Teahupoo wins under Jack Kennedy
Teahupoo wins under Jack Kennedy

Cheltenham Festival Stable Tour: Gordon Elliott hurdlers


Gordon Elliott expects stable jockey Jack Kennedy to side with Teahupoo over stablemate Irish Point should the pair clash in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The former was beaten just three-quarters of a length into third place in the Grade One feature 12 months ago, with his widely unconsidered stable companion Sire Du Berlais springing a surprise. Teahupoo has run just once so far this term, getting the better of Impaire Et Passe when winning his second Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December.

Elliott has elected to keep his powder dry for the seven-year-old’s return to the Cotswolds since and is optimistic about his chances.

“He’s in good form, we’re very happy with him. We’ve come straight from the Hatton’s Grace and I’d be shocked if Jack doesn’t ride him to be honest,” he said at a press morning at his County Meath yard.

“He’s a proven stayer and we’ve minded him for the race. I’d imagine we’ll go here and then we’ll maybe go to France with him. He handled the ground in Cheltenham last year and I don’t think it’s going to be any quicker.”

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There is little to choose between Teahupoo and Irish Point at the top of the Stayers’ Hurdle betting, with the latter having advertised his claims with a dominant display on his first start over three miles in Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle.

Irish Point also has the option of dropping right back to two miles in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, but conditions would need to be testing for that scenario to unfold.

Elliott added: “If the ground came up very soft, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I’ll run him in the Champion Hurdle. At the moment I suppose the Stayers’ is where he’s going, but we’ll leave it until the last minute.

“I think the better the ground, the better the chance Irish Point will have (in the Stayers’ Hurdle). I don’t think the trip will be a problem. Whatever Jack doesn’t ride, Jordan (Gainford) or Sam (Ewing) will ride the other.”

The Cullentra handler could saddle four runners in the Stayers’ Hurdle, with Sire Du Berlais and Beacon Edge also in the mix.

The defending champion was well beaten on his first start in 10 months in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan recently, but given he is also a dual winner of the Pertemps Final at the Festival, Elliott feels it would be dangerous to leave him out of calculations.

“Sire Du Berlais worked very well on Saturday, he likes it when the sun comes out and seems to like Cheltenham,” he said. “We only have to ride him out and swim him twice a day. He’s been the horse a lifetime, to be honest.”

Brighterdaysahead on her way to an impressive success
Brighterdaysahead on her way to an impressive success

Elliott’s biggest hope in the novice division this season is Brighterdaysahead, who will put her unbeaten record on the line in the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. The Gigginstown House Stud-owned five-year-old has added to her bumper triumphs with a hat-trick of wins over obstacles and the trainer clearly holds her in the highest esteem.

He said: “She does her own talking, we think she’s very good. Shane McCann rides her every day, he’s as good a judge as we have and he says she could be as good as we’ve had here. I’m not worried about the trip, she’s going the right way, she knows how to win and she’s got a good attitude. She’s not flashy, but we like what she does and she pleases the whole time. She’s got a great chance.”

Having beaten star novice Ballyburn on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse, Firefox disappointed when stepped up to Grade One level at Naas earlier in the new year, but Elliott is optimistic he can show his true colours in the curtain-raising Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park.

He added: “He wasn’t right after Naas and we worked him there a couple of weeks ago and he got a bit tired. I hadn’t worked him in five weeks, but he worked very well the other day in Fairyhouse. He has a couple more bits of work to do, but he’s a very good horse and he’s not without a chance in the Supreme Novice – we’ve gone close with lesser horses.”

My Trump Card, a horse with a “massive engine” according to Elliott, looks set to carry the stable’s hopes in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, while the trainer’s runners in the Festival’s handicap hurdles are always worth consideration.

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Better Days Ahead, Hollow Games and Jigoro are among those nominated as likely players in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle, Cleatus Poolaw looks a serious contender for Pertemps Final and Ndaawi and the unbeaten Wodhooh give Elliott a strong hand in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

It is a similar story in the County Hurdle, with high-class novice King Of Kingsfield and last year’s narrowly beaten runner-up Pied Piper both expected to go well.

Of the latter, put forward by assistant trainer Lisa O’Neill as her nap of the meeting, Elliott said: “He will go for the County Hurdle. He was unlucky in the race last year and probably could have nearly won it with a clear run. He’s in good form, I would imagine we’ll take 5lb off with Danny Gilligan riding him.”


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