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Road To Cheltenham - Gordon Elliott (Part One)


Gordon Elliott’s Leading Festival Contenders (Tuesday & Wednesday)

Closutton trainer Willie Mullins has dominated the Cheltenham Festival since 2013, having won the top trainer prize on seven occasions during the last nine years. A run of nine consecutive titles was broken by fellow Irish handler Gordon Elliott who claimed top trainer honours in both 2017 and 2018.

Mullins is long odds-on once again to make it four titles in a row. But the master of Cullentra House Farm in County Meath is unlikely to go down with a fight and with that in mind we take a look at Elliott’s possible winners over the four-day extravaganza.

Tuesday

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

It will be a massive surprise should the opening contest go to any trainer other than Nicky Henderson or Willie Mullins who look to have a stranglehold on the race with Constitutional Hill, Jonbon, Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo respectively.

Elliott is more likely to run both Pied Piper and Fils Dor in Friday’s Triumph Hurdle, leaving MIGHTY POTTER (14/1 with bet365) as the stable’s number one contender.

Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase

Elliott has only one entry in the talented mare RIVIERE D’ETEL (9/2 with Betfair Sportsbook) who also holds an entry in Friday’s mares’ chase. This looks the obvious target for the five-year-old who will receive the 7lb mares’ allowance and was possibly an unlucky loser behind Blue Lord at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Ultima Handicap Chase

No obvious early contender for this staying handicap chase but last season’s National Hunt Chase third ESCARIA TEN (12/1 with BetVictor) would have a big chance if targeted at the race. DEATH DUTY (20/1 with BetVictor) is another possibility.

Unibet Champion Hurdle

Honeysuckle is going to be hard to beat once again, while Appreciate It looks the main danger despite not having had a run this season. Should anything befall the ‘big two’ Elliott could pick up the pieces courtesy of ZANAHIYR (12/1 with bet365) and possibly the unexposed TEEHUPOO (33/1 with Betfair Sportsbook).

Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle

Rival Irish trainers Willie Mullins, Henry De Bromhead and Peter Fahey have more fancied contenders than Elliott’s only entry, QUEENS BROOK (16/1 with Coral) has an outside chance of a Cullentra victory.

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Elliott has won this handicap, staged for the first time in 2005, on three occasions and is sure to field a strong team of juveniles once again. THE TIDE TURNS (12/1 with Unibet), BRITZKA (16/1 with bet365) and IBERIQUE DU SEUIL (20/1 with William Hill) all have appealing profiles, in particularly the last named who has done little wrong in four runs over hurdles.

National Hunt Chase

Possibly Elliott’s best chance of a winner on the first day. Irish Grand National runner-up RUN WILD FRED (7/2 with bet365) heads a list of strong contenders that could include FURY ROAD (12/1 with Coral), FAROUK D’ALENE (12/1 with bet365) and FRONTAL ASSAULT (33/1 with Unibet).

Wednesday

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Elliott is expected to have several runners in this 2m 5f contest, with GINTO (8/1 with bet365), unbeaten in three all three runs over hurdles including a Grade 1 at Naas last month, the stable number one at the moment. MIGHTY POTTER (14/1 with Coral), THREE STRIPE LIFE (16/1 with bet365) and HOLLOW GAMES (33/1 with bet365) are other possibles.

Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

Just an outside chance that Elliott could trouble the current leading contenders, Galopin Des Champs, Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor. FURY ROAD (14/1 with bet365) and FAROUK D’ALENE (25/1 with Unibet) both have outside chances of causing an upset.

Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle

Elliott won this competitive handicap in 2011 and 2016 and is sure to be well represented once again. The mare PARTY CENTRAL (20/1 with bet365) has other possible targets but would be interesting if taking her chance, while last year’s 12th, when sent off the 6/1 favourite, GRAND ROI (20/1 with bet365) will appreciate the drop in class after failing to make his mark in Graded company.

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

Looks like Elliott will have to sit this one out as his only two entries for the championship contest, BATTLEOVERDOYEN (150/1 with Unibet) and HARDLINE (100/1 with bet365) appear to have little, or no chance, against the likes of Shishkin, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi.

Glenfarclas ‘Cross Country’ Chase

There would be no more popular winner all week should dual Grand National winner TIGER ROLL (11/2 with bet365) manage to win this cross country chase for a fourth time following victories in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Hard to know what to expect from this legend of a horse after a couple of so-so runs this season. But win number four would come as no great surprise. Elliott has another couple of decent chances with FARCLAS (12/1 with Ladbrokes) and MORTAL (16/1 with bet365).

Grand Annual Handicap Chase

BUDDY RICH (16/1 with Betfair Sportsbook) is a possible early contender for Elliott in a handicap which will become clearer when the entries are announced next week.

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Willie Mullins’ Facile Vega will be one of the bankers of the week for many following his two hugely impressive victories to date, in particular the latest 12 length success at the Dublin Racing Festival. Elliott’s AMERICAN MIKE (10/3 with Betfair Sportsbook) could be the one to expose any possible flaws in the favourite based on the Mahler gelding’s two easy wins and with top amateur Jamie Codd expected in the saddle.

Conclusion

Riviere D’Etel, Run Wild Fred, Tiger Roll and American Mike would appear to have the best chances of a Cullentra victory over the first two days. Run Wild Fred in the National Hunt Chase is probably the one they have most faith in. But two or three winners at the halfway stage is as much as the stable could reasonably expect.