Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival contenders – Meath handler set to unleash powerful Festival team
Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival contenders
It seems he’s been around for some time but it is perhaps only in recent years since Silver Birch won the 2007 Aintree Grand National that top Irish trainer Gordon Elliott has really leapt into the top tier of trainers. The Meath handler is sure to saddle a strong field of Cheltenham Festival contenders and we pick out his best chances and a couple who could give punters a run for their cash.
A successful jockey who rode winners at the Cheltenham Festival, Gordon Elliott has really made a name for himself in recent seasons as a top-tier trainer and the Meath handler has saddled 31 winners at the greatest show on turf since Chicago Grey gave the trainer his first in the National Hunt Chase back in 2011.
That haul is formidable in the relatively short time since his first Cheltenham Festival success and the three-time Grand National winning trainer has year on year saddled an ever more powerful team although he’ll do well to better his haul of eight wins gained in the 2018 Cheltenham Festival especially now given the recent scandal that has broken out has seen the yard lose the likes of Ballyadam, Sir Gerhard and Envoi Allen.
Of the Championship races Elliott has so far only managed to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup which he did with Don Cossack in 2016 but it is surely only a matter of time before the Meath handler adds to that tally and he’s sure to have another top-class team of runners at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
Here we take a look at some of his biggest chances of a Cheltenham Festival winner and pick out a couple of bigger priced runners who could give punters a run for their cash assuming there are no further sanctions preventing any of Elliott’s runners being able to appear at the ‘Greatest Show On Turf’.
Gordon Elliott Cheltenham runners on day one
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Having lost Ballyadam to Henry de Bromhead in the wake of the recent scandal to rock the trainer Elliott nevertheless might have decent prospects with unbeaten TEAHUPOO who won a French hurdle prior to joining the Cullentra yard and he’s 2-2 since joining Elliott with a pair of wins at Fairyhouse.
He beat Druid’s Altar by an easy 15 lengths on his debut for the Meath handler after which he stepped up to Grade Three company to run out a seven lengths’ victor over Tax For Max where despite a late mistake he was well on top and won comfortably.
The demands of this race would certainly demand more from the Masked Marvel gelding who is still only a four-year old and with entries in both the Triumph Hurdle and Boodles Hurdle he’s far from a certain runner. However with no other intended runner in the contest connections might decide to take a crack at the race nonetheless although there’s been no 4-Y-O winner since Hors La Loi III back in 1999.
Ultima Handicap Chase
ESCARIA TEN looks a good sort for the first of the competitive handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival and the Maresca Sorrento gelding could be one to keep onside.
Smart over hurdles last term he’s faced some stiff tests over the larger obstacles, no match for Monkfish on his chase debut at Fairyhouse over a shorter trip before building on that outing to run out an impressive Thurles winner in December.
He lost no caste in defeat behind Eklat De Rire in a Grade Three at Naas when last seen, finishing ahead of the smart Pencilfulloflead and if the handicapper doesn’t hit him too hard then he could be one to consider for those holding Cheltenham Festival free bets.
A Grade One winner last term ABACADABRAS found only Shishkin too good in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and with that race often proving a decent pointer to future Champion Hurdle renewals the Davidoff gelding is worthy of respect in the day one feature.
He doubled his Grade One tally with victory in the Morgiana Hurdle in November before disappointing at Leopardstown over Christmas although he wasn’t the only Elliott runner to run below par at that time and he fared much better back at Leopardstown latest although he was no match for Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
That rival is likely to reoppose in the race but he showed a liking for this venue twelve months ago and the stiff finish might help him close the gap for all he likely needs a shade more.
Boodles Juvenile Hurdle
With Quilixios moving to Henry de Bromhead and uncertainty surrounding whether Zanhayir will remain with Gordon Elliott it remains to be seen whether the Meath handler will have a runner in the race.
Riviere D’etel belongs to the same ownership as Zanhayir and rumours remain that the owners might yet move their string to Noel Meade. If that transpires Elliott would still have Teahupoo in the race despite alternative targets being mooted with both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Triumph Hurdle as options as well as Glorious Zoff and SIDESHIFT although both would certainly have their work cut out.
Glorious Zoff was a fair sort on the flat for Charlie Hills although he failed to win for that trainer prior to his move to Cullentra and he made an immediate impact with a win at Sligo. He’s since been beaten on both subsequent runs however including being thumped thirty lengths and more by Monmiral in the Summit Juvenile Hurdle. Sideshift meanwhile was also fair on the flat in Ireland when trained by Michael O’Callaghan, winning at Dundalk before moving to Elliott.
Winless in three starts over hurdles he was last seen being beaten twenty lengths by Druid’s Altar at Naas and a considerable step up for both would be needed in order to feature.
National Hunt Chase
The likes of Coko Beach could give Elliott a strong hand but GALVIN is likely to prove his main hope in the race and the Gold Well gelding has previous Festival experience to call upon having contested twice here and he was arguably unlucky not to win twelve months ago behind Imperial Aura.
Since that defeat he is 4-4 for the season which includes a win back at Cheltenham latest in October where he beat Soldier Of Love and the longer trip of this race could unlock another level of improvement in the seven-year old who ought to go well in a race which Elliott has won four times.
