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The 2020 Cheltenham Festival: Get the inside track on Gordon Elliott's top hopes

Sat 29 Feb 2020

Gordon Elliott provides us with the inside track on his battalion heading to this year's Cheltenham Festival.

ABACADABRAS

Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Abacadabras has not run since Christmas because he has already had four runs over hurdles, and I thought another run may knock the edge off him. He is a speed horse and the one worry I would have is if it came up very soft. I am not sure he would be as effective on Heavy ground as he would on Good to Soft.

APPLE’S JADE

Race: Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

If Apple's Jade runs in anything, it will be the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle, but nothing is set in stone. We worked her the other day and she was a bit lifeless, so we will see how she goes between now and Cheltenham. It is not my decision, but I would imagine she will be covered this year. She has won 11 Grade Ones and does not owe anything to anybody. She has been the horse of a lifetime. I have said all year that I don't think she has been working as well as she did in the past.

BATTLE OF WILLS

Race: JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Battle Of Wills impressed Gordon Elliott at Naas

If I run any horse in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, it will be Battle Of Wills. He won in Naas and I think he is a nice horse. He is going to work in the morning and then hopefully go to Fairyhouse at the weekend. Then we will see where he goes from there. The Triumph looks an open race and I think if you have a horse who can travel off the pace, you will have a chance because they are going to go very quick in front. The three or four favourites are all front runners.

BATTLEOVERDOYEN

Race: RSA Novices’ Chase.

Battleoverdoyen was very sore after Leopardstown [fell]. He is back riding out and you saw him this morning. He is the one horse I would be nervous about going to Cheltenham with. He never ate or drank once he got over there last year and ran deplorably [PU as 3/1f in Ballymore Novices' Hurdle]. It would not be a shock if I kept him at home. If that happens, there is chance Champagne Classic might switch to the RSA.

Listen: Gordon Elliott on his 2020 Cheltenham Festival runners

COEUR SUBLIME

Race: Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Watch how Coeur Sublime fared behind Sharjah last time out

Coeur Sublime will be my only runner in the Unibet Champion Hurdle. He has had a wind operation since he ran at Christmas. He would not mind a bit of cut in the ground. It is going to be a competitive but open Champion Hurdle, and it would not shock me if he was placed.

DAYLIGHT KATIE

Race: Dawn Run Mares’ Novices Hurdle.

I do not know if I am going to have Daylight Katie ready in time for the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle. She got a cut in Down Royal the day she won in November and it got infected. It has taken a while to get her right, as it had to be flushed out and she was in the vets for three or four weeks. She is back cantering now, but I think Cheltenham will probably come a fortnight too soon. We could keep her for Fairyhouse.

DELTA WORK

Race: Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Watch: Delta Work's victory in the Irish Gold Cup

Delta Work will be our runner in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup. I don't think he has done too much wrong over the last couple of seasons. He was lame after Down Royal and the only real time he has been beat was in the RSA last year. It just did not work out on the day. I would say the mistake I made last year was not running him between Christmas and Cheltenham. He only does what he has to do and if you look at his form, he is better with runs behind him. Last season, he just beat Ben Dundee in Down Royal and then got better and better.

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I think he is made for the Gold Cup and Mark Walsh will ride him. His style of racing will suit and so will the trip. We are lucky to have these good horses that people like talking about, but he probably gets forgotten about a bit. He has won five or six G1s and is a great little horse. We are lucky to have him. He is not a big, robust horse, but he is a fair one. The one thing about him is that he stays. I love him.

The biggest danger will probably be what Willie Mullins runs. I always have great respect for his runners. You would have to respect Santini as well and, if the ground came up bottomless, you could not rule out Native River.

ENVOI ALLEN

Race: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Envoi Allen extended his unbeaten record at Naas in January

If it came up very soft, I would not rule out Envoi Allen dropping back for the Supreme. At the moment, he is going for the Ballymore, but he could be my only other runner in the Supreme if it came up very soft. There would have to heavy in the going description for him to switch.

Envoi Allen is in great form. Keith [Donoghue] rides him everyday and could not be happier. He missed the Dublin Racing Festival as well as he'd already had three runs over hurdles and I did not think there was much to gain by going there. He may have a go in a schooling hurdle over the next ten days.

I don't know what all this chat is about him being a hype horse. He has done it himself by winning three Grade Ones. I don't talk about any horse; it is you guys [the media] who talk about them. He is a good horse and, listen, there is always more pressure when you go with the likes of him. We don't hype them up, but we think he is a very good horse. I suppose if you win seven out of seven, people are inclined to talk about you, aren't they?

