Tag Archive for: Gordon Elliott

Chasing could be an option next year for Brighterdaysahead

Gordon Elliott has hinted exciting mare Brighterdaysahead could be sent novice chasing next season.

The Cullentra House handler has made no secret of how highly he rates the half-sister to star performers such as Mighty Potter and Caldwell Potter.

She was a beaten favourite when second to Golden Ace in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but bounced back to claim Grade One glory at Aintree on Saturday.

Brighterdaysahead was subsequently promoted to second-favourite for next year’s Mares’ Hurdle behind Lossiemouth, but the Gigginstown House Stud-owned five-year-old may now be put over fences instead.

“I’ll have to speak to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) about whether we’ll go chasing or whether she’ll stay hurdling, that’s yet to be confirmed,” said Elliott.

“But knowing Michael, he loves chasers and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world if she goes chasing next year.”

Randox Grand National 2024 – Grand National Day – Aintree Racecourse
Brighterdaysahead comes home well clear at Aintree (Mike Egerton/PA).

Elliott was understandably delighted with the Turners Mersey Novices’ Hurdle success, with Brighterdaysahead coming home seven and a half lengths clear of stablemate Staffordshire Knot.

The trainer told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme: “I was gutted when she got beat at Cheltenham, because I’d said how much I thought of her, but what she did yesterday, I thought she looked special. I got a big kick out of that, to be honest.

“She’s going the right way and I think she’s going to be stronger with a summer’s grass – we’re really looking forward to next year with her.

“She’s just got a great attitude, she’s very classy and I loved the way she jumped, she was very quick from A to B, very fast away from the hurdles.”

Elliott just missed out in his bid for a fourth Grand National triumph but hailed the efforts of runner-up Delta Work and fourth-placed Galvin, who are set to have another crack at Aintree glory next year.

He said: “You’d like to think with the way they ran that would be the road for them. They’re not getting any younger, so it’s not going to be easy for them, but we’ll work our way back from the Grand National again.”

So close, but Elliott has to give best to Mullins again

Gordon Elliott again had to give best to the “thorn in his side” that is Willie Mullins, with Delta Work finding only I Am Maximus too good for Delta Work in the Randox Grand National at Aintree.

The two powerhouse trainers have long matched strides at the top of Irish racing, with Elliott having to settle for second in the Irish trainers’ championship on multiple occasions as well as on some of the biggest of British stages, including when Gerri Colombe chased home Galopin Des Champs in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Elliott fielded seven in his bid for a fourth Grand National following Silver Birch (2007) and dual hero Tiger Roll (2018 and 2019), with particularly high hopes for Delta Work who was having a third crack at the race having finished third in 2022 and unseated his rider last year.

But as has been the story for much of the season, Mullins was a cut above the rest, with I Am Maximus coming home seven and a half lengths ahead of Delta Work, with fellow Elliott runner Galvin a further length back in fourth.

While disappointed to be denied, Elliott hailed the both the efforts of his runners and the “exceptional” winner.

He said: “It just didn’t happen for us. No one remembers second, I don’t anyway.

“Delta Work was awesome and Galvin is a warrior, I’m so proud of him and I’m so lucky with the horses I have.

“Delta Work was flying come here and I thought this was his year. He ran his race and just got beat by a better horse, that’s it.

“The winner is exceptional and Willie Mullins remains a thorn in my side.”

Jack Kennedy was aboard Delta Work and added: “He ran a cracker, delighted with him. He made a couple of mistakes but travelled well and ran a great race.”

The gelding did not return to the winner’s enclosure and Elliott explained: “Delta Work didn’t come back in, but he’s fine, he just has a cut on a hind leg.”

Minella Indo (centre) had to settle for third
Minella Indo (centre) had to settle for third (Bradley Collyer/PA)

It briefly looked as though Rachael Blackmore was going to add a second National to her historic first win aboard Minella Times three years ago when Minella Indo jumped the last in front, but she was overhauled on the run to the line, eventually coming home third aboard the 2021 Gold Cup winner.

She said: “It was a massive run, he’s some horse. He gave me a great ride around there and I felt for a split second we were going to do it, but then I blinked and I could see the green and gold (colours of owner JP McManus) flash by me in a shot.

“He was in against younger legs, but it was a brilliant run and congratulations to Paul Townend, JP and Willie.”

Minella Indo’s trainer Henry de Bromhead admitted he believed another famous success could be on the cards – but he was nevertheless thrilled in defeat, with future plans for the 11-year-old yet to be discussed.

Henry de Bromhead was delighted with the performances of his two runners
Henry de Bromhead was delighted with the performances of his two runners (Mike Egerton/PA)

De Bromhead said: “He’s a warrior, isn’t he? Just brilliant. I’m delighted with him.

“I thought we were going to win it there for a second, he travelled so well for Rachael, she was brilliant and they were both brilliant together.

“To get horses like him is incredible, we’ve had so much fun with him.

“We’ll see about next year, we’ll enjoy today and see – he obviously owes us nothing and all we want to do is look after him. But I tell you what, the way he jumped round there he looked like he loved every minute of it.”

De Bromhead also saddled Ain’t That A Shame to finish sixth for amateur rider and owner David Maxwell, who purchased the horse last month specifically to ride in the National.

He added: “David gave Ain’t That A Shame a super ride, he was brilliant on him the whole way. I’m delighted for him as he got such a thrill from it.”

Maxwell thoroughly enjoyed his National spin and said: “That was as much fun as you can have with your trousers on!

“Crossing the Melling Road I couldn’t believe I was still in touch, but I could also see so many going well. It wasn’t like there was just the three of us travelling well. I thought ‘bloody hell, I’m going to finish the Grand National’, then I thought ‘I’m going to finish somewhere near the frame’. I’ve never thought it would go like this. It was such a thrill.

