Our series continues with Ben Linfoot and David Ord offering their thoughts on the rise and rise of Gordon Elliott. We want you to get involved in the discussion, too.
We want your feedback. Just how good is Gordon Elliott? Check out details of how to contact us towards the foot of the article - and the views from our racing team.
Willie Mullins is 63. Gordon Elliott is 42.
Willie Mullins has been Irish champion jumps trainer 14 times. Gordon Elliott hasn’t won it yet. But he will. It’s just a question of when, how many times he does it and the scale of his future dominance.
While the Mullins family is woven into the very fabric of Irish racing, the rising force of Gordon Elliott came from out of the blue.
The son of a mechanic, Elliott was 13 when he went to Tony Martin’s to help out and his life changed forever. He developed into an amateur jockey, went to ride for Martin Pipe and more than a bit of that trainer’s genius rubbed off onto the man from County Meath.
For a significant landmark in Elliott’s training career, just go back to the start. 2007, his first year with a licence – and he trains a Grand National winner. Silver Birch. A Paul Nicholls cast-off.
The early signs were he was something special and things have worked out like that. In 2017 he trained over 200 winners in the calendar year in Ireland and he’s operating at that sort of level every season.
It says something about Mullins that he’s fended off Elliott in the Irish champion trainer battle. Especially in the wake of losing all of those Gigginstown horses – and to Elliott as well.
And that will be the next major challenge for Elliott, if the O’Learys go through with their promise to wind down their mammoth operation over the next five years.
Recent Cheltenham results suggest he’ll pass the test just fine. Yes, two of his seven winners were for Gigginstown. But he also had winners for JP McManus, Cheveley Park, the Ravenhill Syndicate and the Northern Four Racing Partnership.
Elliott is a brilliant trainer. His success at Cheltenham underlines his achievements in bold. He’s had 32 Festival winners at a strike-rate of 14.22 per cent – phenomenal numbers at the most competitive meeting of the year.
Gordon Elliott is 42. He will dominate Irish racing. Whether that’s a good thing is another discussion, but he’s certainly earned a crack at becoming Irish champion trainer year after year, like a certain WP Mullins.
The victory of Silver Birch had me scrambling down the racecard to make sure I had the trainer's name correct in the quick Sporting Life report for the 2007 Grand National.
We're not asking that now.
Elliott's rise through the training ranks has been one of the stories of the last decade. Other, at the time of their moment in the Aintree sunshine, unheralded trainers have won a National. Few, if any, have used it as such as significant launchpad for the rest of their career.
Alongside Willie Mullins, Elliott has proceeded to dominate the Irish scene - and Cheltenham Festival. In many ways we shouldn't be surprised.
After all he spent his apprenticeship with Martin Pipe, a trainer who broke the mould when it came to what could be achieved in terms of winners - and fitness of a racehorse. Clearly some of the magic has rubbed off.
His protegee has grown his operation out of all recognition, taking a core of key staff on the journey with him. No stone has been left unturned at Cullentra House Stables. Take Samcro for example. After his 2018/19 season was blighted by a prolonged infection that threatened to derail his career, an outside box was built for him with his own pen.
This season he landed the Marsh Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, one of seven victories over the four days for his trainer.
Envoi Allen promises to develop into a giant of the game for many years to come but the handler is equally adept at finding the right spot in the right handicap for his raiding party too. Chosen Mate in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual anyone?
Tiger Roll couldn't add a fifth Festival success to his two Randox Health Grand Nationals but went down all guns blazing and the entire week offered further proof of the genius of his trainer.
He has a potential obstacle to his future domination to overcome with the gradual withdrawal from the sport of Gigginstown Stud. Mullins has shown losing their significant backing can be a mere temporary blip though.
Other big owners want to be involved with Elliott. It's no surprise Cheveley Park Stud were beating down his door when they looked to expand their jumps operation. Success breeds success and Gordon Elliott reeks of it.
Dust down those record books. He's heading your way.
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George Goodenough: How can we use his genius to turn a profit? A Cheltenham bet that I have developed over the last 3 years is to put ALL Gigginstown and McManus runners in 20 selection each way crossed doubles and this year that produced a 30% profit. Obviously GE had a hand in some of those. Next year I'm thinking of combining ALL Elliott and Mullins runners into 20 selection each way crossed doubles. This would have got the 123 in the Marsh, then the 12 in the Pertemps, then the winner of the Ryanair, then the 33/1 3rd in the Stayers, then the 12 in the mares novice and the winner of the Kim Muir - and that was just Thursday. The other days were none too grim either.
Andy Jones: Reading your piece just now.
At Festival, Elliott seems particularly good on New Course (last two days of fest) especially but his ability in certain races is stark and worth flagging up.
He had two runners in Pertemps this year, finished 1-2 and miles clear. Two runners in Grand Annual, finished 1-2. He had just two runners in amateur races. One in Kim Muir, one in NH Chase. Both won.
His record in certain races, i.e. Pertemps is exceptional.
Elliott in Pertemps from last six entries:
2020: Two runners, 1&2
2019: Two runners, 1&5
2018: Two runners, 1&2
I mean, Willie Mullins cleans up in County Hurdle (i.e. 1-2 this year), but he often has 5-6 runners each year....
While Elliott will chuck a lot of runners at say, Irish National, at Festival it's about precision handicapping from comparatively few runners.
Dave: The guy is special real special and more importantly he seems to be as modest as Mr Mullins Aiden O'Brien and the great Sir Henry Cecil. As well as being as modest as the three mentioned he also seems to have been blessed with their genius. Gordon Elliott's success seems all the more remarkable in that he has come from nowhere to get where he is now, as the article states he isn’t from a racing background and thus he started up without the patronage of the huge owners that the other three trainers have all been blessed with throughout their careers. It is onwards and upwards now for Gordon but I for one do hope that Willie keeps him in check for the next few years as Mr Mullins is my favourite NH trainer.
Nick Berentzen: I have just read your article about Gordon Elliott. There’s no doubt that he’s a great trainer. It was marvellous to see recently how much importance he places on the Cheltenham Festival, how much respect he has for it as an institution and that each of his winners meant so much to him. To me, whether or not he becomes champion trainer barely seems relevant.