brilliant the last day and will also hopefully improve from his recent run. He was pretty good in Punchestown, we’re happy and hopefully he will also give a good account of himself,” said his trainer.

“He only had a couple of runs last season and the Gold Cup was obviously disappointing, but the day at Tramore was incredible.”

Gerri Colombe will lead a strong team for Gordon Elliott in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

While the seven-year-old lost his unbeaten record at the Cheltenham Festival in March when beaten a short head by The Real Whacker, he gained some compensation in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

That victory took his record under rules to eight wins from nine outings, with three victories at the top level already.

Elliott has already stated this season is all about the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he feels this is the perfect starting point.

Stablemates Conflated and Delta Work are also likely to take their chance, with only six left in contention at Tuesday’s confirmation stage.

“We’ll definitely run two or three in it. It’s a Grade One race and you’ve got to support these races,” Elliott told the track.

“We’ll run Conflated, a Grade One winner last year, Gerri Colombe who did nothing wrong last year and we’ll probably run maybe Delta Work as well.

“It’s Gerri’s first run of the season, Cheltenham is the plan and we’re planning on maybe two runs before it. This looks the ideal one to start off in.”

Elliott also Galway Plate winner Ash Tree Meadow in contention.

A former Elliott inmate, Envoi Allen, now with Henry de Bromhead is a possible as is his stablemate, the 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.

He made a winning return to action at Punchestown recently where he had Delta Work and Conflated behind him.

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