“Damn right I’ll be back here next year. The horse is going to have to run in the race until he is 15!”

I Am Maximus (centre) on his way to Aintree success
I Am Maximus (centre) on his way to Aintree success (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Kitty’s Light fared best of the numerically limited British-trained challenge among the 32 starters, coming home a 10-and-quarter-length fifth for trainer Christian Williams and jockey Jack Tudor.

Williams said: “He travelled and jumped so well, I thought we were the winners all the way. I’m immensely proud of him and those were graded horses in front of him at the finish, including a Gold Cup winner.

“I’m unsure where he will go, because I really wanted him to win the National, but we will probably look at Sandown (for the bet365 Gold Cup).”

Last year’s National winner Corach Rambler got no further than the first fence this time, with Derek Fox unseated on landing after the Lucinda Russell-trained runner had cleared the obstacle.

The horse carried on running loose with the field and fell at the next fence but was reported to have returned unscathed.

Russell said: “It was obviously disappointing what happened, but I was more worried when I saw him come down at the second. Thankfully he’s fine, no problems and the owners are just delighted that he has come home safe and sound.”

Elliott and Kennedy cash in with Found A Fifty

Found A Fifty was the epitome of bravery in a pulsating finish to the My Pension Expert Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

Gordon Elliott’s Arkle runner-up had seen the form of that race franked by Cheltenham Festival third Il Etait Temps on Thursday and with Quilixios and Nickle Back leading the field along at a strong pace, the seven-year-old’s stamina was assured to come into play in the closing stages.

Both Jack Kennedy aboard Found A Fifty and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Master Chewy edged their way into contention and it soon became evident they would fight out the finish of this race, as Quilixios backed out of things after two out.

There was little to separate the pair at the last and it seemed Master Chewy was going to keep on to glory when edging his head in front up the run-in. But Found A Fifty (11-8 favourite) was not for lying down and rallied gamely to get back up after a titanic tussle in the shadow of the post.

Elliott said: “We’ve had a great season, we’ve been hitting the crossbar all week and what’s not winning is running very well.

“I’m thrilled to see this horse win and I’m delighted for Noel and Valerie (Moran, owners). It’s a huge day and he was tough. He’s a good horse.”

Brighterdaysahead indeed for Elliott-trained mare

Brighterdaysahead proved appropriately named when a bloodless winner of the Turners Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

Held in the highest regard by trainer Gordon Elliott, she headed into the Cheltenham Festival as one of the bankers of the week in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned five-year-old suffered a shock defeat at Prestbury Park when second to Golden Ace, but back up in trip and facing some quality opposition, the five-year-old confirmed she is a mare of the highest quality.

Settled in midfield by Jack Kennedy, Brighterdaysahead was always in the perfect position and having travelled menacingly into contention rounding the turn for home, she cruised effortlessly to the lead heading down to the last.

A big smile from Jack Kennedy
A big smile from Jack Kennedy (PA)

Kennedy could simply sit and savour the moment as the 6-5 favourite sauntered to a facile seven-and-a-half length success over stablemate Staffordshire Knott, who was giving Gigginstown a one-two in the Grade One event.

Elliott said: “The horses have been running well week, but we’ve been hitting the crossbar. I said a lot about this mare leading up to Cheltenham and I was gutted coming out of it, but we’re overjoyed today.

“She’s very good, I was nervous before the race because looking at her I thought she looked a bit light across her kidneys, but she showed how special she is.

“We can go wherever we want with her. I’m not going to say the best mare I’ve had because Apple’s Jade was pretty special, but she’s good.

“In this game there are always disappointments, but I look at life totally different now, I just love training winners and I love horses. But to win today is unbelievable.

“I don’t think the trip was the reason she got beat at Cheltenham, I thought she’d win. Willie’s horse (Jade De Grugy) has already come out and won at Fairyhouse. I just think on the day Jack and Paul (Townend) were watching each other and the other horse (Golden Ace) came and did them both.

“She’s gorgeous to look at.”

In third, running a huge race at 50-1, was the Charlie Longsdon-trained Bugise Seagull.

“At 50-1 he wasn’t given a chance, but I knew he was five lengths better than his Sidney Banks run. I felt that would put him on a par with Handstands (the winner),” said Longsdon.

“He’s not streetwise enough to run in handicaps and he will be chucked in a field and have a good holiday.

“It’s been a bad season for us, the horses have been ill and then they came back on heavy ground and it’s just not easy to come back from being ill on heavy ground.

“This horse has kept the flag flying for the yard to be brutally honest. Hopefully this is the turn of things to come.”

Randox Grand National – What connections say

The eyes of the racing world will be focussed on Aintree at 4pm on Saturday for what promises to be another pulsating renewal of the Randox Grand National. Here are the thoughts of some of the connections hoping to strike gold in the world’s most famous steeplechase:

Trainer Emmet Mullins – Noble Yeats (11st 12lb)

Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen celebrates winning the 2022 Grand National on Noble Yeats
Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen celebrates winning the 2022 Grand National on Noble Yeats (David Davies/PA)

“Noble is great, he got the ferry over on Thursday. He’s had a good prep and came out of Cheltenham very well. The ground has to be seen as a bit of a negative as his best form is on nice spring ground, but he’s in good form and hopefully he’ll run a good race.

“He’s got top-weight now but he’s only got 1lb more to carry than if Conflated was running so that’s neither here nor there. He’s got the weight for a good reason and ran a brilliant race with similar last year.

“Hopefully the route we’ve gone this year, Stayers’ Hurdle rather than Gold Cup, will just leave him that little bit fresher.”

