Elliott seeking new opportunities for Savills Chase trio

Gordon Elliott plans to give Delta Work, Presenting Percy and Samcro the opportunity to bounce back before the Cheltenham Festival after failing to run up to expectations in last week’s Savills Chase.

Delta Work was the defending champion in the Grade One contest, while Presenting Percy had looked back to his best in beating Kemboy and Monalee in a Listed contest at Thurles in November.

Hopes were also high for dual Cheltenham winner Samcro on his first appearance over three miles since his point-to-point days.

However, Delta Work unseated jockey Sean Flanagan at the ninth fence, Presenting Percy finished a well-beaten eighth and Samcro was pulled up before the second fence from the finish.

Samcro (left) disappointed at Leopardstown
Samcro (left) disappointed at Leopardstown (Tim Goode/PA)

Elliott said: “They are all back riding out, but each will have to have one run before a possible run in Cheltenham.

“There are options like the Irish Gold Cup, the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles and a few other races for them, but they’ll have to run between now and Cheltenham.”

The Cullentra handler went on to confirm the death of high-class grey Labaik.

The nine-year-old effectively refused to start in three successive races before winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, under a then-17-year-old Jack Kennedy.

He ran twice at Punchestown the following month, including a fourth-placed finish in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle on what proved to be his final career start.

“Labaik died of a colic two or three months ago here in the yard,” Elliott added.

“It has been reported (on social media) he sustained a cut to a leg and was put down, which wasn’t true. He wasn’t being ridden out and had been retired.

“He won a Supreme Novice Hurdle for us, was very talented and a very good horse.”

Elliott confirms Envoi Allen will swerve Christmas and wait for Punchestown in January

Gordon Elliott is looking forward to saddling several of his stable stars over the busy Christmas period – but Envoi Allen will not be one of them.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned six-year-old is arguably the most exciting National Hunt horse in training, having won each of his 10 starts to date, most recently producing a foot-perfect display in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

Envoi Allen holds upcoming entries at Leopardstown and Limerick, but is instead set to head for Punchestown in mid-January.

“Envoi Allen is one horse who won’t be in action over Christmas,” Elliott told Betfair.

“We’ve made the decision to head to Punchestown on January 17 for a Grade Three novice chase over two and a half miles and it looks a very suitable race for him before we prepare him for the major spring festivals.”

The first Grade One of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown is the Racing Post Novice Chase on December 26, in which Elliott plans to saddle Felix Desjy.

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The Cullentra handler has three contenders for the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle on the same card in impressive Fairyhouse scorer Zanahiyr, Quilixios and Duffle Coat.

Zanahiyr looked every inch a top-class prospect at Fairyhouse
Zanahiyr looked every inch a top-class prospect at Fairyhouse (PA)

The trainer had raised the possibility of instead sending the latter pair for the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Sunday, although that will now not be possible in light of the latest travel restrictions put in place between Ireland and Britain.

Elliott said of Zanahiyr: “He could well run in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle. He’s in great shape and came out of his last run very well, so we’re keen to let him take his chance.”

Elliott confirmed his Royal Bond winner Ballyadam will bid to double his top-level tally in Leopardstown’s Future Champions Novice Hurdle on December 27.

The following afternoon he is set to be triple-handed in both the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle and the Savills Chase.

Delta Work (right) is heading back to Leopardstown
Delta Work (right) is heading back to Leopardstown (PA)

“I’d say we could run Fury Road, Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller in the Christmas Hurdle. Fury Road does like some ease in the ground, so we will keep an eye on the ground at Leopardstown,” Elliott added.

“The Savills Chase is going to be one of the races of the season and I’d like to think we are fielding three strong candidates in Delta Work, Presenting Percy and Samcro.”

Elliott is favouring the Matchbook Betting Exchange Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick on December 26 for the exciting Pencilfulloflead, leaving the way clear for his stablemate Conflated to line up for the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown on December 29.

Abacadabras and Petit Mouchoir, a relatively new recruit to the yard, are set to take their chance in the Matheson Hurdle on the final day at Leopardstown.

Elliott said: “The four days after Christmas are always hugely important for us and, while this year will be very different in so many ways, it will be business as usual in terms of runners.

“Over the four days of Leopardstown and Limerick we will be pretty busy and hopefully we can emerge from those festivals with a reasonable haul of winners and I’d like to think we have some strong contenders for some of the big races over the next week.

“Leopardstown at Christmas is both an important and special meeting, but it won’t be same without anybody there this year. It will feel strange as there is always a great buzz around the place which won’t be there unfortunately.

