The Dublin Racing Festival was extremely kind to my 2024 Cheltenham Festival antepost book - which you can find in full at the bottom of the page - and after reflecting on the action from Leopardstown, I've another name to add to it.
No word of a lie, I got as far as writing the intro to this piece when I received a notification on my phone reading something along the lines of 'Eddie O'Leary suggests the Ryanair Chase is the likely Cheltenham Festival target for Conflated'.
Then, barely five minutes later, Coko Beach - who also dons the maroon and white of Gigginstown - hacked up in a Cross Country Chase at Punchestown and earned quotes as short as 3/1 for the big one in March.
I was fearing the result of those developments would be a drastic price cut for Conflated, who was previously touted as a Cross Country contender, for the Ryanair, but I'm happy to report he's still 12/1 at Betfred and is therefore the 15th (of 20) name written into my antepost book.
I must say, my immediate thought after his run in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend was that a change of target could be on the cards. I think this text I sent to a relative sums it up: "Conflated probably ran a bit too well [to justify a Cross Country tilt]?"
Gordon Elliott's 10-year-old obviously wasn't going to beat Galopin Des Champs but for unseating Jack Kennedy at the last and I suspect he'd have been a few lengths off Fastorslow too, but he'd have finished close enough given these are horses rated 180 and 170 respectively.
I'd say Conflated has at least run to his rating of 164 there - and if he can do the same in March he must have an excellent chance of landing the race sponsored by his owners.
Will the drop back to an intermediate trip suit? I really think so. The last time we saw him over this distance was at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, when he looked booked for second before falling at the penultimate fence in this very race behind the then-imperious Allaho.
This year's renewal could be a similar affair. Allaho set a good pace that day and with Stage Star and potentially Ahoy Senor in the mix this time round, I'd expect a similar story, which should suit a horse like Conflated who we know stays further.
I also don't think it's a vintage renewal at all. Banbridge is the up-and-coming contender who'd have an excellent chance on a decent surface, but he's a likely non-runner if the ground isn't to his liking on the day.
Defending champion Envoi Allen has good claims but I can't see why he's a third of the price of the selection given only a length separated the pair at Down Royal, the former's favourite track, earlier in the season - while Stage Star has to bounce back from a bitterly disappointing effort at HQ on New Year's Day.
Then you're looking at the likes of Capodanno, whose sights may be set on Aintree, Appreciate It, who is regressing, and others who make little to no appeal.
If Conflated does indeed go down this route, I'm guessing he'll be at least half the price he currently is. In fact, he could be even shorter than that given you can get 8/1 with the NRNB firms at time of writing.
Stay tuned to Betfred Insights for more Cheltenham Tips as we build-up to the 2024 Festival