Trainer Gordon Elliott – Coko Beach (11st 8lb), Delta Work (11st 4lb), Galvin (11st 2lb), Farouk D’Alene (11st 1lb), Minella Crooner (10st 10lb), Chemical Energy (10st 9lb), The Goffer (10st 8lb)

Gordon Elliott has high hopes for Delta Work
Gordon Elliott has high hopes for Delta Work (Tim Goode/PA)

“To be honest the ground has gone against a few of then, Galvin would have loved a bit of better ground. Delta Work and Coko Beach are probably the pick of them on the ground.

“Coko Beach loves the mud, he’s probably not that well handicapped but hopefully he’ll run well.

“I’m really happy with Delta, he’s never been working as well and I haven’t had him moving as well in the last two years. I’m looking forward to it.”

Trainer Henry de Bromhead – Minella Indo (11st 6lb), Ain’t That A Shame (10st 13lb), Eklat De Rire (10st 7lb)

Minella Indo (left) winning the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Minella Indo (left) winning the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup (Michael Steele/PA)

“Minella Indo would obviously have a squeak, he has a good chance on his best form.

“Ain’t That A Shame ran well in the race last year, David Maxwell is on him and hopefully he’ll give him a good spin round. He was very good in the Thyestes.

“Eklat De Rire was disappointing at Cheltenham, we felt he was coming back before that. He’s in good form and we’re hoping that type of race will bring him back.

“I think drying ground would suit Indo, probably the other two like a bit of dig in the ground.”

Trainer Dan Skelton – Galia Des Liteaux (10st 7lb)

Galia Des Liteaux bids to aid Dan Skelton's bid to be champion trainer
Galia Des Liteaux bids to aid Dan Skelton’s bid to be champion trainer (Mike Egerton/PA)

“She loves the soft ground and I think she’ll stay the trip, you can never absolutely certain until they have but everything about her says she’ll stay it.

“She’s in great form and we’ve trained her specifically for it, just like everyone else in the race has. There are no negatives.

“There’s a lot of water to go under that bridge (trainers’ championship), but having good chances at this meeting with the prize-money on offer there is obviously very important.”

Jockey James Reveley – Roi Mage (10st 8lb)

Roi Mage jumps Becher's Brook in last year's Grand National
Roi Mage jumps Becher’s Brook in last year’s Grand National (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s a horse I’ve ridden a few times and I know quite well. I’d ridden him in France and I thought he’d be a good National type.

“I think things have gone a bit better for him this year, his last run was good, very solid, and I liked how he stayed on to the line.

“They campaign him quietly, they don’t over-race him and that’s good for an older horse. He enjoys his life with the Griffins in Ireland and I’m quietly confident.”

Trainer Gary Moore – Nassalam (11st 8lb)

Nassalam relished deep ground when winning the Welsh National
Nassalam relished deep ground when winning the Welsh National (David Davies/PA)

“He couldn’t be in a better place at home and I’m really happy with him. Everything has gone to plan except the sun has come out and it’s drying the ground out and I can’t see any rain about.

“The fact he’s got so much weight, it will be easier to carry it on better ground. But he is a stone better horse on heavy ground and it just limits his chances a bit to be honest.

“I would rather have deep ground and he will probably have two things against him now – the weight and the ground.”

Trainer Tom Ellis – Latenightpass (10st 10lb)

Latenightpass has a great Aintree record
Latenightpass has a great Aintree record (David Davies/PA)

“It’s a big day and arguably our biggest, but I’m looking forward to it.

“We’ve had a really good run with him coming into the race to be fair and we’ve had a nice run with him.

“He looks really well and he’s done all his work now and we’ve had this in mind since December. It’s just been a case of following the plan since.

“The fences and the course are not a worry with him, but the ground would be a slight concern. Although it’s the same for them all and at least Latenightpass has won on soft and heavy before anyway. Hopefully he will run well.”

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins – I Am Maximus (11st 6lb), Meetingofthewaters (10st 8lb), Mr Incredible (10st 11lb), Stattler (11st 5lb)

I Am Maximus is one of the powerful Willie Mullins National string
I Am Maximus is one of the powerful Willie Mullins National string (Damien Eagers/PA)

“It’s obviously going to dry up before Saturday and I imagine it will be sticky rather than wet.

“I Am Maximus has a big engine but I’m not sure how his jumping will stand up. In the Irish National he jumped himself out of it in the first two miles then got back into it but that is a lot harder to do over here. His best form seems to be right-handed at Fairyhouse even though he jumps left so he has a few questions to answer.

“Meetingofthewaters I think has a great profile, he is a young horse and unexposed and it was a great run at Cheltenham. He’ll have to settle and that will be a big thing for him – he was a bit keen at Cheltenham. I think he has a lovely racing weight and he’s right down the bottom really.

“Mr Incredible is a bit of a maverick and the standing start is a bit of a concern for him, he doesn’t need any encouragement to stand still for any length of time. If he does jump off, he was running a cracker here last year and this place lights him up a bit so you would have to take him seriously as well.

“I’m riding Stattler and I would have to worry about the ground for him, it will need to dry up. For me the National is the race that counts and if you are not in it you can’t win it. Any chance I get to ride in it, I’ll be taking it ”

Trainer Mouse Morris – Foxy Jacks (11st 4lb)

Foxy Jacks was a good winner at Cheltenham in November
Foxy Jacks was a good winner at Cheltenham in November (David Davies/PA)

“It’s been a very lucky place for me, I’ve had a good few winners here and I’ve been lucky enough to win the big one before.

“Foxy Jacks is jumping super and he gave an exhibition at Cheltenham in the cross-country (in November). The handicapper hasn’t been good to him and gave him 8lb for winning the cross-country and I think Hewick only got 2lb for winning the King George so I can’t work out the mathematics.

“It’s a big day and a big race so we will let him take his chance. He’s 10 now and very easy to train now so I’m not worried (about the cross-country being cancelled at the Cheltenham Festival).

“He probably won’t be at his best in the ground and I think it is whoever gets round that will win. We live and dream, there’s no point sleeping if you don’t dream.”