“One thing that will stay the same is the quality of action on the track and we’re running plenty of our big names, so it’s going to be an exciting few days.”

Presenting Percy back in business at Thurles

Presenting Percy got back to winning ways in fine style in the Chase at Thurles.

In what was a high-class affair for a Thursday afternoon, it was the Gordon Elliott-trained nine-year-old, the only runner in the field who had the benefit of a previous run this season, who eventually came out well on top.

Rachael Blackmore tried to make all on Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Monalee – but both Kemboy and Presenting Percy were travelling ominously well behind him before turning for home.

At the third-last Presenting Percy (3-1) jumped up on Monalee’s inside for a share of the lead, while 11-10 favourite Kemboy was just behind as Darasso found it all too much.

The three jumped the second from home almost in a line, but on landing Presenting Percy – having his second run for Elliott after moving from Pat Kelly – left Kemboy in his wake, winning by six and a half lengths for Jack Kennedy, with Monalee another two and a quarter lengths back in third.

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Betfair cut Presenting Percy to 16-1 from 33-1 for the Gold Cup and to 20-1 from 33-1 for the Grand National.

Kennedy said: “He did it very well, he had race-fitness on his side but he put in an exhibition of jumping and quickened up well at the back of the second-last.

“I had sat on him previously at home, but he is very straightforward and is a dream to ride. He jumps and travels away and I was happy at all stages. I was delighted with the way he travelled and I was nearly half-taking him back going across the top I was going that easy.

“That win might do him the world of good and hopefully he can keep going after that.”

Philip Reynolds has enjoyed many big days with Presenting Percy
Philip Reynolds has enjoyed many big days with Presenting Percy (Steven Paston/PA)

Owner Philip Reynolds was thrilled to see Presenting Percy get his head in front again, and could now look to the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

He said: “It’s a huge relief – I watched the race from behind the couch!

“I was most pleased to see the way he finished and how he picked up from the back of the second-last. Anne, my wife, says putting the sheepskin noseband back on made the difference.

“It’s just nice to see him back and maybe now we can make a plan.

“Well done Gordon and Jack.”

Kemboy is expected to progress from his return to action
Kemboy is expected to progress from his return to action (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Willie Mullins-trained Kemboy was ridden by Paul Townend, who said: “He made a mistake at the last fence up the back and that came at the wrong time for him. He had a good blow and I thought he ran OK.”

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins added: “I thought at least he travelled well, in the main he jumped very well and got tired from the back of the last, which I wasn’t surprised at.

“I thought it was satisfactory, he’ll need to improve but he should.”

Presenting Percy primed for Kemboy and Monalee clash

Owner Philip Reynolds is keeping his fingers crossed Presenting Percy can make race fitness count in a fascinating renewal of the Chase at Thurles.

Just five runners are set to go to post for the two-mile-six-furlong Listed contest, but the quintet includes three of top 10 highest-rated chasers in Ireland in Presenting Percy, Kemboy and Monalee – the winners of five Grade One races between them.

Presenting Percy was brilliant in beating Monalee in the 2018 RSA Chase, but has never quite rediscovered that form since – last season finishing behind Monalee and Kemboy when fifth in the Savills Chase and a place behind Kemboy again when third in the Irish Gold Cup.

The eight-year-old fell two fences from home when staying on for pressure in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, a race in which Monalee ran a career-best to finish fourth with Kemboy in seventh.

Phillip Reynolds celebrates Presenting Percy winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham
Phillip Reynolds celebrates Presenting Percy winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham (Steven Paston/PA)

While Monalee and Kemboy have both been off the track since the blue riband in the Cotswolds eight months ago, Presenting Percy made a promising debut for Gordon Elliott when fourth in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal almost three weeks ago.

Reynolds said: “It will be a tidy little race, all right – it’s not often you get a Grade One at a small track in the middle of the week!

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“He’s had a run, which won’t hold him back anyway. He gave his fences a bit of air in Down Royal, so another bit of practice probably won’t be any harm to him.

“I’d just like to see him finish off his race a bit better. I know Gordon and Denis (O’Regan) felt he blew up in Down Royal, but I still have those two races in Leopardstown last season (Savills Chase and Irish Gold Cup) in the back of my mind.

“We don’t know what would have happened at Cheltenham, but is there any reason to suspect he would have finished out better than he did twice in Leopardstown and the other day in Down Royal?

“I think it will be plenty testing in Thurles, so I don’t think the trip will be an excuse. The handicapper reckons he’ll come third and maybe that’s as good as he’ll finish.

“Personally, I would just like to see him finish his race out a little better.”

