Cheltenham Festival News
Wednesday 1st March 2017

Elliott seeks more Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup glory

Gordon Elliott outlined his plans for The Festival today at a media visit to his yard arranged by Cheltenham Racecourse.

He plans to run two horses in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, the feature race of the four-day meeting, on the final day, Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 17, which he won for the first time in 2016 with the now-retired Don Cossack.

Don Poli
© Caroline Norris
Don Poli

Don Poli, a staying-on third to Don Cossack last year, winner of the RSA Chase at The Festival in 2015 and successful in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle in 2014, will be joined by Outlander, winner of the G1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas when Don Poli was runner-up.

Elliott said today: "Don Poli has already had a chance to win the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is definitely in good form and his last two runs have been good.

"Outlander is the one who looks a bit unexposed. It will be his first time over the trip but the way he will be ridden will suit because we will drop in and take our time.

"To be honest, they are not Don Cossack. He won a Gold Cup by nearly five lengths.

"I think skipping the Irish Gold Cup with Outlander was the right move. We thought it was the right to do that with a view to Cheltenham and Punchestown, as he has had three runs already this season.

"Don Poli has run sweetly the last twice. I am not sure what happened in Down Royal. It was an embarrassment. The way he ran that day he would not have won a point-to-point. He seems to have turned a corner now.

"There is not a lot between the Irish horses in my opinion. I think Outlander and Djakadam are the pick of the Irish horses for the Gold Cup as they are going there fresh."

Empire Of Dirt
© Caroline Norris
Empire Of Dirt

Empire Of Dirt, also entered in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, is being switched to the G1 Ryanair Chase over two miles and five furlongs at The Festival.

The 10-year-old was unbeaten in three handicaps during 2016 and started this year off well when runner-up to Sizing John, with Don Poli three quarters of a length in arrears, in the G1 Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 12.

The trainer said: "Empire Of Dirt looks to have a very good chance in the Ryanair Chase. That's the plan unless something happens to Don Poli or Outlander."

© Caroline Norris

Elliott is set to be represented in another of the main championship races at The Festival, the Stan James Champion Hurdle, by Tombstone, who needs to be supplemented at the six-day stage.

Tombstone, fourth in the 2016 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at The Festival, beat the 2014 Champion Hurdler, Jezki, last time out.

Elliott explained: "He will be supplemented for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, providing everything goes right between now and then. It is a very good race, but an open-looking one as well.

"I think he will improve again from Gowran (when winning the G3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle on February 16).

"He is an unexposed horse. I am not saying he is good enough to win a Champion Hurdle, but Petit Mouchoir, who is second or third favourite, was behind us in the Supreme.

"Tombstone was meant to go chasing this season and definitely will next year. Gigginstown buy them to be chasers."

The trainer spoke about some of his other challengers at The Festival: -

Apple's Jade - OLBG Mares' Hurdle: "Limini's performance the other day didn't surprise me at all. Apple's Jade was beaten by a better horse on the day. There were no excuses.

"You would be hoping that a bit better ground and a faster gallop would suit Apple's Jade in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle. She did the donkey work at Punchestown which perhaps didn't suit her."

Death Duty
© Caroline Norris
Death Duty

Death Duty - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle: "There is no chance of Death Duty running in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle. He is going for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle. I just think over three miles he can really get into his comfort zone, I think the race is made for him.

"He is a big three-mile chaser in the making. I said from flag fall that this is the race we are going for. There is no doubt about it.

"He has done nothing wrong this year. You can't knock him. He is the sort of horse who doesn't do anything flashy. He is very relaxed and laidback. They are normally the best ones."

Mega Fortune - JCB Triumph Hurdle: "He has won a Grade One and so has Philip Hobbs' horse. The juveniles are what they are.

"I think riding him positively in cheekpieces will make more of a difference than the ground.

"You wouldn't think he was Flat-bred horse watching him at home. He is like a three-mile chaser. He wore cheekpieces on the Flat so I thought we would be putting them on at some stage."