He never does anymore than he has to. Even working him, if you paired him with a 95-rated horse, not that we work him to beat another horse, he would only do what he has to do.

FURY ROAD

Race: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

Fury Road was beaten at Grade One level at the Dublin Racing Festival

The ground was quick enough for Fury Road at the Dublin Racing Festival [finished fourth]. He wasn't actually beaten that far, and I think three miles in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle on softer ground, you will see a different horse. I have got an awful lot of respect for Paul Nolan's horse Latest Exhibition. He is the one we all have to beat and his style of race will suit the race - he races behind the bridle and always has plenty left.Easywork is entered here, but he will probably run in the Ballymore. Fury Road is our main chance.

SAMCRO

Race: Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Samcro has an entry, but if he goes to Cheltenham, it will be for the Marsh Novices' Chase. He has had a wind operation since Limerick and, although we were disappointed on the day, he was beaten by a good horse. We had problems with him last season not scoping right, and he did not scope great after Limerick. He is a very hard horse to keep right. He is working well and looks great, so we will give it a go. I would prefer the ground to be on the better side for him.

SHATTERED LOVE

Race: Ryanair Chase.

Shattered Love is in the Ryanair Chase and may go there. She ran very well in Gowran at the weekend, having had a wind operation before that. I would have to discuss it with the owners, but it would not be a shock if she ran. She seems to be a better mare over this sort of trip rather than staying distances. She is in all the handicaps as well and I would not rule out going down that route either. She has huge feet and I would say soft ground is the key to her.

TIGER ROLL

Race: Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase).

Relive Tiger Roll's victory at last year's Cheltenham Festival!

Tiger Roll and Out Sam will run in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. I was very happy with the way Tiger Roll ran on Sunday and, as you saw this morning, he has come out of the race very well. He would be the one horse we are all looking forward to during Cheltenham week.

I actually thought that, given the ground, he would not run as well as he did on Sunday, as he had only been back cantering since 1 January. I thought he showed a lot of zest and jumped very well. He looked the winner between the third and second last, and then got tired. It was great to see him back and running so well.

He will probably go over to Cheltenham now for a school [over the cross country course] and then it will be all systems go for The Festival.

We are very lucky to have a horse like him. The odds are against him in the Grand National - four and a quarter miles, 30 fences and 40 runners. I am not worried about top weight. The handicapper had his job to do and he can't have done any more than that.

Tiger Roll is among Elliott's main chances at this year's Festival (Pic: Focusonracing)
Tiger Roll is among Elliott's main chances at this year's Festival (Pic: Focusonracing)

We may run him in Punchestown this year, but if he ran in a Gold Cup, I don't think he would go out on the last circuit. He is just that type of horse, even though his rating suggests that he should be bang there in it. Hopefully, I am wrong, but I think he enjoys doing different things and jumping different types of fences.

If he is one piece, he will stay in training next season and there is no reason why he can't have a go at the cross country race again. He is 10 years of age and Michael O'Leary is not buying any more horses, so we need to keep as many of them in as we can!

GORDON ELLIOTT’S HANDICAP CONTENDERS:

Galvin will definitely run in the Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase. Chosen Mate is entered but I am not sure he will get in. I think he will be rated too highly.

Galvin was last seen finishing second at Punchestown in November

In the Pertemps Network Final, we will probably run The Storyteller_ and Sire du Berlais, who won it last year. Sire du Berlais will probably wear blinkers. The Storyteller had a nice prep for it at Leopardstown [finished 6th in a qualifier] and has won at Cheltenham before (2018 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate).

He is just a very hard horse to place because he has been running in all those good races over fences the last couple of years. He is not quite a G1 horse, so this looks the right race to go for in Cheltenham. We have a couple of others that need to qualify who are running at Punchestown tomorrow, so we will see how they get on.

Sire Du Berlais was successful in the Pertemos Network Final last year

Death Duty did not run badly in Gowran, but he is not quite there yet. He is entered in all the handicaps at Cheltenham, as well as the Grand National. I am not sure if he will go to Cheltenham or not. I will have to discuss it with the boys. He could go to Down Royal the same week for the Daily Mirror Chase.

Ben Dundee will definitely run in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate. He was third there last year in the novices' handicap chase. He loves running fresh, so we are going straight there. Dallas des Pictons could maybe run here as well, although I may keep him for the Irish Grand National. He would not be one of the better handicapped going over to Cheltenham if he travels.

Ravenhill and Roaring Bull are in the mix for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase.

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