Kemboy bids to provide Willie Mullins with a fifth victory in the last six renewals following the previous triumphs of Sir Des Champs (2015), Champagne Fever (2016), Bachasson (2017) and Footpad (2019).

The the eight-year-old won three Grade Ones two seasons ago, including a defeat of his dual Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning stablemate Al Boum Photo in an epic Punchestown Gold Cup that will forever be remembered as Ruby Walsh’s swansong.

However, he returns with something to prove after failing to add to his tally in three starts last term.

Henry de Bromhead has already identified the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as a likely target for Monalee ahead of his seasonal reappearance.

Monalee represents Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore
Monalee represents Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore (David Davies/PA)

Speaking about plans for his string last week, De Bromhead said: “He will go to Thurles and start in the Listed chase there, then we were thinking we might go to the King George with him and see how we get on there.

“Then obviously we will aim him towards the Gold Cup.”

Joseph O’Brien saddles Grade Two-winning chaser Darasso, who was last seen finishing down the field in the Champion Hurdle, while the small but select field is completed by the Mouse Morris-trained Beyond The Law.

Delta and Percy head Elliott quintet in Ladbrokes Champion Chase

Delta Work and Presenting Percy lead a five-strong team for Gordon Elliott in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

The Cullentra handler has saddled three previous winners of the first Grade One of the Irish jumps season in Roi Du Mee (2013), subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack (2015) and Outlander (2017) – and appears intent on adding to his tally.

The likely favourite on Saturday is Delta Work, who was disappointing when well fancied 12 months ago, but went on to claim a huge Grade One double at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup, before finishing fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“Delta Work never got into a rhythm in the Gold Cup and wasn’t beaten that far,” said Elliott.

“He jumped well all season prior to that. Jack Kennedy seems to be the key to this horse – he seems to really travel and do everything right for him.”

Presenting Percy makes his debut for Elliott, after being moved from Pat Kelly’s yard.

The nine-year-old looked every inch a potential Gold Cup winner when dominating his rivals in the 2018 RSA Chase, but he has never quite re-discovered that brilliance since – and was behind Delta Work twice at Leopardstown last term before falling at Cheltenham.

Presenting Percy will make his debut for Gordon Elliott
Presenting Percy will make his debut for Gordon Elliott (David Davies/PA)

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Elliott added: “Presenting Percy is a horse I like, and I’m looking forward to running him.

“I’d seen the horse plenty of times at the races before he arrived here, so I knew enough about him. I was thrilled to get the phone call and I’m very lucky to get him.”

Kennedy has returned from injury in time to renew his partnership with Delta Work, while Denis O’Regan rides Presenting Percy.

The Storyteller (Keith Donoghue), Alpha Des Obeaux (Bryan Cooper) and Ravenhill (Mark Walsh) complete the Elliott quintet.

Few trainers have their horses in better form than Noel Meade, who saddles Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis in a bid for a third successive victory in the race following the back-to-back triumphs of the currently sidelined Road To Respect.

Meade said: “Snow Falcon is getting on a bit now. But he worked well on Tuesday morning – and so did Tout Est Permis.

“Snow Falcon might find a few of the younger fellows hard to beat, but he’s in good form and goes well fresh.

“We ran Tout Est Permis over hurdles a few times last year because he looked very well handicapped, but it never quite worked out.

“He finished second behind The Storyteller at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago, and I think he’s come on a ton – I think he’ll put up a big show.”

Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Chris’s Dream and Balko Des Flos complete the nine-strong field.

The main supporting race on Saturday’s card is the Grade Two Lough Construction Ltd. Chase, in which Elliott’s dual Cheltenham Festival hero Samcro takes top billing.

The eight-year-old bolted up on his chasing debut over the course and distance last season before ending his campaign with a narrow but memorable victory over Melon and Faugheen in an epic Marsh Novices’ Chase in the Cotswolds.

“We went down the Champion Hurdle route with him a couple of seasons ago, and that didn’t work out, but he didn’t do much wrong last year,” said Elliott.

“He won in Down Royal and then fell in the Drinmore in Fairyhouse when I felt he might have won.

Easy Game is among Samcro's rivals
Easy Game is among Samcro’s rivals (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It was a terrible decision by me to run him in heavy ground at Limerick over Christmas (when second to Faugheen).

“Sometimes you get lured into running in these races because they’re Grade Ones and you want to support them, but he won’t be running in heavy ground this season.

“I’d say he’ll go to Down Royal, then the John Durkan, the Kinloch Brae and then the Ryanair Chase in Cheltenham. He’ll probably have an entry in the King George as well – that’s what I have in my head at the moment.

“He’s in great form.”