Jury Duty - Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle: "He goes for the Pertemps Final. He won well in Navan and then we were running out of time to get him qualified which is why he went to Chepstow the other day. I think that was the last qualifier.

"He is a horse I am looking forward to running. You need to take your time on him. Jack [Kennedy] hit the front way too soon at the Punchestown Festival last year. He is owned by a great bunch of lads and I hope he runs well for them."

Diamond King
© Caroline Norris
Diamond King

Diamond King - Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate: "He is in great form and goes for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate rather than the JLT Novices' Chase."

Barra - Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle: "She will go for the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

"I didn't think she got home over two miles, two furlongs. She arrived there going to the last and didn't quite see it out. Hopefully, two miles on better ground at Cheltenham will suit her better.

"The mares' division looks very strong in Ireland this year. Willie has a very good hand. We took a few of his on with Shattered Love, who could go for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, and I would say the mares' novice in Cheltenham will be hot."

Runfordave - multiple entries: "He is in all the handicaps as well as a couple of the novices' hurdles. He will definitely go for something.

"It will probably all depend on what we have the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle. He is owned by the same person as The Storyteller, who could go for the Martin Pipe or Coral Cup."

Tiger Roll - J T McNamara National Hunt Chase: "He goes the J T McNamara National Hunt Chase. You will know after jumping two fences if he is on a going day or an off day.

"He is rated in the 150s in England and I doubt there will be many in the race with a higher rating. He obviously has course form and the trip will be no problem."  

Gordon Elliott media stable visit, Tuesday, February 28, 2017   Cullentra, Longwood, Co Meath

Synopsis - Gordon Elliott h as risen to become one of Ireland's leading Jump trainers since taking out his licence 11 years ago.

He shot to international prominence with victory in the 2007 Grand National at Aintree, aged 29, with 33/1 chance Silver Birch, despite having not sent out a winner back home.

He has since gone on to record numerous major wins in Ireland and Britain, with eight successes (three last year) at The Festival headed by Don Cossack's victory in the 2016 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Born - March 2, 1978

Background - A very successful point-to-point rider, Elliott also partnered 46 winners as an amateur under Rules. He started his racing career while still at school, working at Tony Martin's stable in County Meath. He moved to Britain, joining Martin Pipe in 1997, and learnt a lot during his spell in Somerset. His biggest victory as a rider was on board King's Road, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, in the 1998 Punchestown Champion Bumper.

Elliott returned to Ireland for another term at Martin's stables. After commencing handling point-to-pointers, he started his main training career from Capranny Stables in Trim, Co Meath in early 2006 and bought 78-acre Cullentra House Farm, Longwood, Co Meath, in 2011, where the facilities have been built up from scratch, with a capacity of almost 200 horses, two gallops, three schooling grounds, an equine pool, a natural spa and more.

The trainer has emerged over the last few seasons as the main challenger to Willie Mullins' dominance in Ireland and had a major boost when receiving the pick of 60 horses that Gigginstown House Stud removed from Mullins in September last year.

He currently leads the Irish trainers' championship with 161 winners and total prize money of more than €3.3 million (as of 24/02/2017). He won six of the seven races at Navan on November 27.

Elliott is part of a select group of trainers to saddle a winner at both The Festival and Royal Ascot, having sent out Commissioned to land the Queen Alexandra Stakes at the prestigious Flat meeting in June, 2016. He also saddled Dirar to win the Ebor Handicap at York in 2010.

First winner as a trainer - Arresting, Fugro-Technip Handicap Hurdle, Perth, June 11, 2006

Cheltenham Festival wins (8)

2011: 2 - National Hunt Chase (Chicago Grey), Coral Cup (Carlito Brigante)

2013: 1 - Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Flaxen Flare)

2014: 1 - JCB Triumph Hurdle (Tiger Roll)

2015: 1 - J T McNamara National Hunt Chase (Cause Of Causes)

2016: 3 - Coral Cup (Diamond King), Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Cause Of Causes), Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Don Cossack)                             

