Gordon Elliott is vying for favouritism in the betting to be leading trainer at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival - get the latest on his main contenders, including Apple's Jade and Samcro.
He's a nice horse and he’s done everything right, but he has to keep improving. Some horses just catch the eye don’t they. He's a big good-looking horse, he’s done everything right and impressively so far. It’s a big step up to Cheltenham, it’s the first time he’s travelled and that can be a big ask. We saw with Death Duty last year when he never travelled but hopefully it won’t be a problem. Touch wood we’ve had no problems. He didn’t scope well before the race here at Naas but it was very minor, if he was an ordinary horse you mightn't have run him. We think he’s such a nice horse we couldn’t chance him. The one thing on my mind going to Leopardstown was would he have enough pace against those good two milers. But halfway through the race he just looks half asleep, taking it in his stride. He just looks a very nice horse. The Ballymore is the right race for him. The only way that might change is if it came up bottomless or something, but that’s not going to happen at Cheltenham. If you get two dry days there, it’s a great place, it dries out very quick. That’s the only thing that would change your mind but the Ballymore is very much the plan.
She’s in great form. Lisa O’Neill rides her every day at home and she’s delighted with her. She’s like a bull at the moment to be honest. She goes for the Mares’ Hurdle and I think it’s the right race to go for. I think it’s her best chance of winning a race at the Festival so that’s the race she’ll run in. We’ve had a very clear run with her this year. Last year she was a bit weak and had a few niggly problems but this year we’ve had a clear run the whole way. She’s in great form and I couldn’t be happier with her. If I made one mistake with her all year I’d say I should’ve had her in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Hindsight is a great thing. At the time Faugheen was still Faugheen, but when I look back I should’ve had her in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Apple’s Jade has been there and proven it, hopefully she can do it again.
He’s great. He loves it when the sun comes out, he loves this time of year and he seems to love Cheltenham. He’s a stable favourite, everyone loves him and he’s a great character in the yard. If you can go back and win at Cheltenham four consecutive years that’s something else. When he was a younger horse they said he liked softer ground and he won what was the Ladbroke at Ascot on soft ground, but the older he’s getting he likes better ground more and more. Cheltenham and the Grand National has been the plan all year. If he can win at Cheltenham again it would give me as much of a kick as anything. He’s run over the course twice while Cheltenham kindly let him have a school there two weeks ago and it’ll stand him in good stead, you can’t leave any stone unturned going into Cheltenham. With Silver Birch it worked [running in the Cross Country before the Grand National] so it’s something we like doing.
He’ll run in the Albert Bartlett. He ran very well behind Next Destination in the Lawlors Grade One at Naas last month. Next Destination is a very good horse, but I think over three miles, I’m not saying we can overturn him, but I think we can give him more of a fright. He beat us a length and a quarter and I think three miles, tougher track in the Albert Bartlett, I think the race is made for him myself. I think the extra distance will suit him as he was bought to be a three mile chaser and last time over two and a half we were doing our best work at the finish. I’m not saying he can beat Next Destination, but over three miles I’d say we’ll give him more than a fright.
His earlier runs were very good, he obviously ran out at Leopardstown, but on form I don’t see how he can beat Getabird in the Sky Bet Supreme. I was very impressed with him at Punchestown. I was stood at the last hurdle that day and I go out to the track an awful lot to watch the races and he impressed me the way he flew past on the way to the line. A few very shrewd judges tell me he’s better going right-handed than left-handed, so that’s the only thing that I’m hoping might help me. But for me I think he’s a deserving favourite and will be very hard to beat. Better ground could help us. There will be three or four of them swinging off the home turn in the Supreme Novices’, if my fellow’s still there he’ll be one of them and if he’s good enough from there the rest will be history. I didn’t want to go back to a Grade One with him after running out the day before, I wanted to run him in a lesser race to try and get a bit of confidence back into him. I might’ve run him back a bit too quickly. I do think Getabird was very good, but I don’t think Mengli Khan was himself, the horse we saw at Navan or previously. Although he was well beaten, the third and fourth horses were too close to him for me. It’s the one glimmer of hope I have. He looked a little bit light after Punchestown, but after a break he looks a different horse now. I still think it’ll be hard to beat Getabird, but hopefully we’ll see a different horse at Cheltenham all being well.
Gordon Elliott won the Martin Pipe last year with Champagne Classic, with Gigginstown owner Michael O'Leary proclaiming in the post-race interview "he's the worst horse we have." Elliott is set to have a big team for the race again this time around…
He can shoot from the hip a bit, if you took everything he says literally… I'll say no more. I said to him after the race if he's the worst you have we've barrels full of them at home that are worse than him and he went on and won a Grade One afterwards, so it just goes to show the strength of the Martin Pipe.
I've got 19 entries this year. I'd say I'll run three or four there all being well. The weights aren't out yet so if I told you that [the main hope] I'd have to kill you. It's a race I'd always like to win. Flawless Escape will go for it, yes. He'll be one of them anyway.
I’ll probably run three. Dounikas, Jury Duty and Fagan. Fagan goes there fresh, he was second in the Albert Bartlett and he’s a horse that likes a bit of dry ground. I think the four-miler is made for Dounikas. Both him and Jury Duty have Grade One form. For me, the four-mile chase is the first winner I had at the Cheltenham Festival with a horse called Chicago Grey, but these are classier horses than he was. It's getting to be a better race every year and I'd say you'll need a 150 horse to win it.
He definitely runs in the Triumph. It’s a difference of a jump or getting luck in running [whether he can reverse form with Mr Adjudicator]. I think the better ground will suit him and we’re really looking forward to running him.
He’s got a lot of entries and he’s had one of those famous wind operations. What is the rule with the Irish going over to England? Ah, you have to declare them. He's in the Martin Pipe, Albert Bartlett, it will be one or the other.
The Kim Muir is the plan. He ran very well at Cheltenham last year and unseated Jamie [Codd] at the third last when going very well. His run at the Paddy Power at Christmas wouldn’t be good enough, he landed on top of a fence and it all just happened too quick for him. The Kim Muir is made for him. It’ll be either Jamie or Derek O’Connor taking the ride.
He goes for the Pertemps. He'll do a couple of bits of work, we've only got two qualified for it, him and Delta Work, so we'll see if they both get in when the weights are out. It's harder to get in these races, like the Fred Winter. But that's a good thing, you have to be honest and run your races, so for me that's very important.