Gerri Colombe and Shishkin in line for Bowl clash

Gold Cup runner-up Gerri Colombe will meet last year’s winner Shishkin in the Aintree Bowl on Thursday.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, Gerri Colombe put up a game fight in the blue riband at Cheltenham when beating all bar reigning champion Galopin Des Champs.

Gerri Colombe is owned by Brian Acheson’s Robcour operation and the same colours will be sported by the Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame.

Shishkin, winner of the race 12 months ago for Nicky Henderson, will attempt to put a dreadful Cheltenham Festival behind the trainer after he withdrew many of his intended runners due to the form of his string.

Corbetts Cross, so impressive in the National Hunt Chase, will step into open company for the first time while Bravemansgame, Ahoy Senor and Thunder Rock are also running in a field of seven.

Champion Hurdle third Luccia will step up in trip for the William Hill Aintree Hurdle.

One of only a few to run well for Henderson at Cheltenham, she will face the likes of Impaire Et Passe and Bob Olinger in a field of eight, with Coral Cup winner Langer Dan stepping up in grade.

Grey Dawning on his way to victory at Cheltenham
Grey Dawning on his way to victory at Cheltenham (Adam Davy/PA)

Grey Dawning and Ginny’s Destiny will meet again in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase.

The pair served up a real treat in the Turners at Cheltenham, with Dan Skelton’s Grey Dawning coming out on top by two lengths.

Il Etait Temps, third in the Arkle, steps up in trip for Willie Mullins, while Blow Your Wad and Colonel Harry complete the quintet.

Sir Gino, a Cheltenham absentee for Henderson, will get the chance to strut his stuff in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

He will take on Mullins’ Kargese, who finished second to stable companion Majborough in the Triumph Hurdle, the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair of Intellotto and Nurburgring, Paul Nicholls’ Kalif Du Berlais and Dirty Den.

There are 22 in the Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase which include Cheltenham runner-up Its On The Line and Cat Tiger for David Maxwell.

Gigginstown have high hopes for Delta Work, but Conflated could be rerouted

Ground conditions will be the deciding factor in whether top-weight Conflated will line up in the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday – with the weather pointing towards Delta Work as the number one contender for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud.

The 10-year-old Conflated, who holds alternative entries in the Aintree Bowl on Thursday and Friday’s Melling Chase, is one of 13 contenders for Gordon Elliott following the confirmation stage, with Coko Beach, Delta Work and Galvin also part of the three-time Grand National-winning trainer’s squad.

Conflated, Coko Beach and Delta Work all carry the colours of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, who are also responsible for Farouk D’Alene, Run Wild Fred and Frontal Assault, although the latter is almost certain to miss the cut.

Delta Work in action at Cheltenham
Delta Work in action at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

When asked whether the first five were intended runners Gigginstown’s racing manager Eddie O’Leary said: “I would think at the moment yes, maybe Conflated might not, we’ll see how heavy the ground is going to be. If it’s very heavy he might come out to go in the Bowl or even the Melling.

“Would we chance him (in the National) over that trip on good ground yes, would we chance him over that trip on heavy ground, probably no. We’ll see what Gordon thinks.

“Coko Beach likes soft ground, but he mightn’t like what the handicapper’s done to him. He’s a lovely old horse, but he’s run it he race twice and failed to get home twice.

“We’ll obviously give him a bit more of a chance this year, rather than trying to make the running with him, but he got a big hike for winning the Troytown and off that weight (11st 7lb) it’s hard to fancy him. Conflated has to give him 5lb and Conflated would carry him.”

The Gigginstown colours have been carried to Aintree glory three times – twice by Tiger Roll and once by Rule The World. Like Tiger Roll, Delta Work is a winner of the cross-country chase at Cheltenham, although that race was called off this year, meaning a slightly less smooth preparation than had been hoped for.

O’Leary is still hopeful, however. He said: “I’d say of ours Delta Work would be the one. He’s a good horse and he’ll love the ground. It was a pity he didn’t get to run in Cheltenham after they called the cross country off as horses were trained for that to come forward for the National, but we are where we are now.”

Willie Mullins is also heavily represented, as he seeks a second victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase, having previously struck with Hedgehunter in 2005.

The Closutton handler’s nine-strong team features last year’s Irish Grand National winner I Am Maximus, fellow JP McManus-owned runner Meetingofthewaters and Mr Incredible.

Other leading hopes for Ireland include last year’s runner-up Vanillier, trained by Gavin Cromwell, the Emmet Mullins-trained 2022 National hero Noble Yeats, Martin Brassil’s Panda Boy, Mahler Mission from John McConnell’s yard and Henry de Bromhead’s 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.

The home team is led by Corach Rambler, victorious 12 months ago and the current favourite to strike gold again following an excellent third place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month.

Corach Rambler and jockey Derek Fox will bid for back-to-back Grand National victories
Corach Rambler and jockey Derek Fox will bid for back-to-back Grand National victories (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

Kitty’s Light would be a popular winner for Welsh trainer Christian Williams, as would Gary Moore’s Welsh Grand National scorer and proven mudlark Nassalam.

Others of note among 51 confirmations include the Tom Ellis-trained Latenightpass and Dan Skelton’s mare Galia Des Liteaux, with the latter one of six horses on 10st 6lb at the bottom of the weights.

Empire Steel, Fantastic Lady, Angels Dawn and Fury Road were the four horses not left in at Monday’s confirmation stage, while Classic Getaway, Bronn and Full Back had all been scratched.

Corach Rambler is the 4-1 favourite with Coral, with I Am Maximus and Vanillier also single-figure odds.

Coral’s David Stevens said: “Fifty years on from Red Rum’s second National victory, Corach Rambler looks set to start a warm favourite to emulate the Aintree legend and win the race in successive years, although soft ground performers like I Am Maximus and Meetingofthewaters continue to attract support in the betting.”

