Gordon Elliott: This year is about rebuilding and getting back to where we were

The Meath trainer  already has his focus on the Leopardstown Christmas festival.
Gordon Elliott: This year is about rebuilding and getting back to where we were

SPACE AT A PREMIUM: Gordon Elliott’s string gear up for the morning gallops at his Cullentra stable yesterday. Pcture: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Fresh from a good weekend at Fairyhouse which followed on from a great weekend in Navan, trainer Gordon Elliott already has his focus on the Leopardstown Christmas festival.

It’s unsurprising. Ever since his return from suspension, and during it, one suspects, the focus has been on getting back to training and amongst the winners.

And that has been the case as, in the couple of months since his name was returned to the licence, the Cullentra House trainer has saddled more than 60 winners and earned total prize money in excess of €1 million.

“I was raring to come back,” admitted Elliott. “It was a long six months, and I probably learned a lot about myself and about other people. But I’m back now and it’s great to be back. People in racing are amazing. All I want to do is train winners. I’ve got a great bunch of owners, and a lovely bunch of young horses, and I suppose this year is about rebuilding and getting back to where we were. We’ve got a lot of young stock, so it’s exciting times ahead.”

Fil Dor is one such horse who enhanced his reputation over the weekend and will likely take in the Christmas trip to Leopardstown en route to the Triumph Hurdle.

“He didn’t do much more than we thought he’d do,” said Elliott, reflecting on the grey’s win in the Grade Three Juvenile Hurdle on Sunday. “He’s a very laid-back horse through the race, which is a great asset. He jumped well, and when he needed a jump at the last, he gave it to us, and he won snug.

“I’d imagine he’ll go to Leopardstown (Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle). It’s a great race, we’ve been lucky in it over the years.”

Riviere D’etel, who showed plenty of promise over hurdles, has looked much more settled and, consequently, much improved since going over fences, and she has the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase on the opening day of the Christmas festival as an option.

“She has an entry in Navan and Cork, but the plan is to go for the Grade One. She would be getting all the allowances, Probably as a juvenile she was a bit buzzy and just wanted just to get from A to B a bit too quickly. But she was very good the last day. Denis (O’Regan) was very good on her, she backed off her fences very well. Cheltenham is a long way away and we’ll get Christmas out of the way, but if she runs well and comes out of it well, you could think about the Arkle Chase.”

Another potential star in the yard is Mighty Potter, a highly regarded four-year-old who caught many an eye in defeat in the Grade One Royal Bond on Sunday. He could bid for compensation in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle.

“Obviously it’s hard to win Grade Ones, and you don’t like them getting away from you, but it was only his second run over hurdles and the third run of his life, and it was a good performance,” said Elliott. “He’s a big chaser in the making. I think he’s a very good horse. He won a maiden hurdle in Down Royal and it wasn’t the strongest race in the world and he didn’t have to come off the bridle, so he’ll have learned plenty from Sunday’s race.”

Due  to the quick ground at Fairyhouse, Three Stripe Life was a late absentee from the Royal Bond but he, too, has Christmas in his eyeline.

“I’d Imagine Mighty Potter and him will go for this race at Leopardstown. He got very strong during the summer, he jumps very well, and he improved a lot from his maiden hurdle win at Fairyhouse. He galloped well last weekend, and I was looking forward to running him on Sunday.”

Delta Work, though only eight years of age, is one of the established stars in the yard, and a return to the Savills Chase, which he won in 2019 and unseated his rider last year, is on the agenda.

He made his seasonal debut in the Champion Chase at Down Royal, where he finished fourth behind Frodon, and Elliott is more than hopeful he can build on that display.

“I was very happy with him. He always takes a run to put him right. I’ll probably run him and Galvin in the Savills. He’s in good form and hopefully Jack Kennedy back to ride him, as he gets on better with him than anyone.

“Galvin is probably stuck between a rock and a hard place — whether he’s Grade One level or not is the question. He could be a horse that could run well in a Grand National in time, but the plan is to go to the Savills Chase.”

Classy hurdler Abacadabras disappointed in the Hatton’s Grace on Sunday and now could have his focus switched to the staying division.

“He was a bit lacklustre on Sunday. He had a good blow and should have come on plenty for it but for a horse that always travels over two miles, he was a bit sleepy. I’m going to step him up to three miles over Christmas and am looking forward to it.

“He’s not going to be good enough to beat Honeysuckle in a Champion Hurdle and while no race is easy, the race I think he could have the best chance in at Cheltenham is the Stayers’ Hurdle.”

Leopardstown may not be on the agenda for Tiger Roll, but no discussion of the Cullentra stable is complete without mention of this fellow.

The two-time Aintree National and five-time Cheltenham Festival winner could be in action this weekend, but connections are dreaming further down the line.

“He’ll probably go for the Grade Two at Aintree on Saturday,” Elliott revealed. “Then he’ll go to the Boyne Hurdle and the cross-country chase at Cheltenham.

“He is probably not what he was, but if we can get him back to win another cross-country chase it will be a dream come true.

“He’s a horse of a lifetime.

“Anyone that comes into the yard at Cullentra, he’s the first you see as he lives in the first stable and to have a horse like him around the place is unbelievable.

“If you’re going to dream, you’d love to go back and win a third Grand National, but the stats don’t lie. It will be three years since he ran in the race. It’s not getting any easier for him, he’s not getting any younger and if you were to ask me, I’d love to win another cross-country at Cheltenham with him. I think if he won it would bring the roof down.He’s a little superstar and I’m very lucky to have him.”

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