Gordon Elliott, the main challenger in Ireland to Willie Mullins’ dominance, is building up his stable’s strength
The County Meath based 38-year old has risen to become one of Ireland’s leading Jump trainers since taking out his licence 10 years ago.
Shooting to international prominence with victory in the 2007 Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree, aged 29, despite having not had a winner back home, he has gone on to record numerous major wins in Ireland and Britain, including five successes at The Festival. In a media stable visit last week the ambitious trainer outlined his strong team for The Festival next month.
Elliott said: “I would say we will have close to 25 horses for The Festival.
“We have definitely got our best bunch going over and it is nice to have a few horses for the Graded races.
“This is the first year we are going over with horses disputing favouritism for the Gold Cup and the RSA Chase.
“We have got good each-way chances in a few of the other big races and millions for the handicaps. They are an exciting bunch as well.”
“There hasn’t been too much wrong for the last couple of years apart from falling in the King George and when he was beat in the Ryanair. “They are the only two times he has been beaten in the last two seasons and you could arguably say he was unlucky both times. I didn’t always think he wanted nice ground. When he was a bumper horse, I thought he was a mudlark.
“That shows how wrong I was and maybe that is why his novice hurdle season was not as good as we hoped.
“In latter years, the quicker the ground the better he is and the more the ground dries out, the better his chance in the Gold Cup.
“He will have one more piece of work before the Gold Cup.
“I was delighted with him schooling at Leopardstown. “It was a bit frightening looking at it because I told them to go steady but they got a bit excited. Don Cossack and No More Heroes jumped from fence to fence and I could not have been happier.
“I am most worried about Willie Mullins in the Gold Cup.
“Obviously, you have to have massive respect for Cue Card but he travels so well and I just wonder will he get home. “Vautour has so much pace but will he stay? Djakadam has been there and finished second. We know he stays and, for me, he is the one to beat.”
No More Heroes
“I thought he was very good schooling at Leopardstown. He jumped a bit big over the first couple and that’s why we wanted to get him out because he has not run since Christmas. “He went around there with a Gold Cup horse and the highest rated chaser in training.
“I think he would have learnt more there than he did in his novice chases. “If we get him to the RSA Chase in one piece, we will be looking forward to it. More Of That should be favourite. “He is a stayers’ hurdle winner and is unbeaten in four or five starts around Cheltenham. When you have a horse like that in race, it takes the pressure off me. “No More Heroes is a stayer but he’s not slow. Jumping is his game and I think Cheltenham will suit him.“
“He is in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and a few handicaps. We want to see what weight he gets before deciding which route to go. “He is not definite to go and it will depend on what Gigginstown (owner) want to do with their other horses. “He will be some horse to jump a fence with next season.”
Bright New Dawn
“He is a bit of a boy and will either run very bad or very well. The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual will suit him because he can drop in and they go flat out in that race.”
“The plan is the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. He ran too keen in Leopardstown, having won very well in France. We like him but he will have to improve a lot on his last run.“
Causes Of Causes
“He has been some horse; he won a Ladbroke Hurdle, was second in a Galway Hurdle, was just beaten in the Kim Muir and won the fourmiler. “He will either go for the Ultima Handicap Chase or the Kim Muir. “He is working very well and we are absolutely thrilled with him. “There this morning, he was pulling the arms out of Jamie Codd. “His jumping is getting better. He gets caught out in Ireland on that heavy ground – he doesn’t have the scope – but on good ground he is very good.”
“He has got a mark of 147 and I said there is no point running him again so he is going straight for the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle. “He came out Leopardstown great. He looks like a bull and I could not be happier with him.”
“He goes straight for the Coral Cup and seems in great form. It has been the plan since he came here really so we are really looking forward to it.”
“He went to Musselburgh the other day and was just beaten by O O Seven. I thought it was a very good run and he will go for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. “Fagan won’t disgrace himself. We will drop him in and I bet there will be more horses behind him than in front him at the finish.”
“He will go for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase. “He was second in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase, has got a mark of 136 in England and it is a 0-140, so I think it will be tight enough. “He doesn’t want heavy ground and I think the ground on the first day of The Festival will be beautiful. “I think the race is made for him and he has a good each-way chance.”
“She was really impressive in Down Royal and then disappointing at Fairyhouse. She is back in good form now and will go for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, all being well.”
“He was just beaten at Cheltenham last year. I think four miles at Cheltenham will be right up his alley. “His form is solid and it’s always a help when you have been to Cheltenham and done it. “No disrespect but if you’ve got Jamie Codd, Derek O’Connor, Nina Carberry or one of those senior amateurs they are worth a stone in those races.”
“He isn’t going to get in the Grand National. If he was he would have gone straight there instead of the Kim Muir. “The owners wanted to give him a change of scenery and obviously I am good friend of David Pipe’s so it was better that he came to me rather than someone else! “He works very well and you only have to look at the paper and see the prices he’s gone off at – that tells you he’s probably always worked well.”
Prince Of Scars
“I want better ground for a lot of my horses but it is opposite with him. “If the ground was soft he wouldn’t be without a chance in the Ryanair World Hurdle. “The ground is the key and, if it isn’t on the easy side, we will take the shoes off and put him away for next year. He will be a proper staying chaser.”
“He has done nothing wrong this season. “He won in Leopardstown and the last day at Fairyhouse. “He is a JP McManus horse and will probably run in either the Coral Cup or Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, but maybe the owners want to keep him for Fairyhouse or Aintree.”
“He was just beaten in the Coral Cup last year and ran a very good race in Musselburgh with topweight. “Richard Johnson said had he jumped the second last, he thought he would have won. “He goes for the Pertemps Final and Jack Kennedy will take a few pounds off. I bet he will run well.”
The Game Changer
“He will go for the Arkle. He has won four or five chases including three Graded races during the summer. “The better the ground the better the chance he’d have, although it will be very hard to beat Douvan if he stays up. “We’re playing for places really but if the ground dried up he would have a good each-way chance. “He used to be a bleeder but he lives outside now and has been a different horse since we have done that.”
“At this stage, I’d say we are leaning towards the Supreme. He has been very good, being just beaten in two Grade Ones. “I thought we were a bit unlucky the first day but the second day there was no excuse – we just got outstayed by a better horse on the day.”
“He works like a machine at home but doesn’t do it on the track. “I’d say the hustle and bustle of Cheltenham will suit him. He is up to winning one of these big handicaps.”
“I might just aim for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. “We will see how he is handicapped, but I’m not worried about his jumping. “He has done nothing wrong and was just beaten in a Grade Three at Clonmel last time. “It was horrible gluey ground and he hated it. He never went a yard and did well to finish where he did.”
“She was third to Willie’s mare last time (Limini) who they say can’t be beaten. “She is a good mare, and hasn’t been easy to train “If we can get her there she would have a good each way chance.”
We also spoke to Willie Mullins: www.theirishworld.com/mullins