Cheltenham - At The Races

Gordon Elliott

    Gold Cup-winning trainer Gordon Elliott gives us the inside scope on his strongest-ever squad for the festival which features Apple’s Jade, Death Duty, Mega Fortune and Outlander - all Grade 1 winners this term.
  • Tuesday 28 February 2017
  • Stable Tours

Very few National Hunt trainers in Ireland have risen up the ranks as quickly as Gordon Elliott. Having burst onto the scene by saddling Silver Birch to win the Grand National at Aintree in 2007, at which point he had not trained a single winner in Ireland, he was firmly established as a top five trainer by 2010/11 and is now leading Willie Mullins in the race to be Champion Trainer in Ireland.

Elliott has never been slow to send runners to the likes of Perth in search of winners, but he has also won more than his share of races at the bigger tracks in Great Britain, with his eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including Don Cossack’s victory in last season’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, being especially notable.

There is no doubt that Elliott will send the strongest team of horses he’s ever assembled to the Cheltenham Festival in 2017, with Apple’s Jade, Death Duty, Mega Fortune and Outlander heading his squad. He is also sure to be heavily represented in the handicaps at the meeting too.

With only a fortnight to go until the battle commences at Prestbury Park, Elliott spoke to attheraces.com’s Kevin Blake to tell us about his team of challengers for the big meeting.

All Horses

Apple's Jade (FR)

  • 5-y-o; bay mare
  • Breeding: Saddler Maker - Apple's For Ever (Nikos)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 29 Apr 2017 15:50
  • Result: Won/7, led briefly early, raced in 2nd, slight mistake 1st, closed up before 3 out, soon on terms, led 2 out, went on approaching straight, stayed on well run-in, easily
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

The plan is to run in the Mares’ Hurdle. She was beaten by the better horse on the day at Punchestown last week and I wouldn’t like to make any excuses. I’d be hoping that better ground and getting a lead off something would suit her better at Cheltenham, as she can be a bit idle in her races. To look at her, you’d say she takes her racing well and she’s been beaten on her two runs back from a break for me, so hopefully she can come on a bit from it. She’s a great mare to have around the place.

Video Form
29 Apr 2017:
22 Feb 2017:
4 Dec 2016:
26 Nov 2016:
4 Nov 2016:

Automated (GB)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Authorized - Red Blooded Woman (Red Ransom)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Leopardstown, 8 Jun 2017 20:30
  • Result: Won/18, mid-division closer approaching straight and 6th 2f out, ridden and headway over 1f out, led 150 yards out, kept on well
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

The Coral Cup is the plan and I think he will run well in it. The race should suit him, as he loves being ridden quietly and passing horses late on. Bryan gave him a peach of a ride when he won at Navan and that will be the plan again at Cheltenham.

Video Form
8 Jun 2017:
29 Apr 2017:
18 Dec 2016:
4 Dec 2016:
6 Nov 2016:

Brelade (GB)

Trainer Says:

He’s entered in the Martin Pipe, Coral Cup and the Neptune and the mark he gets will dictate where he runs. I think the step up in trip will really suit him wherever he runs. He’ll go on any ground.

Video Form
2 Apr 2017:
12 Feb 2017:
27 Dec 2016:
27 Nov 2016:
6 Nov 2016:

Cause Of Causes (USA)

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Dynaformer - Angel In My Heart (Rainbow Quest)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Aintree, 8 Apr 2017 17:15
  • Result: 2/40, mid-division, hampered 6th (bechers), headway 24th (2nd canal turn), effort when bumped 2 out, pressed winner last, soon ridden and every chance, one pace and held approaching elbow
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

The plan is to run him in the cross-country race at Cheltenham. Based on his form over normal fences, he’d have a chance and all we can hope for is a bit of luck on the day. He raced over that cross-country course last time and we brought him back over during the Cheltenham sales since then and schooled him around there two days in a row, just to get his eye in, so hopefully that will help him. I’m 90% sure Jamie Codd will ride him and he knows him well. The Grand National is the longer-term plan for him.

Video Form
27 Dec 2016:
27 Nov 2016:
13 Nov 2016:
21 Feb 2016:
17 Jan 2016:

Death Duty

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Shantou - Midnight Gift (Presenting)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 28 Apr 2017 18:05
  • Result: 3/9, tracked leaders on outer, 3rd and slight mistake 3 out, ridden from next, 4th approaching last, kept on same pace run-in
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

He will definitely run in the Albert Bartlett. The Neptune isn’t being considered for him. I just think the Albert Bartlett is made for him, he should really be in his comfort zone over three miles. I wouldn’t have any worries about better ground for him. Even if it turned up very soft, we’d just drop him in there and take our time with him. He’s the sort of horse that nothing phases him, he’s very laid back and doesn’t do anything flashy, but they are often the best ones. His form has been solid all the way and it’s hard to knock him. He’s a big three-mile chaser in the making and I’m looking forward to next season with him already.