Conflated still top-weight for National after 51 stand their ground

Conflated remains top-weight among the 51 horses still in contention for the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday following the confirmation stage.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned 10-year-old, who holds alternative entries in the Aintree Bowl on Thursday and Friday’s Melling Chase, is one of 13 contenders for Gordon Elliott, with Coko Beach, Delta Work and Galvin also part of the three-time Grand National-winning trainer’s squad.

Willie Mullins is also heavily represented, as he seeks a second victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase, having previously struck with Hedgehunter in 2005.

The Closutton handler’s nine-strong team features last year’s Irish Grand National winner I Am Maximus, fellow JP McManus-owned runner Meetingofthewaters and Mr Incredible.

Other leading hopes for Ireland include last year’s runner-up Vanillier, trained by Gavin Cromwell, the Emmet Mullins-trained 2022 National hero Noble Yeats, Martin Brassil’s Panda Boy, Mahler Mission from John McConnell’s yard and Henry de Bromhead’s 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.

The home team is led by Corach Rambler, victorious 12 months ago and the current favourite to strike gold again following an excellent third place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month.

Corach Rambler and jockey Derek Fox will bid for back-to-back Grand National victories
Corach Rambler and jockey Derek Fox will bid for back-to-back Grand National victories (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

Kitty’s Light would be a popular winner for Welsh trainer Christian Williams, as would Gary Moore’s Welsh Grand National scorer and proven mudlark Nassalam.

Others of note include the Tom Ellis-trained Latenightpass and Dan Skelton’s mare Galia Des Liteaux, with the latter one of six horses on 10st 6lb at the bottom of the weights.

Empire Steel, Fantastic Lady, Angels Dawn and Fury Road were the four horses not left in at Monday’s confirmation stage, while Classic Getaway, Bronn and Full Back had all been scratched.

Elliott anticipating similar route back to Cheltenham for Gerri Colombe

Gordon Elliott is already plotting how Gerri Colombe can bridge the gap with Galopin Des Champs in next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The eight-year-old made Willie Mullins’ dual blue riband hero pull out all the stops at this season’s Festival, and Elliott feels there is still more to come from his charge.

He told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday: “I’d say Gerri Colombe was definitely a career best. We were delighted with Gerri and the winner is very, very special.

“The loose horse has done us absolutely no favours – we’d have never won on the day, but we might have been a little bit closer.

“I think with another summer out at grass, he’s going to be even better. He probably jumped his best throughout the race on Friday but I still think he needs to learn to come down and get from A to B a little bit quicker.

“If you look at Galopin Des Champs, he’s a lot quicker through the air than we are, but that’s getting better all the time.

“Whether we run him again this year or not, I’m not sure. If I do, it’ll likely be Punchestown, Aintree will probably come a bit soon. But if not, it’ll be all systems go again for the Gold Cup next year.”

Elliott enjoyed Grade One glory with Teahupoo in the Stayers’ Hurdle and he is set to target a repeat success in that contest next term.

The seven-year-old had just one previous outing this season, when winning the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse, and another light schedule is on the cards.

“He suits the race,” said the Cullentra House handler. “He’s a laid-back type of horse, he doesn’t take too much energy out of himself.

“So, we’ll probably look at going back to Punchestown, all being well, and then maybe going the same path again next year, with just two or three runs in the season again.

Cheltenham Festival 2024 – St Patrick’s Thursday – Cheltenham Racecourse
Teahupoo ridden by Jack Kennedy winning the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA).

“He’s probably not the biggest or most robust horse in the world, so maybe he doesn’t need a whole lot of racing, but he’s very honest and we’re very lucky to have him.

“His form suggests he runs best with a nice break between runs, so we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing – he’s done us proud so far.”

Irish Point was rerouted from the Stayers’ Hurdle to the Champion Hurdle following the defection of Constitution Hill and performed admirably when chasing home State Man.

He is now in line for a step back up in trip to two and a half miles for the William Hill Aintree Hurdle, where he could clash with the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger, who carries the same Robcour colours.

Elliott said: “Irish Point is probably more of a stayer than a two-miler but just the way the race was working out, we had to roll the dice.

“I’d love to go to Aintree. They are in different camps – Henry can worry about his horse and I will worry about mine.”

Stellar Story denies The Jukebox Man in Bartlett thriller

Sam Ewing and Stellar Story pounced in the very last stride to inflict Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle agony on The Jukebox Man at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Ben Pauling-trained 18-1 outsider, who is owned by Harry Redknapp, had led the field along from flag fall in the hands of Kielan Woods, with Gordon Elliott’s shock 33-1 winner amongst those to track the pace setter.

The sedate early gallop saw plenty in with chances as the runners descended towards two out, but one by one they dropped away as Woods upped the tempo aboard The Jukebox Man and made his bid for home.

Pauling’s charge held the advantage running down to the last, but the six-year-old got in tight and gave Ewing and Stellar Story a glimmer of hope and they took full advantage, rallying to reel in the brave runner-up in the shadow of the post.

It was Elliott’s second success of the week following on from Teahupoo’s Stayers’ Hurdle triumph on Thursday, but for the young rider Ewing, it was not only a first Cheltenham Festival success, but also a maiden strike at Grade One level.

Sam Ewing salutes the Cheltenham crowd
Sam Ewing salutes the Cheltenham crowd (Mike Egerton/PA)

Ewing said: “Absolutely brilliant. He’s a horse that jumps very well, he loved that ground today and he battled very hard for me. He was brilliant at the last as well, when we needed it, so I can’t believe it.”

Elliott admitted he thought Stellar Story’s odds were generous, saying: “To be honest we thought he was overpriced, we knew he’d love the ground and he’s as tough as old nails.

