Co. Meath trainer Gordon Elliott first took out a training licence in 2007 and saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Chicago Grey, in the National Hunt Chase in 2011. Five years later, he saddled Don Cossack, owned by Gigginstown House Stud and ridden by 23-year-old Bryan Cooper – who, according to Elliott, had given the horse a ‘diabolical’ ride when a beaten favourite in the Ryanair Chase in 2015 – to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
More recently, in 2017, Elliott saddled six Festival winners and beat Willie Mullins to the Leading Trainer Award on countback, by virtue of three second-placed horses to Mullins’ two. In 2018, the victory of Blow By Blow in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on the Friday took his total for the meeting to eight winners, equalling the record set by Mullins three years earlier and pipping his compatriot to the Leading Trainer Award, for the second year running, by one winner.
Of course, Elliott was the chief beneficiary Gigginstown House Stud removed all 60 of its horses from Mullins’ yard in September, 2016, following a dispute over training fees. In fact, in 2018, Elliott saddled two so-called ‘bankers’ in Michael O’Leary’s distinctive maroon and white colours, Apple’s Jade, only third, at 1/2, in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle on Champion Day and Samcro, winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Ladies’ Day at 8/11. Other winners for Gigginstown House Stud, trained by Elliott, were Tiger Roll in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, Shattered Love in the JLT Novices’ Chase, Delta Work in the Pertemps Network Final and Farclas in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Although something of a new kid on the block, when compared with Cheltenham stalwarts such as Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliott clearly has the ammunition to compete with the ‘old guard’ and seems likely to become a fixture at Prestbury Park when March rolls around each year.