Video Form
28 Apr 2017:
8 Jan 2017:
18 Dec 2016:
27 Nov 2016:
17 Oct 2016:

Diamond King

Trainer Says:

He’s in great form and I think you’ll see a different horse if he gets better ground. The Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase is the race he’s being aimed at. He was very good at Galway earlier this season, but just hasn’t had suitable ground since then.

Video Form
31 May 2017:
28 Apr 2017:
26 Dec 2016:
4 Dec 2016:
11 Oct 2016:

Dinaria Des Obeaux (FR)

Trainer Says:

I was happy with her the other day and she just looks like she needs a longer trip. She’s entered in the Fred Winter and we’ll see what mark she gets. I would nearly rather run her in that than in the Triumph as it won’t be as strong. I think Cheltenham will suit her well.

Video Form
29 Apr 2017:
17 Apr 2017:
25 Feb 2017:
12 Feb 2017:
11 Dec 2016:

Don Poli

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Poliglote - Dalamine (Sillery)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Leopardstown, 12 Feb 2017 16:00
  • Result: 3/7, close up, on terms from 4th, slight lead 11th, pressed from before straight, headed at last, dropped to 3rd and kept on without matching 1st 2 close home
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

He’s in great form and his last few runs have been good, though he has had plenty of chances at the top level now and seems a bit short of the very best. I hope he’ll be able to race a lot more prominently in Gold Cup this year than he did last year! I don’t know what happened at Down Royal, it was embarrassing. The way he ran that day he wouldn’t have won a point-to-point! Though in fairness to him he ran very sweet last time and is really enjoying himself these days.

Video Form
12 Feb 2017:
28 Dec 2016:
5 Nov 2016:
27 Apr 2016:
28 Dec 2015:

Empire Of Dirt (IRE)

  • 10-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Westerner - Rose Of Inchiquin (Roselier)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Aintree, 6 Apr 2017 14:50
  • Result: PU/7, in rear, headway before 10th, pushed along and weakened from 14th, pulled up before 3 out
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

Michael wants to run him in the Ryanair and that’s the plan. The only way that might change is if something went wrong with Outlander or Don Poli, in which case he could possibly run in the Gold Cup. He has improved this season and he would look to have a very good chance in the Ryanair Chase.

Video Form
12 Feb 2017:
27 Nov 2016:
17 Jan 2016:
27 Dec 2015:
6 Dec 2015:

Jury Duty

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Well Chosen - Swan Heart (Broken Hearted)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 27 Apr 2017 17:30
  • Result: 6/12, took keen hold early, held up in rear, mistake 4th, some headway but no impression before straight, soon chased leaders and one pace
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

We have had the Pertemps Final in mind for him for a while, but when he won at Navan he picked up a nasty cut and that put us on the back foot with him. We were just running out of time to get him qualified, so that’s why he ran at Chepstow the other day. Thankfully he got qualified and I’m looking forward to running him in it. I entered him in the Coral Cup just in case he didn’t get qualified for the Pertemps, but he’ll definitely run in the Pertemps all being well. He’s owned by a great bunch of lads, friends and neighbours of mine, so it’ll be fantastic if he runs well for them.”

Video Form
27 Apr 2017:
25 Feb 2017:
27 Nov 2016:
28 Apr 2016:
29 Mar 2016:

Mega Fortune (FR)

  • 4-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Soldier of Fortune - Far Across (Common Grounds)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 29 Apr 2017 16:25
  • Result: 4/7, raced in 2nd, on terms 5th, slight mistake 3 out, pushed along to lead into straight, headed approaching last, one pace and dropped to 4th near line
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

He’s won a Grade 1 and looks to be the pick of the Irish juveniles. I think the cheekpieces and riding him more positively are more important to him than the ground. I don’t think he’ll be unsuited by better ground than he got at Leopardstown last time. He’s a lazy horse at home, you’d think he was a three-mile chaser rather like a Flat-bred. Cheekpieces helped him on the Flat when he was with Andy Oliver and putting them back on him last time seemed to really help him.

Video Form
29 Apr 2017:
12 Feb 2017:
26 Dec 2016:
4 Dec 2016:
5 Nov 2016:

Mick Jazz (FR)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Blue Bresil - Mick Maya (Siam)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 5 Feb 2017 13:30
  • Result: Won/7, tracked leaders in 5th, headway 3 out, went 3rd on inner next, ridden in 2nd before last, disputed lead at last, ran on well on stands' rail run-in, improved to lead close home, all out
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

The plan is to run him in the County Hurdle. A fast pace there would suit him well as he travels strongly in his races.

Video Form
5 Feb 2017:
4 Dec 2016:
13 Nov 2016:
27 Oct 2016:

Missy Tata (FR)

Trainer Says:

When she won at Limerick she picked up a little suspensory problem. It isn’t career threatening, but she won’t run again this season. Chasing will be the plan next season.