“He stayed very well and Sam was good and positive. We were probably a little bit fortunate that the second horse missed the last as we’ve collared him on the line, but it was brilliant. I knew he was getting there, I just didn’t think he was getting there in time.

“To tell you the honest truth, I wasn’t going to run him. I was going to run Croke Park in the race and he was lame on Wednesday morning, so I brought this horse over late. I was going to send him to Aintree for a three-mile hurdle, so it shows what I know.

Stellar Story (left) chased down The Jukebox Man
Stellar Story (left) chased down The Jukebox Man (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He was bought to be a big chaser, that’s what he is. He’s a lovely horse.

“Sam is a big part of the team and I’m delighted for him.”

Owner Michael O’Leary added: “It’s a relief as I was getting a bit desperate. I had a bad day yesterday as my wife was presenting the Ryanair trophy to an ex Manchester United manager (Sir Alex Ferguson) and I’m a lifelong Man City supporter.

“I’m happy that’s the only trophy Man United are going to win this year, but I’m a bit disappointed it was the Ryanair trophy.

“It’s a complete fluke as we had Croke Park for this race and Gordon only put this horse on the box on Wednesday night. Sam gave him a peach of a ride.

“It was just a slog fest, but I’m very happy to win it. That relieves an awful lot of pressure.

“Winners here are so hard to get, if you don’t appreciate being in here you should give this game up. I tried to give it up about five years ago!

“To get in here is just fantastic.”

Teahupoo strikes Stayers’ gold for Elliott

Gordon Elliott notched back-to-back victories in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle as Teahupoo stormed up the Cheltenham hill for Festival glory.

The seven-year-old could only finish third behind veteran stablemate Sire Du Berlais when sent off the 9-4 favourite 12 months ago, but made no mistake on his return to Prestbury Park in the hands of Jack Kennedy – who along with the Cullentra House handler was getting off the mark for the week.

Sent off the well-backed 5-4 favourite having not been seen since claiming a second Hatton’s Grace in December, he was ridden with plenty of confidence and also plenty of daylight as he charted a wide path on his latest trip to the Cotswolds.

Gordon Elliott (right) with jockey Jack Kennedy at the trophy presentation
Gordon Elliott (right) with jockey Jack Kennedy at the trophy presentation (Mike Egerton/PA)

Kennedy inched his mount into contention two out and although not fluent at the penultimate flight, he was hot on the tail of Flooring Porter as the business end approached.

Fellow Irish raiders Home By The Lee and Buddy One were also in the mix on the long run to the last but Teahupoo soon cemented his dominance and having jumped the final flight with a narrow advantage, he was not for catching in the closing stages as he sprinted clear of the gallant Flooring Porter.

Elliott said: “He’s best fresh so we said we’d come straight here. Listen, it’s great to get a winner. They’ve been running well, just hitting the crossbar, they’ve had no excuses but to win the Stayers’ Hurdle is unbelievable and I’m delighted for the whole team.

“It’s difficult to tell myself to stay patient when you don’t have a winner, it’s been a long couple of days but they’ve bene running well. We’ve got one now. This was always going to be our best day, this was one of our biggest guns.

“I was a little anxious when he missed the second-last and then he probably got there too soon because he had to give him a squeeze.

“I think he’s a stronger horse this year and saddling him I thought he’d grown.

“He’ll stay hurdling, we’ll never say never but at the moment he’ll stay hurdling. There are some nice races at Aintree and Punchestown for him so we’ll have a look at those.”

Gavin Cromwell was pleased with the effort of Flooring Porter (right)
Gavin Cromwell was pleased with the effort of Flooring Porter (right) (Mike Egerton/PA)

Of Flooring Porter, Gavin Cromwell said: “I’m delighted with the run, obviously you hate standing in the second place but that’s just the nature of the beast and I don’t think we could have done anything any differently.

“It was a very game performance, he was headed and tried all the way to the line. He was a good second and the winner is a worthy winner.

“We’ll have to consider going to Aintree, we’ll digest this first and we’ll see.

“He’s been a warrior and please God he’s not finished just yet.”

Home By The Lee was third for Joseph O’Brien, who said: “It’s nice to see him come back to himself with two fantastic horses in front of us.”

Paul Gilligan said of the fourth-placed Buddy One: “It was an absolutely super run and if the ground was just a touch better it would have suited him better, but I’m not complaining as to get in this semi-circle here is where you want to be.

“Obviously we were in the winning spot in November and we’ll try to get back in the winning spot here again sometime.

“He was very sore in his back after his last run in Leopardstown and scoped a little wrong as well. He has now proved that he is the horse that we think he is.

“As I’ve said all along it’s horses for courses and he loves this place.

“I’d say I’ll go over fences next season looking at the way he jumps, and it’s just great to have a horse like this for the three men that own him because getting people to back a small yard like ours is near impossible and they’ve invested in this horse and a couple of others. They’re just fantastic men.

“I have every confidence in this horse, he did a piece of work last week and it was just electric, so I did fancy him today.

“I definitely won’t go to Punchestown, we might go to Aintree as he ran very well last year, but we’ll see. I’m not going to abuse the horse and he’s entitled to a very good break now.”

Tullyhill captains strong Supreme team for Mullins

Willie Mullins will be responsible for half of the field when saddling six runners in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and hopes are predictably high for a record-extending eighth success in the Cheltenham Festival curtain raiser.

The Closutton maestro first struck with Tourist Attraction way back in 1995 and has since prevailed with Ebaziyan, Champagne Fever, Vautour, Douvan, Klassical Dream and Appreciate It.

This year’s challenge is expected to be headed by Tullyhill, who was beaten at long odds-on when making his jumping debut in late November but has since posted a couple of impressive victories.

Mystical Power, a son of the great Galileo and former Champion Hurdle star Annie Power, is also at the head of the betting after winning the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown by seven lengths.