Gordon Elliott's entries at The Festival


1.30pm £125,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f

Barra, Dinaria Des Obeaux, Labaik, Mick Jazz

2.10pm £175,000 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m

Ball d'Arc

2.50pm £105,000 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f

A Toi Phil, Clarcam, General Principle, Jetstream Jack, Lord Scoundrel, Noble Endeavor, Rightdownthemiddle, Roi Des Francs, Tiger Roll, Ucello Conti

3.30pm £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f

Apple's Jade

4.10pm £110,000 OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

Apple's Jade, Barra, Shattered Love, Water Sprite

4.50pm £120,000 J T McNamara National Hunt Chase (Novices) (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 4m

General Principle, Tiger Roll

5.30pm £70,000 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (0-140) (Listed) 2m 4½f

General Principle, Squouateur, Stone Hard


1.30pm £125,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f

Barra, Blood Crazed Tiger, Brelade, Death Duty, Labaik, Runfordave, Shattered Love, Sire du Berlais, The Storyteller, Woods Well

2.10pm £175,000 RSA Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 3m ½f

A Toi Phil, General Principle, Tiger Roll

2.50pm £95,000 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m 5f

Automated, Barra, Bilko, Blood Crazed Tiger, Brelade, Carrig Cathal, De Plotting Shed, Jeannot De Nonant, Jury Duty, Labaik, Rightdownthemiddle, Runfordave, Sire Du Berlais, Taglietelle, The Storyteller, Tombstone, Woodford Island

3.30pm £350,000 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m

Tell Us More, The Game Changer

4.10pm £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 6f

Entries close February 28

4.50pm £80,000 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m ½f

Dakota Moirette, Dinaria Des Obeaux, Icario, Leomar, Mega Fortune, Pahaska

5.30pm £75,000 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m ½f

Entries close February 28


1.30pm £150,000 JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f

A Toi Phil, Ball d'Arc, Diamond King, General Principle, Tiger Roll

2.10pm £95,000 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed) 3m

Glenloe, Jury Duty, Sutton Manor, Woodford Island

2.50pm £300,000 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 5f

Empire of Dirt, Outlander, Roi Des Francs

3.30pm £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m

Apple's Jade, De Plotting Shed, Dedigout

4.10pm £105,000 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) 2m 5f

A Toi Phil, Ball d'Arc, Clarcam, Definite Ruby, Diamond King, Lord Scoundrel, Rightdownthemiddle, Roi Des Francs, Tiger Roll

4.50pm £80,000 Trull House Stud Mares Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Entries close February 28

5.30pm £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Amateurs) (0-145) 3m 2f

Definite Ruby, General Principle, Rightdownthemiddle, Squouateur, Stone Hard, Tiger Roll


1.30pm £125,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f 125,000

Dakota Moirette, Dinaria Des Obeaux, Duca De Thaix, Mega Fortune

2.10pm £95,000 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 1f

Automated, Blood Crazed Tiger, Brelade, Labaik, Mick Jazz, Tell Us More, The Game Changer, Tombstone, Tycoon Prince, Veinard

2.50pm £125,000 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m

Barra, Blood Crazed Tiger, Champagne Classic, Death Duty, Monbeg Notorious, Runfordave, Sire du Berlais, The Storyteller, Woods Well

3.30pm £575,000 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m 2½f

Don Poli, Empire of Dirt, Outlander, Roi Des Francs

4.10pm £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase 3m 2½f

Entries close February 28

4.50pm £65,000 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (0-145) 2m 4½f

Automated, Barra, Blood Crazed Tiger, Brelade, Broken Soul, Carrig Cathal, Champagne Classic, Clarcam, Jeannot De Nonant, Jury Duty, Kings Bandit, Labaik, Mick Jazz, Rightdownthemiddle, Runfordave, Shadow Catcher, Sire Du Berlais, Taglietelle, Tell Us More, The Storyteller, Tiger Roll, Tycoon Prince, Veinard, Water Sprite

5.30pm £105,000 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m ½f

Ball d'Arc, Clarcam, Realt Mor, Tell Us More, The Game Changer