Gordon Elliott has made a typically fast start to the National Hunt season.
Leading the trainer’s championship, he already has almost 100 winners on the board so far between Britain and Ireland, and when he opened his doors at Cullentra House on Thursday morning, the depth of talent in the team of horses that he has for the season ahead was immediately apparent.
Here are some of the main players
He’s a classy horse. He ran some race at Cheltenham in March. He was very keen the whole way and he still finished fourth. Then he was a bit unlucky in the Champion Bumper at Punchestown. His jumping was a big novicey on his hurdling debut at Gowran Park, but he won nicely. He’s a smart horse. He goes for the Grade 3 novice hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
She’s back. She had a wind operation. She won three Grade 1s last year, so if she does the same this year, we’ll be very very happy. She has been a star for us. Her form petered off a bit during the second half of the season last year, but she did the same the previous season, and maybe she’s better before Christmas. We just couldn’t stop her coming in season last year, but hopefully that’s all behind her. She’s in good form. She goes for the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on Sunday, then onto Fairyhouse for the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, all being well.
He was very good in Galway on his chasing debut. He’ll probably stick to three miles. He’s entered in the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse, but there’s the Florida Pearl Chase at Punchestown for him too, and a couple of other races. He could step up in trip. He never travelled over to Cheltenham last March. He was the one horse of ours who didn’t eat or drink, and he was beaten after two hurdles, so we just put a line through it. He’s a real three-mile chaser.
When he won the Galway Plate, I said straight after that that we’d go for the Troytown Chase at Navan. That is a race that I’d love to win again, it’s our local track, and we said we’d go straight there with him. I think that Navan will really suit him. He’s a big scopey horse. When he won the Galway Plate, he looked for the first half of the race as if he was flat out. For the second half, he got into his comfort zone. They are the types of horses that you need to win these big staying handicap chases.
He looks like he could be a horse for all those good staying chases, like the four-miler at Cheltenham, or the RSA Chase. He’s a classy horse, he’s got loads of experience, and I think he could maybe be a horse for an Irish National down the road. He had pulled muscles before Cheltenham last March, and we just didn’t get him there. He’s a horse that you might see again just this side of Christmas for a three-mile chase somewhere.
He was very good in the Grade 2 hurdle the last day at Down Royal. He got a lot stronger over the summer. There’s a lot more to him now. He’s probably a horse who you mightn’t see now until Christmas. He’s only four, so we want to mind him. He has the option then of going to Leopardstown or to Limerick at Christmas. He’s a classy horse. He showed a lot of pace the last day. He has a graded race won now, so anything else is a bonus. I’m very happy with him and we’ll keep him at two miles for now.
He disappointed me a bit the last day at Limerick. He was working well, but he backed off his fences. He had had a back operation and that was his first run back, so hopefully he’ll do better next time.
I was a bit disappointed with him at Down Royal. They didn’t go much of a gallop and he didn’t jump. Every horse is entitled to a bad run somewhere along the way, but he’s going to have to up his game the next day. To me, he just didn’t jump well enough, and he got tired from the third last. We knew he’d come on for it, so I wasn’t shocked that he got beaten, but I thought he’d run better than that. He usually improves with every run, so I haven’t lost faith in him.
He just lost his life the last day at Cheltenham. He never jumped, he never travelled. We’re going to leave him off for a little while, maybe bring him back for Fairyhouse or Punchestown in the spring. He doesn’t really want that heavy winter ground.
Eclair De Beaufeu
He was very good in Wexford the last day. He travelled, he jumped, he did everything right. He was good in Punchestown too the previous day, he just got beaten by a fitter horse and a better horse on the day. He ran well at Cheltenham in March in the County Hurdle, when he didn’t get the best ride. He’s a horse we’re really looking forward to over two miles this year. We haven’t got that many two-milers, so we’re really looking forward to him.
I was very happy with him in Down Royal, and he’ll go for the Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse now. He showed a lot of pace in Down Royal and jumped very well, so we’re looking forward to going to Fairyhouse with him, and then on to Christmas, all being well.
He’s good. He won his maiden hurdle very well in Down Royal last weekend. The step up in trip to two miles and six furlongs suited him well. He’s a big raw horse, but he always worked well last year, and he’s one to look forward to.
He was only just beaten in the Kerry National and, as with Borice in the Galway Plate, we said after that that we would go straight for the Troytown Chase at Navan. He is another who should be suited by the race.
He ran well for a long way the last day at Wexford I thought, behind Champagne Classic. He’ll go for the Troytown too, and he might get in off a nice enough weight.
I was very very happy with him the last day in Down Royal. It was a big relief that he did what he did. He had an off-year last year, but that happens. We couldn’t get him to scope clean last year. Don Cossack lost his way for a season, then came back and won the Gold Cup. He’s a horse to look forward to. He’ll go for the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse next. He’s got a bit of boot, so two and a half miles there should suit him well.
He’s a horse who has had his few injuries, but he’s got a massive engine and he’s back cantering away. We’re not sure where we’re going to go with him yet, but hopefully this side of Christmas he’ll be out somewhere. He’s a very talented horse. If we could keep him right, he’s very good.
Sire Du Berlais
He’s had a wind operation and he’s back cantering too. We’re not sure whether we’re going to go over fences or keep him over hurdles this year. I need to talk to the owners. He’s a nice horse though, he won the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in March, Barry Geraghty gave him a brilliant ride that day. He’s a horse to look forward to too.
The Big Lense
He fell early on in the Munster National, but he’s a nice horse and he will go for the Troytown too if he gets into the race.
He’s in good form, he’s cantering away. We’ll probably start him off at Leopardstown over Christmas over hurdles, then back to Navan for the Boyne Hurdle, the race that he won last year. Then onto Cheltenham and onto Aintree. The same plan as last year. Keep it simple. He looks very well. To come back and win a third Grand National, it’s going to be very very hard. It would be something, it would be class. But if we could get him back to win at Cheltenham again, that would be a dream come true.