The Galway Races Summer Festival 2023 – Day One – Galway Racecourse
Mystical Power ridden by Mark Walsh winning at Galway (Niall Carson/PA).

French import Mistergif romped home by 18 lengths on his first start for Mullins at Limerick, while outsiders Asian Master, Gold Dancer and Supersundae complete the strong stable squad.

“I’m very happy with how all the team have travelled and arrived here, they’re all in good order,” said Mullins.

“Tullyhill disappointed with his jumping on his first run, but we got that sorted out and now he’s showing his true colours.

“Mystical Power has surprised us, his pedigree is starting to come out. At home, he doesn’t show that sort of form, but when he gets to the racetrack he’s a different beast.

“I just thought after what he’s shown us on the track, it was an easy decision to go for the two-mile race.”

A powerful raiding party from Ireland is further bolstered by Gordon Elliott’s Firefox, who was below par in Grade One company at Naas last time out but had previously enjoyed smooth successes at Down Royal and Fairyhouse, where he notably got the better of Ballyburn.

Elliott said: “I think the trip will suit him, he looks in good form and we’re very happy with him.

“He was obviously disappointing the last day, but you can put a line through that – he didn’t scope right and was lame after the race. He’s in good form now and we’re looking forward to running him.”

Henry de Bromhead sends over Navan Grade Two scorer Slade Steel and has opted to go for this two-mile contest in order to avoid facing last month’s Leopardstown conqueror Ballyburn.

“He’s done little wrong, we’re happy with him and he seems in good form,” commented the Waterford trainer.

“He seems pretty adaptable (trip-wise) and I suppose Ballyburn has beaten us a couple of times, so we said we’d take that view (of avoiding another clash) and that’s what we’re doing.”

Jeriko Du Reponet is rated the most likely home winner, with Nicky Henderson seeking to strike for the third time in five years after recent triumphs for Shishkin and Constitution Hill.

This five-year-old attracted strong ante-post support following two facile victories at Newbury and retained his unbeaten status when seeing off subsequent Dovecote scorer Lump Sum in the rearranged Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster, albeit in a more workmanlike manner.

Henderson told Unibet: “He is unbeaten and ever since he arrived at Seven Barrows, this race was always where we wanted to end up.

“While he may not have looked visually impressive at Doncaster last time, the race wasn’t run to suit, but has subsequently worked out very well – and there is likely to be much more pace on here, which will play to his strengths.

“Obviously, the Irish squad will be very hard to beat, but I rather fear Jeriko may be the slightly forgotten horse and I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Newbury Races – Saturday December 30th
Jeriko Du Reponet in action at Newbury (David Davies/PA).

Ben Pauling’s Tellherthename bounced back from being pulled up on testing ground at Aintree over Christmas by securing a 14-length success at Huntingdon and connections insist he is not heading to Cheltenham just to make up the numbers.

“I’ve been delighted with him and we’re very excited,” said Pauling. “Touch wood and fingers crossed, we’ve got him there in great form and his preparations have gone well to date.

“He schooled well last Thursday and it’s just exciting to have one in the Supreme with a chance.”

Favour And Fortune has some solid form in the book, prevailing at Hereford and Wetherby before chasing home Jango Baie in the Grade One Formby Novices’ Hurdle at Liverpool and then finishing a close second to Mullins raider Fun Fun Fun at Exeter, although Alan King would rather be racing on a sounder surface.

He said: “I would prefer it if the rain didn’t arrive. He will be a much better horse on better ground. I promise you, the more the ground dries, the better his chance will be.

“I’m amazed he has done as well on the ground we have raced him on the last twice and Aintree was very tough and the same at Exeter. He’s such a good-actioned horse and he’s running well despite the ground.

“I bet he’s a 10lb better horse on decent ground – it was good to firm on his hurdles debut at Hereford and he loved that. I think it’s his class that keeps him in it on the testing ground.”

The field is completed by Irish longshot Kings Hill, who picked up a Thurles maiden win for Galway handler Paul Gilligan last month.

Elliott holds no grudges as Mullins eyes 100 Cheltenham Festival winners

With Willie Mullins on the verge of an incredible 100 Cheltenham Festival winners, those who face the battle of taking him on could be forgiven for feeling a little resentment.

But there is not a bit of it from Gordon Elliott, perennially the runner-up to Mullins in the Irish championship and who comes up against him more than anyone else.

Rather than feeling hard done by or suggesting that Mullins is making the sport “boring” like many did after all eight Grade Ones at the Dublin Racing Festival went the way of the Closutton maestro, Elliott relishes the challenge and says the pair are pushing each other to new heights.

“I’ve been second to Willie eight or 10 years in a row (in the trainers’ championship). We’re definitely not making him better, we’re making him hungrier and he’s making us better,” said Elliott.

“I can’t have people whinging and giving out about Willie Mullins or whoever. These people giving out have chips on both of their shoulders. Willie sets the standard and we all have to chase him, make yourself better. There’s no excuse for not wanting to be the best.

“A couple of years ago we were the first to train 200 winners in a season and I think a week later he trained 200 and ended up beating us by eight or 10 that season.

“We’re in a great position and we keep training winners. We’re just probably unfortunate that we were born in the same era as probably the greatest trainer of all time. We’ll keep trying.

“The lads that know how hard it is to get to that level are not jumping up and down and shouting. The lads that are jumping up and down and shouting have had it all and let it all slip through their hands.”

Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson (right)
Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson (right) (Nigel French/PA)

Nicky Henderson is Mullins’ closest rival when it comes to Festival winners, but had a huge head start and has been left trailing in his wake somewhat with 73 winners to Mullins’ 94.

“No one would have ever thought that would be possible,” said Henderson of a possible century of winners for his great friend and rival.

“It’s a lot of races and we’ve been very lucky to win so many ourselves. I won’t say he has been luckier, but the ammunition he has these days is unbelievable.

