Gordon Elliott: "I probably look at life a little different now"

Mon 20 Nov 2023

Gordon Elliott has defended the number of runners he had in Navan’s Troytown Chase on Sunday after reiterating his desire to one day be crowned Ireland’s champion trainer.

Elliott ended up seeing 14 of his Cullentra House battalion face the starter for the  €100,000 handicap and saddled four of the first five home with 20-1 shot Coko Beach scooping the big pot for Gigginstown House Stud.

It is a contest Elliott has enjoyed great success in down the years and having been responsible for nearly three-quarters of the final field of 20, he simply believes he is doing what is best for both the horses in his yard and their owners by targeting the race.

Gordon Elliott with jockey Danny Gilligan and Coko Beach after winning the Troytown at Navan
Gordon Elliott with jockey Danny Gilligan and Coko Beach after winning the Troytown at Navan

“I started with nothing and didn’t get handed anything, I’ve worked for everything I’ve got,” explained Elliott.

“We didn’t stop any horse running in the race, the race didn’t fill and I think if I only run one or two horses then there might only be eight or nine in the race.

“I think for a €100,000 race, for Bar One who are sponsoring the race and for Navan, it would be embarrassing if there is only eight or nine runners in it.

“All my owners are paying training fees and entry fees and they want to run, so I don’t think I have anyone to answer to. All I want to do is do my best for every horse and every owner.”

Gordon Elliott currently tops the Irish trainers' championship
Gordon Elliott currently tops the Irish trainers' championship

Coko Beach brought up winner 115 for the season for Elliott with American Mike’s impressive chasing debut quickly taking that total to 116.

He currently stands €500,000 ahead of his great rival Willie Mullins at the head of the standings in Ireland and although still dreaming of a first title, concedes his priorities have changed since his well-documented ban in 2021, with his focus firmly on training as many winners as possible..

“If you had asked me about that two or three years ago, it was all I would have thought about,” he said about the title.

“If you ask me my ambition in life, it is to be champion trainer, but I probably look at life a little different now to how I did before what happened (the suspension).

“It’s what I want to do and what I would love to do and my aim in life, but you look at things and people a lot different.”

When asked about his current motivation, he added: “Winners. I’m probably selfish and all I care about is training winners. It’s not ideal sometimes but I love what I do.

“I love training winners. I worked for a man called Martin Pipe and he loved it and I’m probably unfortunate that I was born in the same era as a man called Willie Mullins.

“Willie makes us all better and hungrier and I just like to do my best and keep him honest.”

Although realistic about his own title ambitions, Cullentra House number one Jack Kennedy has a real chance of getting his hands on a first title having partnered 60 winners so far this term.

Jockey Jack Kennedy (right) and his boss Gordon Elliott
Jockey Jack Kennedy (right) and his boss Gordon Elliott

That puts him 18 clear of nearest rival Paul Townend and Elliott believes he is in a great position to remain on top spot until the end of the season.

“I would love to see Jack Kennedy be champion jockey and I think it’s going to happen some day,” said Elliott.

“Whether that is this year, next year or the year after I don’t know. Just looking he has 60 winners already and I think last year when he had the fall he had 77 winners during the first week in January.

“It looks like he is ahead of last year and it looks like he is in a better position than last year to be honest.

“Last time he always had to worry about Davy Russell and now he is first jockey and has the pick of everything. I’m sure it will be something he would love to do anyway.”

Cotswold Chase option for Gerri Colombe

Gerri Colombe will have Leopardstown or Cheltenham next on the agenda as Gordon Elliott eyes one more run before a shot at the Gold Cup in March.

Beaten only once in six starts over the larger obstacles, the stamina of Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old came to the fore when making a winning return at Down Royal earlier this month.

Now he has either the Savills Chase – the traditional Christmas destination for Ireland’s top staying chasers – or the Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day on January 27 as his big-race options in preparation for his main March objective.

Elliott said: “He’s in the Savills and that will be depending on ground. If the ground is safe he would go there, but if not he could go to Cheltenham at the end of January. We have all those options.

“He doesn’t actually mind nice ground, but you wouldn’t want to be chancing it at that time of year.”

On his Down Royal comeback, Elliott added: “He will have come on an awful lot for Down Royal. He’s only been back cantering since the middle of September and Jack (Kennedy) said he was proper blowing. There will be loads of improvement in him.

“I was impressed with him by the line, but my heart was in my mouth. Speaking to Jack after you would have to be happy. I suppose the one thing he has is the will to win. He wants to win and that is a great attribute to have, you know.”