Video Form
28 Dec 2016:
12 Nov 2016:
9 Oct 2016:
15 May 2016:
28 Apr 2016:

Noble Endeavor

Trainer Says:

The Ultima Handicap Chase is the plan for him. He was running a big race in the four miler last year, he was only just behind Native River and Jamie said he was only getting going. He ran very well when a close second in the Martin Pipe too, so he clearly likes the place. It was always the plan to wait for this after winning the Paddy Power and the Irish National will be the plan after Cheltenham.”

Video Form
17 Apr 2017:
27 Dec 2016:
27 Nov 2016:
13 Nov 2016:
26 Apr 2016:

Outlander

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Stowaway - Western Whisper (Supreme Leader)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 26 Apr 2017 17:30
  • Result: PU/6, held up in 5th, dropped to last at 3rd, soon pushed along, ridden and weakened from 7th, behind when pulled up before 10th
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

We’re looking forward to running him in the Gold Cup. We decided to skip the Irish Gold Cup with him as he had already had three runs and we thought freshening him up was the right thing to do with a view to the spring. He is a bit more unexposed than Don Poli and while it will be his first time over the Gold Cup trip, we’ll give him every chance to get it as we’ll drop him in and take our time with him. I don’t think he’s another Don Cossack, there’s no point in saying I think he is, but he has surprised us already and I’d be delighted to be surprised again by him.

Video Form
26 Apr 2017:
28 Dec 2016:
11 Dec 2016:
17 Nov 2016:
5 Nov 2016:

Runfordave

Trainer Says:

He is entered in the Martin Pipe, Coral Cup, Neptune and Albert Bartlett. It depends on what happens with The Storyteller, as they are owned by the same man, but I would like to run one of them in the Martin Pipe for sure. I think he’ll stay mid-range trips well and might get three miles when he goes over a fence.

Video Form
28 Apr 2017:
2 Apr 2017:
16 Feb 2017:
14 Jan 2017:
26 Dec 2016:

Shattered Love

Trainer Says:

I might run her in the Neptune and take advantage of the mares’ allowance. Her form isn’t far off the best of those novice hurdle mares in Ireland, but I just think the trip in the Mares’ Novices' Hurdle would be a bit short for her, that’s why we are looking at the Neptune for her.

Video Form
16 Apr 2017:
4 Feb 2017:
18 Dec 2016:
19 Nov 2016:
4 Nov 2016:

Squouateur (FR)

Trainer Says:

He’s entered in the novices’ handicap chase and the Kim Muir, but we’ll wait and see what the handicapper does on Thursday before making any decisions.

Video Form
11 Feb 2017:
7 Jan 2017:
11 Dec 2016:
27 Nov 2016:
13 Nov 2016:

Sutton Place

Trainer Says:

He won’t travel to Cheltenham, but Aintree or Fairyhouse will be on his agenda. He could be a horse for the Aintree Hurdle.

Video Form
27 Apr 2017:
19 Feb 2017:
28 Jan 2017:
28 Mar 2016:
6 Mar 2016:

The Storyteller

  • 6-y-o; chestnut gelding
  • Breeding: Shantou - Bally Bolshoi (Bob Back)
  • Trained by: G Elliott
  • Last Race: Thurles, 19 Jan 2017 13:10
  • Result: Won/6, held up behind leaders, 4th halfway, progress into 2nd after 3 out, led 2 out, pushed out to assert before last, ridden and kept on strongly run-in
  • View full form
Trainer Says:

It all depends on what mark he gets, but we’d like to run him in the Martin Pipe. We entered him at Cheltenham a few weeks ago and he had a mark of 137 or 138, so hopefully that hasn’t changed too much since then.

Video Form
19 Jan 2017:
26 Dec 2016:
20 Nov 2016:
4 Nov 2016:
20 May 2016:

Tiger Roll

Trainer Says:

Tiger Roll is capable of surprising us all! He’ll run in the National Hunt Chase and you’ll know after two fences whether he fancies it or not. There won’t be many rated higher than him in it and he has winning form at the track which is always a positive. He’ll get the trip and the better ground will suit him. Hopefully he fancies it on the day, as he’ll stay all day. Lisa O’Neill could well get the ride on him. She’s working very hard here and has been lucky for Gigginstown.

Video Form
17 Apr 2017:
31 Oct 2016:
9 Oct 2016:
17 Sep 2016:
6 Sep 2016:

Tombstone

Trainer Says:

He’ll work at the weekend and if everything goes alright, he’ll be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. He’s an unexposed horse and while I’m not saying I know he’s good enough to win a Champion Hurdle, when you see Petit Mouchoir is third or fourth favourite for it and Tombstone finished in front of him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, that would give you hope. He was actually supposed to go chasing this season, but he needed a screw put in his joint last year and that just held him up getting back to the track this season. He’ll definitely go chasing next season.

Video Form
28 Apr 2017:
17 Apr 2017:
18 Feb 2017:
21 Jan 2017:
6 Feb 2016:
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