Delta Work came with a thundering late run to deny the gallant Monalee in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
Monalee had jumped for fun out in front for Rachael Blackmore and appeared to have everything on the stretch running down to the last.
Delta Work (11-2) looked booked for a place at best turning into the straight as Jack Kennedy, who also took the other Grade One feature on Apple’s Jade as part of a treble, was asking his mount for everything.
Kemboy, who had been keen throughout, Road To Respect, Presenting Percy and the outsider Jett all held chances at some stage, but Monalee had seemingly seen them all off.
Unfortunately for Blackmore, she lost an iron after the last and kicked the other one free as Delta Work began to close. There was nothing in it at the line, but Delta Work got the verdict by a head. Road To Respect was third.
The winner was cut to 10-1 from 25s for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March by Betfair.
“It’s great. We missed a bit of time after Down Royal and thought he’d come on from the run today,” said Elliott.
“Jack is riding out of his skin. He had a few hard injuries and it’s good to see him back riding like this. He’s a top class jockey.
“Michael (O’Leary, owner), Anita and all the kids are here today. It’s their first day racing this year and we have to produce winners and keep them coming.
“I knew there was a good bit of improvement in him. Maybe that’s the way to train him and maybe I was training him wrong last year.
“I was happy and said we were going to finish third or fourth and run a nice race.
“When he jumped the last and Jack pulled it out, he got over closer to the other horses (and) he really put his head out.
“He’s won a couple of Grade Ones already and now to win one like this is something else.
“We thought he was a Gold Cup horse and obviously our bubble got burst in Down Royal, but we’re not gone yet.
“You’ve got to have faith in your horses. I’m very lucky that I’ve got a lot of good horses, brilliant staff and great owners. It’s a big team effort.
“This is where we want to be. Leopardstown is the cream of jumps racing in Ireland.
“I went home with my tail between my legs on the first day with no winner, but we haven’t looked back since.
“When you get put down as many times as I have, you have to keep getting up.”
Kennedy said: “He jumped and travelled very well. I was probably a little bit closer than I wanted and he was in my hands a bit. They went steady, but it all worked out.
“I thought the safest thing was to stay wide and get him rolling. He winged the last and galloped all the way to the line.
“He probably started to tie up a little bit in the last 50 yards and Monalee came back at him, but in fairness he stuck his head out.”
Elliott, Kennedy and O’Leary had earlier struck with Apple’s Jade and it was a rare racecourse appearance for the latter.
“Delta Work has always been a very good horse. He just ran badly in Down Royal last time out,” said O’Leary.
“Today he jumped beautifully and Jack gave him a great ride. He’s full of confidence and has had a good Christmas.
“The whole stable are running well apart form poor old Samcro. He sends my best horse down to Limerick and gets him humiliated!
“It’s been a great day, a great Christmas and he’s a great trainer.”
When asked if there is any chance of reconsidering his decision to phase out his racing string, O’Leary said: “My children love winning. They are very happy to come up here for a presentation and a trophy, but you don’t see them in the unsaddling enclosure.
“The conversation on the way home in the car will be ‘will we have pizza’ or ‘can we go and see the new Star Wars movie before New Year’s Eve’. They couldn’t care less about the racing.
“I made the decision last year and don’t have any point-to-pointers this year.
“These horses will work their way through the next five or six years. They are with the best trainers in Gordon, Noel (Meade), Joseph (O’Brien) and Henry (De Bromhead).
“We’ve had a fantastic run, we’ve been very fortunate and Eddie (O’Leary) buys brilliant horses. He spots these horses.
“He is a phenomenal talent at spotting good, young horses and we’ve also been very fortunate with the trainers we’ve had.
“Gordon is doing a marvellous job, he has a great stable of horses now. He probably was a bit over reliant on Gigginstown in the last couple of years, but now there are more and more owners coming through and recognising that this is the coming force in jump racing.
“Hopefully he’ll win a few more races for us before the season is out.”