‘You can’t for­get where you started’

Irish Examiner - Racing - - CHELTENHAM PREVIEW 2017 -

If Gor­don El­liott was not con­sid­ered among the train­ing elite this time last year, he cer­tainly is now. El­liott was the chief ben­e­fi­ciary when Gig­gin­stown House Stud made the shock de­ci­sion to re­move the 60 horses they had in train­ing with Wil­lie Mullins — with big guns Out­lander, Ap­ple’s Jade and Don Poli among those to make the move.

Th­es­plit­be­tween­cham­pion trainer and owner has had a huge im­pact on the Ir­ish Na­tional Hunt land­scape.

El­liott has con­tin­u­ally in­sisted he has “ab­so­lutely no chance” of hold­ing off his ma­jor ri­val un­til the end of the sea­son, but there’s a slight thaw­ing in his at­ti­tude dur­ing his lat­est visit to his im­pres­sive yard in Meath.

On his Cheltenham Fes­ti­val team and ex­pec­ta­tions for the meet­ing

“I’d say we’ll have 30 go­ing over and most that are go­ing will have chances of get­ting in the win­ner’s en­clo­sure. I’ll have a run­ner in most races, apart from the Cham­pion Bumper.

“We’ve no Don Cos­sack this year, but we’ve got plenty of chances and we’re re­ally look­ing for­ward to it.”

On num­bers

“I’d say we have a lot more fan­cied ones this year, but we had three win­ners last year and it will be hard to beat that.

“This is Cheltenham, it’s the Olympics, so no­body will be miss­ing it be­cause of the ground. There’s no ex­cuses on that score, not un­less it’s rat­tling quick or bot­tom­less and I don’t think that’s go­ing to hap­pen.

“You need luck ev­ery day you get out of bed don’t you, so yes, you need a bit of luck.”

On the sea­son so far

“We’re in a very lucky po­si­tion at the mo­ment, with the horses we have, the own­ers and the staff — it’s sec­ond to none.

“I think we’ve got 170 sta­bles here now and we’ve got seven walk­ers and a swim­ming pool.

“We’re just hav­ing some work done on an­other gal­lop and once that’s fin­ished we’ll have four dif­fer­ent gal­lops. We’re im­prov­ing the whole time and thank­fully it’s work­ing out and we’re get­ting the re­sults.

“I keep say­ing we’re nearly done, but I’m like a child — ev­ery time I see a new toy I want it!

“We’re just try­ing to im­prove the place and im­prove our­selves.”

On his ap­proach to train­ing

“You can’t for­get where you started. I started off train­ing win­ners round Scot­land and if you for­get about the small men, you never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen to the big ones.

“I prob­a­bly don’t have as many sum­mer horses as I’d like, just the way things have worked. I still try and sup­port those tracks as much as I can, but it’s get­ting harder and harder.

“You have to take a lit­tle pull for the staff as well, as it’s 24-7.”

On the bat­tle to be crowned cham­pion trainer in Ire­land

“It’s some­thing, of course, you dream about, to be cham­pion trainer. Of course you think about it, I’d be telling you a lie if I said I didn’t, but I keep my feet firmly on the ground.

“I’ve got the ut­most re­spect for Wil­lie and the fire­power he has. He’s go­ing to be very hard to beat, but we’ll see what hap­pens.

“It’s some­thing I’m not go­ing to start talk­ing about un­til the last day of Punchestown.

“I’d say any­thing that can walk will go (to Punchestown). We have to give it a rat­tle if we’ve got a chance. But as I keep say­ing, I’ve the ut­most re­spect for Wil­lie. I thought it would take me 10 years for it to hap­pen. If it hap­pens it hap­pens and if it doesn’t, hope­fully it will hap­pen some­time.”

On the po­ten­tial to fur­ther in­crease the Cheltenham Fes­ti­val to five days

“Aside from Wil­lie there won’t be many train­ers with as many run­ners at Cheltenham as we’ll have, Nicky Hen­der­son maybe.

“Cheltenham is Cheltenham. You prob­a­bly want to keep the qual­ity up, but I love rac­ing. I sup­pose they need to be care­ful they don’t just turn it into a cir­cus, but from my point of view, this is what we’re in the job for.”

On the re­tire­ment of Don Cos­sack and death of No More He­roes at last year’s Fes­ti­val

“If Don Cos­sack had got in­jured the week be­fore Cheltenham last year I’d have been gut­ted, but he’s won a Gold Cup and re­tired a cham­pion. When they’re com­ing back from an in­jury like that you’re al­ways think­ing ev­ery day is your last day, so I don’t get too up­set about it and worry about what’s hap­pened.

“If he wasn’t 120% we weren’t go­ing to take a chance. He’s too good and he owes us noth­ing.

“Some lads might have given him an­other go, but he’s go­ing to have a happy re­tire­ment now in Gig­gin­stown and we’ll have to try and find an­other one like him.

“What hap­pened to No

More He­roes was rough be­cause we thought he was the real thing,but that’s rac­ing. Last year we had no win­ner on the first day, he got in­jured on the sec­ond day and half an hour later we­came­out and won the Coral Cup. If you worry about it too much you’d start get­ting de­pressed and you won’t train win­ners.

“You have to just keep your head up and keep plough­ing on.”

On work­ing with Michael and Ed­die O’Leary

“I started train­ing for the O’Learys seven or eight years ago and I’ve never had any prob­lems with them. They’re straight with me and I’m straight with them. Of course we have our dis­agree­ments, they have an opin­ion and I have an opin­ion.

“But if you work hard and do your best, you’ll al­ways be OK. They’re sup­port­ing us with a lot of good horses.”

On his for­mer men­tor Martin Pipe

“He hasn’t been over here since last year, but I still spend a bit of time with him and go over there a good bit. He’s a man I re­spect and ad­mire — he’s my hero.

“I sup­pose the at­ten­tion to de­tail he had was in­cred­i­ble, he never left any stone un­turned. He brought it to a dif­fer­ent level. Things have changed since he was train­ing. A lot more peo­ple have the fa­cil­i­ties, but he def­i­nitely brought it to an­other level.”

The pre-fes­ti­val thoughts of Gor­don El­liott.

Ash­ley Ive­son

took notes

Gor­don El­liott: Rel­ish­ing the prospect of adding to his fes­ti­val win­ners haul.

Pic­ture: PA

GOLDEN MO­MENTS: Gor­don El­liott with Gold Cup hero Don Cos­sack dur­ing last year’s home­com­ing cel­e­bra­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.