Trainer Gordon Elliott has plenty of respect for Gentlemansgame
Trainer Gordon Elliott has plenty of respect for Gentlemansgame

Gerri Colombe finds himself as short of 7-2 for the Cheltenham blue riband with, a race where he could come up against Charlie Hall Chase winner Gentlemansgame who is also owned by Brian Acheson’s Robcour operation.

Although available at much bigger odds than Gerri Colombe, Elliott believes Mouse Morris’ charge warrants plenty of respect having claimed the scalp of Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame at Wetherby.

“I will worry about Gerri and Mouse will worry about Gentlemansgame,” added Elliott.

“He’s a good horse and I don’t think he’s getting the credit he deserves at the moment. For what he’s done on his third or fourth run over fences, I was impressed with him anyway.”

Conflated could try his hand over the cross-country fences at Cheltenham
Conflated could try his hand over the cross-country fences at Cheltenham

It is still to be decided if Gerri Colombe will be joined by last year’s third Conflated in the Gold Cup in March, with Elliott toying with the idea of switching the Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old to the cross-country sphere.

“I imagine he will go Leopardstown (Savills Chase) and then we will decide whether we go Gold Cup or cross-country at Cheltenham,” said Elliott.

“We’ve schooled him to go cross-country. It didn’t surprise me (when third at Down Royal behind Gerri Colombe) and I knew there was more improvement to come from Punchestown, so it didn’t shock me. He’s a good horse, he was third in the Gold Cup last year.”

If heading down the cross-country route, Conflated would be adding to a strong hand Elliott possesses in a race he has dominated in recent years at the Cheltenham Festival.

He won it last year with Delta Work, with Galvin another of Elliott’s string poised to navigate the twists and turns of the cross-country track in March. However, the defending champion Delta Work finished lame when when reappearing at Prestbury Park last Friday.

“He’s lame, it’s nothing serious, but you can see that half way through the race his jumping went to pot,” said Elliott.

“We’ll get him back and train him for Cheltenham. He will probably go for a hurdle race in February and then onto Cheltenham for the cross-country race off level weights.”

American Mike to follow Gerri's lead

American Mike will bid to follow in the footsteps of Gerri Colombe when he heads to Limerick on Boxing Day for the Greenmount Park Novices’ Chase.

Gerri Colombe won the first of his three Grade One novice chases in Limerick’s Christmas showpiece and American Mike appears poised for an immediate step up to the highest level having accounted for Champion Bumper runner-up Fact To File with an impressive chasing display at Navan on Sunday.

Elliott is keen to stay at two-and-a-half miles for the time being with the six-year-old, who lost his way slightly over hurdles last season, but pleased his handler in his first start over the larger obstacles.

“I was delighted,” said Elliott. “In fairness, it was easy to say he was disappointing in his novice hurdles, but I thought he was good at Navan.

“I don’t know if I want to come back to two (miles) and I don’t know if I want to go up to three (miles) either so Limerick would look the race to go for.

“I was hoping (he would always be a better chaser than hurdler), but the way he jumped as a novice hurdler you would be worried.

“We’ve done plenty of schooling and Jack (Kennedy) has done a lot of work with him, schooling him. We haven’t done an awful lot different to be honest. He worked in Tipperary a few weeks ago and worked well and we were very happy.”

American Mike has always been held in high regard
American Mike has always been held in high regard

American Mike is owned by Noel and Valerie Moran and the same colours of their Beactive Stud will be sported by Found A Fifty when he captains Elliott’s team for Fairyhouse’s Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase on December 3.

The six-year-old impressed his handler with a clear-cut eight-length success over Colonel Mustard at Down Royal and could be joined in the Grade One event by Imagine, who won nicely in a beginners chase at Fairyhouse earlier this month.

“He was exciting and I liked the way he hit the line in Down Royal,” said Elliott of Found A Fifty.

“I wasn’t surprised. I went to the well a little bit too often with him last year and he blew his top, I shouldn’t have gone to Aintree with him. He looks a nice horse.

“I imagine he will go to the Drinmore and I was very impressed with him.”

On Imagine, he added: “He was good (at Fairyhouse) and jumped brilliant and could go for the Drinmore as well I would say. I think stepping up in trip will suit him no bother.

“It wasn’t a bad race and he is tough. It looks like he is a better chaser than hurdler.”

Also backed to take high-rank amongst Elliott’s team of novice chasers this term is Three Card Brag, who was sent off 4-1 second favourite for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival earlier in the year, but could now find his true calling tackling fences.

“He is going chasing and he will go to Fairyhouse, not this weekend but next weekend,” continued Elliott.

“He jumps very well and I was tempted to run him this weekend. I worked him I think Tuesday or Wednesday and he just had a little blow so I thought I would wait another couple of weeks.

“He’s a fair horse and he’s not a flashy horse at home, but he’s a good horse. He always looked like he would be a chaser.”

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