Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad – Meath trainer’s best hopes
Brian Healy picks out five top stars from the Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad who might be worth keeping onside for their respective Festival assignments over the course of the four days.
Top Irish trainer Gordon Elliott might concede a few years in experience to the likes of Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson, but the Meath trainer has a formidable Cheltenham Festival record with 25 winners already in the book including a Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The leading Festival trainer in 2017 and 2018, Elliott will send another strong raiding party to the Cotswolds where he could have as many as 80 runners entered across the four days of the greatest show on turf although not all will likely participate once the final entries are made.
We look at the pick of the Meath trainer’s equine riches and picks out five top stars from the Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad who many punters will be hoping can collect a big prize and perhaps see the Meath handler crowned Cheltenham Festival top trainer for a third time.
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ENVOI ALLEN (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)
Unbeaten in seven starts which includes victory in last year’s Champion Bumper, Envoi Allen has become this year’s ‘talking horse’ amongst the Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad and he represents many people’s Festival banker bet when he lines up in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
The Muhtathir gelding has carried all before him since winning in the point-to-point ranks with a quartet of wins in bumpers last term – culminating in his Champion Bumper victory – and he has carried on the good work over hurdles where he has already won a pair of Grade One contests from his three starts over timber.
He could yet switch to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the opening day of the Festival but the ground would have to be desperate for Elliott to contemplate that move and he remains on track for the day two opener where he boasts a strong favourites’ chance.
The layers will desperately be hoping he comes unstuck to save them a big payout!
TIGER ROLL (Cross-country Chase)
2017 Triumph Hurdle winner needs little introduction and the Authorized gelding will be bidding to land the Cross-country Chase for a third successive year when he turns out in the Thursday event.
The lynchpin of the Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad, he also has two Grand Nationals to his name and will bid for a third Aintree crown following his run – win-or-lose – over the banks and hedges of the Cross-country Chase.
Sure to be a popular choice with punters, the ten-year old has already demolished two good fields of rivals to win this race the past two years and few would back against him doing so again having warmed up for the race with a very solid fifth on his return to action in the recent Boyne Hurdle.
DELTA WORK (Gold Cup)
The Network gelding is no stranger to Festival success having taken the 2018 Pertemps Network Final prior to switching to the larger obstacles where he has shown top class form.
Perhaps less talked about compared to others in the Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad where he’ll represent the Meath handler in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was only beaten once last term over fences when debied in the RSA Chase where he eventually finished third.
He is 2-3 this term, bouncing back from defeat in a much-needed outing at Down Royal to win both the Savills chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and he goes to Cheltenham with a serious chance of landing further Grade One success
ABACADABRAS (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
Another of the Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad stars who is perhaps overlooked is Abacadabras who suffered his sole defeat over hurdles to date when narrowly touched off by stablemate Envoi Allen in the Royal Bond Hurdle.
The Davidoff gelding finished fourth behind the same rival in the Champion Bumper twelve months ago and bounced back from his defeat when running out a ready winner of a Grade One over Christmas at Leopardstown, beating Heaven Help Us.
He’ll go to Cheltenham a fresh horse having not raced since and he’ll have every chance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the opening day of the Festival where he’s likely to represent the trainer’s biggest chance in the Grade One contest.
FURY ROAD (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
Far from disgraced when coming off fourth-best behind Latest Exhibition at Leopardstown in Februrary, the previously unbeaten hurdler could easily bounce back in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle where he is the pick of the Gordon Elliott Cheltenham Festival squad for this race.
A point-to-point and bumper winner, he had progressed well over hurdles up until his defeat; but trainer Elliott feels the three miles of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle will elicit some further improvement in the Stowaway gelding and if the ground comes up testing then it will only play to the strengths of his charge who could post a big run in the Friday novices’ feature.