Gordon Elliott believes Delta Work
has all the tools required for the feature Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
on the fourth and a final day of The Festival™ presented by Magners, Friday, 13 March.
Elliott landed Jump racing's Blue Riband in 2016 with Don Cossack
and the trainer's record at The Festival numbers 25 winners, all achieved since 2011. He captured The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award
in 2017 with six winners and again in 2018 with eight successes.
Delta Work heads for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup on the back of two G1 triumphs at Leopardstown. The seven-year-old bounced back from a rare substandard performance at Down Royal in November with victory in the G1 Savils Chase
over Christmas and doubled up in the G1 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup
at the Dublin Racing Festival on 9 February.
Delta Work tasted success over hurdles at The Festival in the 2018 Pertemps Network Final and last year finished a close third in the G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase, when sent off the 15/8 favourite.
Speaking at his Co Meath base this morning, Elliott said: "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.
"I think he is made for the Gold Cup. 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
The next generation of stars at Cullentra House Stables are headed by leading novice hurdlers Envoi Allen
, who is unbeaten in seven starts under Rules, and Abacadabras
Envoi Allen landed the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper
at The Festival in 2019 and has continued to scale the heights this season with G1 successes in the G1 Royal Bond Novices' Hurdle (2m) at Fairyhouse in December and the G1 Lawlor's Of Naas Hotel Novice Hurdle (2m 4f) at Naas on 5 January.
Abacadabras chased home his stablemate at Fairyhouse, after impressive victories at Gowran Park and Navan, and has since landed a G1 event at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Elliott said: "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.
"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 10 days.
"I don't know what all this chat is about him being a hype horse. He has done it himself by winning three G1s. 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."
Elliott provided updates on an array of stars ahead of The Festival, none more popular than dual Randox Health Grand National hero Tiger Roll
The 10-year-old made an encouraging return to action this season at Navan on 16 February, when fifth behind stablemate Cracking Smart in the G2 Boyne Hurdle.
Elliott said: "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.
"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!
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.
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.
is in the National Hunt Chase
, along with Ravenhill
and a couple of others. I will have to finalise plans with Michael and Eddie [O'Leary], but if I had my way, Champagne Classic will be going for the National Hunt Chase. I think the race is made for him. It just depends on how their ammunition is looking for the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase
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.
"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 G1s 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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
"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.
"I would imagine Glenloe
will go in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase
, all being well. Ravenhill and Roaring Bull
are also in the mix for this. We could run two or three. Glenloe has never won in Cheltenham, but he was beaten by a good horse in Delta Work."
Cullentra House Farm, Longwood, County Meath
Born: March 2, 1978, in Summerhill, Co Meath
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. After commencing handling point-to-pointers, he started his main training career from Capranny Stables in Trim, Co Meath in early 2006 and bought the 78-acre Cullentra House Farm, Longwood, Co Meath, in 2011, where the facilities have been built up from scratch, with a capacity of over 200 horses, two gallops, three schooling grounds, an equine pool, a natural spa and more.
: Elliott's first runner under Rules came at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival, when Brandon Mountain was pulled up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle. He continued to send runners over to the UK and enjoyed almost instant success, with Arresting his first winner coming at Perth on June 11, 2005. Elliott's Grand National victory with Silver Birch
in April, 2007 was remarkable not only because he was just 29 at the time, but also because he had yet to saddle a winner in his native country. He is now the most successful current trainer in the Grand National, with Tiger Roll winning in both 2018 and 2019 to take his tally to three. The remarkable Tiger Roll is also a four-time winner at The Festival.