Elliott reports Cheltenham Festival team in good shape

Gordon Elliott has issued an upbeat report on several of his stable stars, with the Cheltenham Festival now only four weeks away.

While big rival Willie Mullins dominated the recent Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown with a staggering eight winners in two days, Elliott decided to keep his powder dry for next month’s showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds with his a number of his biggest guns.

The star of the squad is the unbeaten Envoi Allen, who having already won the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, is a red-hot favourite to complete a Festival hat-trick in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

The seven-year-old was last seen making it three from three over fences at Punchestown in January.

Envoi Allen is already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner
Envoi Allen is already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Envoi Allen is in good form,” Elliott told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s horse who’ll only ever do what he has to do, but he keeps winning and once he keeps doing that, I don’t mind.”

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Another horse who has yet to taste defeat since joining Elliott is Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr.

Following the Grade One success of stable companion Quilixios at Leopardstown, some suggested Zanahiyr could take on his elders in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, leaving Quilixios to run in the Triumph.

Elliott, however, has quashed that theory, saying: “Zanahiyr is in great form. I don’t know where all the talk of him running in the Supreme came from – I never even suggested it to anyone.

“We gave him an entry to keep our options open, but I took him out of it and he’s definitely going to go for the Triumph.”

Quilixios was an impressive winner at Leopardstown
Quilixios was an impressive winner at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

Another Cheltenham-bound runner for whom the Cullentra handler holds high hopes is Galvin, who has purposely been kept fresh for the National Hunt Chase since winning at Prestbury Park in October.

Elliott is keeping his fingers crossed Jamie Codd will be able to ride, with all amateurs currently unable to ride under rules due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Galvin has had a break and will go straight to Cheltenham,” Elliott added.

“He’s got loads of experience and was second in Cheltenham last year over fences. He’s also won there, so he’s got loads of experience around the track, which is a massive help.

“We don’t know if the amateurs are going to be able to ride or not. If they are, that will be a massive game changer for us as you have half a stone up your sleeve straight away when you’ve got one of the good Irish fellas riding.

“Time will tell whether they’ll be able to ride or not, but for them I hope they can, because it’s not nice for them to miss the Festival.”

Samcro can be brilliant at his best
Samcro can be brilliant at his best (David Davies/PA)

Whether Samcro will be part of Elliott’s Cheltenham squad remains uncertain.

The nine-year-old has won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival, but was pulled up on his latest outing in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December.

Elliott said: “Samcro is entered at the weekend (Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park), (but) again the ground will be the worry.

“We’ll probably look at something like the Ryanair Chase with him, but he’s not easy to train.

“He’s very hot and cold – when he’s good he’s good and when he’s bad he’s very bad.”

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