Samcro is joined by stable companion Battleoverdoyen, with the Willie Mullins-trained Easy Game appearing the biggest threat.

Jessica Harrington’s Sizing Pottsie and Eamon Delaney’s Yaha Fizz are the other hopefuls.

Presenting Percy takes Ladbrokes Champion Chase test

Presenting Percy is set to face eight rivals as he has his first run for trainer Gordon Elliott in the Grade One Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Owner Philip Reynolds switched his star from Pat Kelly’s stable after the nine-year-old’s winless last campaign ended with a fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Presenting Percy has not won over fences since showing his class in the RSA Chase at the 2018 Festival.

He will have a new rider in Denis O’Regan, because his regular partner Davy Russell is on the long-term injury list.

Half of the opposition on Saturday will come from his own stable – with Elliott also declaring Alpha Des Obeaux, Delta Work, Ravenhill and The Storyteller in a race featuring representatives from just three stables.

Henry de Bromhead is double-handed with Balko Des Flos and Chris’s Dream – while Noel Meade’s pair Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis complete the field.

Elsewhere on the card, all eyes will be on another Elliott inmate when his dual Cheltenham Festival winner Samcro makes his seasonal reappearance in the Lough Construction Ltd Chase.

The highly-regarded eight-year-old got his career firmly back on track with victory in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Elliott also supplies Battleoverdoyen in a field of five – completed by Easy Game, Sizing Pottsie and Yaha Fizz.

Delta Work may clash with Presenting Percy at Down Royal

Gordon Elliott is happy to let Delta Work clash with his new stable companion Presenting Percy in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Delta Work finished a disappointing fourth in the first Grade One of the Irish National Hunt season last term, but raised his game to complete a top-level double with victories in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding rounded off his campaign by finishing fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Elliott hopes he can find the necessary improvement to go even closer in the blue riband next March.

“To be only be beaten six lengths in the Gold Cup, with the way he jumped, I thought was very good,” said the Cullentra handler.

“He’s only seven, so he’s still a young horse – and I haven’t given up on him yet.

“If his jumping brushes up, he’s in the mix.”

Presenting Percy has never quite looked the same horse since his stunning display in the RSA Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

Not too far behind Delta Work in both races at Leopardstown last season, however, the nine-year-old was making late headway when falling two fences from home in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham – and has since joined Elliott from Pat Kelly’s yard.

Elliott will train Presenting Percy for the Gold Cup, but also views him as a live Grand National contender.

Presenting Percy on the gallops on Monday morning (
Presenting Percy on the gallops on Monday morning (INPHO)

“The race at Down Royal (on Ocotber 31) is a Grade One, so I’d have no problem running the two of them – and I could run two or three more with them,” he added.

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“Presenting Percy is a horse I’ve always looked up to and said ‘he’s a horse you’d love to have’. I’m very lucky to have him.

“He probably has to improve half a stone to be a Gold Cup horse, but he ran well in a couple of those races in Leopardstown last year and was running a good race in the Gold Cup when he came down.

“To me, he has Grand National written all over him. He’s a good jumper who has a bit of class.

“I’d love to win a Gold Cup with him – but if that didn’t happen, the Grand National is in the back of my head.”

Tiger Roll enjoys a Monday morning shower
Tiger Roll enjoys a Monday morning shower (INPHO)

Elliott already houses a dual Grand National winner, of course, in the hugely popular Tiger Roll.

The 10-year-old holds an entry on the Flat at Navan on Thursday, but appears unlikely to take up the engagement.

Elliott said: “I stuck him in just to keep my options open, but I don’t know if I’ll run him.

“If the ground is good up in Down Royal I’d run him in the big race (Ladbrokes Champion Chase) there as well – if not I might keep him for the Boyne Hurdle in Navan.

“He’s in great form, and has been the horse of a lifetime.

“If everything goes well, we’ll dream about going back to Aintree this season.”

Three other Elliott stars set to reappear at Down Royal are Envoi Allen, Abacadabras and Samcro.

Envoi Allen is due to make his debut over fences at the Lisburn circuit; Champion Hurdle aspirant Abacadabras is pencilled in to contest the WKD Hurdle, and Samcro is bound for a Grade Two chase for second-season novices.

Elliott said of Envoi Allen: “He was bought to be a Gold Cup horse, and that’s the way we’re going to train him.

“He doesn’t do anything flashy at home – he’s just the real thing when he gets on to the track.

“I’m looking forward to starting him off in Down Royal. He’s going to come on from it – but if he’s going to be the horse we think he is, he should be winning in Down Royal.”

