Conflated put himself firmly in the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture with a dominant success in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
The Gordon Elliott-trained eight-year-old was a surprise winner of the Irish Gold Cup over the course and distance last season and went on to run well before falling two from home in Cheltenham's Ryanair Chase before pushing Clan Des Obeaux close in the Bowl at Aintree.
Expected to improve from his seasonal reappearance in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in October, in the absence of the withdrawn A Plus Tard Conflated was 2-1 favourite and ultimately outclassed his rivals.
Kemboy, winner of this race in 2018 and fourth, second and third in each of the past three years, adopted his customary pacesetting role under Paul Townend, but it was clear the soon to be 11-year-old was struggling to shake off the two years younger Conflated and Jack Kennedy allowed him to stride to the lead heading out onto the second circuit.
In truth the market leader bossed the contest from there home and Kennedy could even afford to begin celebrating on the run-in as he passed the post with five lengths in hand.
Kemboy ran another brave race to be placed once more in second, with the winner’s stablemate Fury Road coming from further back to pick up the bronze medal.
Paddy Power reacted by trimming Conflated’s Gold Cup odds to 14-1 from 33-1, while Coral offer the same price from 40s.
Winning trainer Gordon Elliott sings the praises of owner Michael O'Leary and jockey Jack Kennedy after Conflated's Savills Chase success at Leopardstown. pic.twitter.com/C1MbUDuzVK— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 28, 2022
Elliott said: "It was unfortunate that A Plus Tard couldn't run. The race worked out well and Jack gave him a beautiful ride.
"Paul steadied the pace down and Jack let him stride on. He said the faster this horse goes, the better he’ll be. I thought Jack was wonderful.
"He’s not an easy horse and he’s actually starting to settle now. He was very kinky and Jack said he wasn’t doing a stroke the whole way up the straight. He jumped perfect all the way.
"We don’t gallop him a whole lot and he just does his routine work each day. We left him very short in Down Royal and Jack was thrilled and said he’d come on an awful lot from it.
"I’d imagine he’ll come back here for the Irish Gold Cup but we’ll have to talk to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) and make a plan.
"There was a lot of talk last season about which race he would go for in Cheltenham but he’ll definitely be going for the Gold Cup this year."
Kennedy, like Elliott completing a treble on the card, said: "Brilliant. The first couple of days have been kind of tough, but we’ve certainly made up for it today anyway.
"Paul slowed it up in front and this lad got a small bit lit up, so I let him on. He dropped it (bridle) again going down the back. He’d actually probably be better off a stronger gallop as well.
"It was a good performance and I’m delighted with him. He’s a brilliant jumper, even short he is able to get up.
"He is a good horse and probably a small bit quirky, but I suppose the penny is after dropping with him and he’s a lot more straightforward now. He was very straightforward today."
Michael O'Leary, who saw Conflated score in his silks in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, explains his change in ownership strategy and pays tribute to the recently retired Davy Russell. pic.twitter.com/Rm2q7EBKro— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 28, 2022
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