Gordon Elliott Cheltenham runners day two
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
Formerly the RSA Chase this race boasts an entry for Envoi Allen although the Cheltenham Festival banker is likely to contest the Marsh Novices’ Chase rather than this which could then see ANDY DUFRESNE as the main hope of the Meath handler in this contest on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
A Grade Two winner over hurdles he always promised to be an even better chaser and the Doyen gelding won his first two starts over the larger obstacles with little fuss at Wexford and Navan of which the latter came in a Grade Three.
Stepped up to Grade One company and upped in trip for the Flogas Novices’ Chase he wasn’t disgraced in finishing third to Monkfish, jumping soundly but proving no match for his top-class rival. He could continue to progress over the larger obstacles and he’s a player here.
All eyes will be on the ever-popular dual-Grand National winner TIGER ROLL who has won this race twice and has a real love-affair with the Cheltenham Festival in general having also won the Triumph Hurdle and the National Hunt Chase.
The veteran Authorized gelding found only Easysland too good in this race twelve months ago but it is worrying that he hasn’t been seen since disappointing in the November equivalent of this race when pulled up behind Kingswell Theatre.
At eleven years old his best days are likely behind him but he’d surely be a popular winner.
Gordon Elliott Cheltenham runners day three
Marsh Novices’ Chase
Having also lost hot-favourite Envoi Allen to Henry de Bromhead there are few options in the race for Gordon Elliott although two entries remain with Coko Beach and CONFLATED both still in the picture for the day three Cheltenham Festival opener.
The former is unlikely to be rerouted here however given he’s fancied for the Ultima Handicap Chase and so it may just be Conflated who flies the Cullentra and Gigginstown House Stud flag in the Grade One opener to day three.
The Yeats gelding has shown good form over fences although he took a while to register his first win which came when beating Opposites Attract at Navan in December; he’d been beaten previously by ASterion Forlonge and Darver Star in successive runs at Punchestown and he was some sixty lengths adrift of Monkfish when last seen tackling the Neville Hotels Novice Chase. He possibly didn’t see out the three miles that day and he’ll appreciate the return to this trip although he nevertheless will have a good bit more to find against a few of these.
Winner of last season’s Marsh Novices’ Chase, SAMCRO hasn’t been seen since pulling up in the Savills Chase but the Germany gelding could be dangerous to discount on the third day of the Festival back at the scene of his greatest triumphs.
The 2018 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner things didn’t go to plan for him following a fall at Punchestown and he didn’t initially convince in his first few starts over fences despite winning at Down Royal on his chase debut.
Having fallen at Fairyhouse next time he was thumped by an ageing Faugheen at Limerick prior to having wind surgery and he returned with his second Festival success last March but has been well beaten in both his starts since.
Cheltenham has been a happy hunting ground for him in recent seasons and he’s proven when fresh so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bounce back with a big performance dropping to a more suitable trip.
SIRE DU BERLAIS could give Elliott a first win in the Stayers’ Hurdle and last season’s Pertemps Final hero can deliver a big performance.
Like stablemate Samcro the Poliglote gelding has a good Cheltenham record, finishing fourth in the 2018 Martin Pipe Hurdle before taking the 2019 Pertemps Final and he performed with credit in defeat before mounting a successful title defence of his Pertemps Final twelve months ago.
Having won the Lismullen Hurdle on his reappearance he lost little in defeat behind Flooring Porter in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas and a return to this venue can see him firmly in the mix.
Gordon Elliott day four Festival runners
In the Cheltenham Festival day four opener Gordon Elliott looks to hold a stranglehold in the race with Quilixios and Duffle Coat joined by ZANHAYIR who has looked a top-class prospect since switching to hurdling.
A fair sort on the flat for Mick Halford he is 3-3 since going over timber for Gordon Elliott, winning a Grade Three at Fairyhouse in November before routing opposition in good style to win the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at the Leopardstown Festival over Christmas.
The likes of Busselton, Ha D’or, Saint Sam and Druid’s Altar were all beaten that day and the Nathaniel gelding is likely to go close with further improvement anticipated.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Elliott could have another strong hand in this race with Fakiera and Torygraph featuring towards the head of the ante-post betting although FAROUK D’ALENE also comes into the race with strong claims and the Racinger gelding could post a big run if lining up.
He also holds a Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle entry but he looked a very strong stayer when beating Vanillier in a Limerick Grade Two contest over 2m7f having possibly found the lesser trip too sharp at Navan the time before behind Fakiera who is a fraction of his price.
Only beaten around five lengths that day where he wasn’t helped by a number of sloppy jumps including blundering his way through the second last he jumped much better next time and the further step up in trip for this race could suit and he looks a lively player for Grade One success.
MIGHTY STOWAWAY was a regular winner between the flags prior to joining this yard and he ran well under Rules when last seen finishing third in a Fairyhouse hunters’ chase behind Stand Up And Fight and Billaway.
He was only beaten around 12 lengths on that occasion but was clear of the fourth and he could go well in this contest where looks a good type for the race.