Abacadabras was last seen going down by just a short head to Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while Samcro bounced back to his best to beat the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Melon and Faugheen in a titanic tussle for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

“I think Abacadabras has improved – he’s stronger looking. We’ve never really had very good two milers, but this horse is pretty quick,” said Elliott.

“Samcro is a very good horse, and I’ve been lucky to have him.

“Everyone says him winning at Cheltenham was a great training feat, and it was grand – but for me, running him in Limerick on that heavy ground at Christmas (when second to Faugheen) was a terrible training decision.

“I’m not going to make that mistake this year – if there’s heavy in the going, he won’t run.

Gordon Elliott is looking forward to the season ahead
Gordon Elliott is looking forward to the season ahead (INPHO)

“I’d say he’ll go to Down Royal, then the John Durkan, the Kinloch Brae and then the Ryanair Chase in Cheltenham. He’ll probably have an entry in the King George as well, but that’s what I have in my head at the moment.”

When asked what his one wish would be for the 2020/21 National Hunt season, Elliott did not hesitate in saying: “To be champion trainer.

“It was heart-breaking to get beat by Willie in the final week of the season at Punchestown in 2018 and in 2019 – we just got beat as well. Hopefully it’ll happen some day, and if it ever does I’ll really appreciate it.

“I think if you’re training horses, if you don’t want to be champion trainer, why would you do it? If you’ve got one trainer with an ambition of training 20 or 30 winners a year and another who wants to be champion trainer, I know who I’d like to have a horse with.

“We’re very lucky to have the amount of horses we have – hopefully we can keep them in one piece and have a good season.”

Elliott considering Down Royal return for National hero Tiger Roll

Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll could start his season in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal at the end of this month.

The 10-year-old was denied the chance to join Red Rum as a three-time winner of the Aintree spectacular when it was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Tiger Roll was last seen finishing second in the cross-country chase at Cheltenham in March, with Easysland denying him a remarkable fifth success at the Festival.

Hopes are high he will be back at Liverpool in April, but trainer Gordon Elliott has his sights firmly set on another Cheltenham victory as the first big aim.

Tiger Roll on his way to victory at Aintree
Tiger Roll on his way to victory at Aintree (Tim Goode/PA)

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Speaking on Betfair’s Racing Only Bettor Podcast, Elliott said: “It was a very rushed preparation to get him to Cheltenham last year and he got a little setback, as everyone knows. We got him to Cheltenham. He was very tired after Cheltenham. He was very tired. He had a hard race.

“The ground was probably softer than what he wanted that day. He was stiff and sore after the race. If you watch the re-run again, he loses his hind-end a little bit turning in, and he was sore.

“I think it might have been a blessing in disguise (no Grand National run). He’s a fresh horse this year. He’s absolutely bouncing at the moment.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to start him off yet, but do you know, he’s definitely going to have an entry in Down Royal in the big chase because if the ground turned up quick, you’d be nervous about running Presenting Percy or Delta Work. I’d hate to not have him entered.”

Asked about Cheltenham as a target, Elliott added: “It’s a big priority for me and he’ll be trained for Cheltenham, number one, and the Aintree Grand National, number two.”

Presenting Percy is now in the care of Gordon Elliott
Presenting Percy is now in the care of Gordon Elliott (Mike Egerton/PA)

Elliott has taken charge of Presenting Percy after owner Philip Reynolds opted to switch the classy chaser from Pat Kelly – and he could emerge as a rival to Tiger Roll at Aintree.

Elliott said: “He’s not your typical big three-mile chaser. He’s a short-coupled horse but he’s got – the one thing about him is he’s got a real deep girth, so loads of room there for oxygen, and a good heart. We’re happy with what he’s shown us at home.

“He’s being trained for the Gold Cup at the moment, but I definitely have the English Grand National in the back of my mind. I think he’s the type of horse that would suit the race. He’s got a lot of class. He travels. He jumps.”

All eyes will be on Envoi Allen when he goes novice chasing
All eyes will be on Envoi Allen when he goes novice chasing (Simon Cooper/PA)

In a yard packed full of talent, much attention will focus on Envoi Allen, as the dual Cheltenham Festival winner embarks on a novice chasing career.

Elliott said he does not expect to step up to three miles this season with the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding, adding: “I’d imagine if you asked me to put my hand on my heart now, his target in Cheltenham; I’d say it’s the Marsh (Novices’ Chase over two miles and five furlongs).”

The County Meath trainer also reported Samcro to be in good form and that he too could start at Down Royal, in the Grade Two intermediate chase.

He said: “He’d done a bit of work last week. Keith Donoghue rode him and he had a grin from one side of his face to the other. He was thrilled with him.”