“We are the ones who have to fight off the invasion and we’re outnumbered by Willie three to one at least, often four to one.

“You’ve got to have admiration, of course I do. But we’ve been very lucky ourselves and we have to concentrate on what we’ve got and what we can do. We’ve got a great team of people and horses and owners, and we’ve got to do the best we can.”

At the other end of the scale Fergal O’Brien is still searching for a first ever Festival win, but rather than moan about it, his daughter Fern has been over to Closutton this season as a work rider.

“I wouldn’t say she’s a spy, espionage we call it! Fern loves being there and loves working with those people,” said O’Brien.

“I’m lucky enough to have been and it’s a fantastic set up. People go on about Willie’s dominance, but it didn’t come overnight, he’s got a great system there, they’re great buyers of horses and he’s obviously a fantastic trainer.

“Fern is in a great place and I’m very proud of her.”

Robbie Power won the Gold Cup and Grand National as a jockey and is now attached to Henry de Bromhead’s stable. While he does admit Mullins’ dominance can be a little disheartening, he does at least run his best horses against each other regularly.

“I don’t see it as a problem, it is a little disheartening I suppose for a lot of people that Willie is so dominant but as the old saying goes, if you win in the sales ring then you win on the racetrack and Willie has been able to get all these horses – he has the owners, he has the ammunition,” Power told Boylesports.

“I suppose the one difference to the Flat with Aidan O’Brien for example, it’s all Coolmore whereas Willie’s runners are spread among five or six different owners. At DRF they all had Grade One winners and Willie is never afraid to have his runners take each other on, he often has three, four or five in the Grade Ones so it makes for competitive racing.”

Champion Hurdle enters Elliott’s Irish Point reckoning

Gordon Elliott is eager to let Irish Point take his chance in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after Constitution Hill was ruled out.

The trainer was planning to run the grey in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle after a taking performance in the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle over nearly three miles just after Christmas.

Constitution Hill was at the head of the Champion Hurdle market following a dominant display last year and Elliott was therefore going to avoid that contest and tap into Irish Point’s stamina in the Stayers’ Hurdle instead.

However, confirmation that Constitution Hill will not make the Cheltenham Festival came on Monday, leaving Elliott to rethink his decision and consider taking on the Willie Mullins-trained State Man, who is the new odds-on favourite for the Champion Hurdle.

Irish Point and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle
Irish Point and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I’m keen to run him,” Elliott told Racing TV.

“State Man is going to be very hard to beat, but I’d prefer to take him on around Cheltenham rather than going round Punchestown or Leopardstown.

“He’s the horse everyone has to beat and he looks a good thing, but I’d like to take him on with Irish Point.

“We’re going to be second favourite if Lossiemouth doesn’t run, I’ll have a chat with Brian (Acheson of owners Robcour) in the morning and we’ll go through the horses, but I’d be keen to run him.

“He’s a classy horse, I think he’ll run a big race. The track will suit him and the ground, being a bit soft, I think will suit him.

“The favourite’s going to be very hard to beat but you should never be afraid of one horse. He hasn’t many miles on the clock and I think the race could suit him, I’m keen to run him.”

Elliott has his own woes with Festival hope Firm Footings out for the remainder of the season and was able to empathise with Nicky Henderson in the disappointment felt when a horse misses the meeting.

He said: “It’s heartbreaking, this time of year, for owners and the staff in the yards. Nicky is going to feel a lot worse than I am, he had the favourite for the Champion Hurdle.”

Dee Capo takes charge for smart Leopardstown success

Dee Capo has a trip to Fairyhouse or Aintree on his agenda after returning to winning ways at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Gordon Elliott’s charge won twice earlier in the season but had been off the track since being beaten a neck in a Navan Grade Three back in November.

Partnered by 5lb-claimer Danny Gilligan in the QuinnBet Hurdle, Dee Capo (3-1) travelled well throughout the extended two-and-a-quarter-mile affair, grabbing the lead from Ashdale Bob after jumping the last.

Gilligan just had to keep his mount up the task on the run to the line, prevailing by a length and three-quarters.

Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse and there is a lot of improvement in him from today.

“He’d had a couple of quick runs and we said we’d freshen him up and have him back for the spring.

“I’d imagine he’ll go to Fairyhouse or Aintree.

“He looks like a chaser.

“Danny gave him a good ride. Jack (Kennedy) is missing a few winners (due to a suspension) but that’s the way it goes. The horses are running well, which is important.”

Blizzard Of Oz defied his status as the perceived second string for Willie Mullins with a smart success in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle.

Sent off a 6-4 chance in the hands of Danny Mullins, with the Paul Townend-ridden Captain Cody the 4-5 favourite, Blizzard Of Oz hit the front before the last and found plenty on the run to the line to win by two and a quarter lengths, with his stablemate only fourth.

Mullins said: “I think the shorter trip was a benefit and he jumped better than he did in Naas.

“The ground might not be riding as heavy as people anticipated, when I see Captain Cody being tapped for toe and that fella going easily at the second last.

“Captain Cody probably wants a longer trip.

“I’d imagine both horses will be aimed for the Final in Punchestown and they will probably have a run before that.”

Brideswell Lad was a shock 33-1 winner of the Listed QuinnBet Handicap Chase for trainer Seamus Neville and jockey Brian Hayes.

The eight-year-old was a winner at the beginning of September but then had a bit of a lay-off following a fall at the end of that month, returning with two average subsequent runs.

However, he was right back to his best in this valuable affair, responding well to pressure to repel all challengers up the home straight, coming home a length and three-quarters clear of Battle Of Mirbat.

Neville said: “He’d a very heavy fall in Listowel and it took him a long time to recover. We felt he was getting there of late.

“He would be ground dependent as well, so it’s not too heavy.

“He’ll probably go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown and we’ll keep him going for the summer.”