Cheltenham and Aintree
Trainer Gordon Elliott notches up a double victory, while a former showjumper comes out of the doldrums with a dream win at Cheltenham’s season opener
BRITISH trainers were given a hiding by their Irish counterparts at the Cheltenham Festival in March and many might be privately hoping that the implications of Brexit are wideranging enough to keep Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins away from Gloucestershire altogether.
Elliott was responsible for two of the three Irish winners at Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting on Saturday, 27 October and, in worrying news for the opposition, he indicated that he will be back again soon as there is little prospect of catching Mullins in his domestic table.
“We had a quiet six weeks at home and the [Irish] championship has gone, really,” said Elliott, who threw all of his resources into a battle with Mullins last season only to be overhauled at the Punchestown Festival. “We’ll be going wherever we can for the prize money.”
The rain that lashed down throughout the afternoon had arrived too late for many horses, with the quality of the card undoubtedly reduced by ground that started off on the quick side.
Yet it must be considered clever placing by Elliott to pick up the near-£16,000 Move Over To Matchbook Novices’ Chase with the likable grey Cubomania, who had already won four times in Scotland since mid-August. Elliott is now tempted to take advantage of a very lenient rating on the Flat with him.
There should be further sightings of Dinons, who was as relentless as his rider Richard Johnson in coming 14 lengths clear in the Randox Health Novices’ Hurdle and is now chasing a sixth consecutive victory.
“We thought he was our best chance,” Elliott explained. “He’s a gorgeous horse, he’ll make a nice
chaser one day. We might come back here for a Graded race at one of the next meetings.”
REBECCA CURTIS is starting to make amends for a truly dismal campaign, which was only partly rescued when Joe Farrell took the Scottish National.
The former junior international showjumper, who is based in farthest west Wales, has four Festival winners to her name by the age of 38. However, she lost numbers after the end of her partnership with bloodstock agent Gearoid Costelloe, and a total of nine winners during 2017-18 was far below her usual standards.
Now more of a boutique operation, Curtis’ Fforest Farm stable was given a boost by the victory of Relentless Dreamer in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase. Winning owner Nigel Morris, who also has a share in Joe Farrell, might have two Aintree hopes on his books as Curtis revealed that she would “love to see him run in the Grand National one day”.
“I’m really focused this year, things are looking good,” Curtis said. “Forget everything else now, it’s onwards and upwards to build the yard back to what it was. I have those two horses and [handicap chaser] Geordie Des Champs seems to have improved a bit this year, so he should hopefully do OK.
“I haven’t got as many as I’d like — I’ve only 20 in now — but I don’t want loads and if I could get it back to 30 or 35 nice novices, I’d be really happy,” added Curtis.
Friday’s card produced high drama when two different horses ducked over a tape being held to divide the run-in from the route back out into the country, and Cheltenham’s ground staff quickly erected a plastic running rail for Saturday. Excitement was instead focused upon some close finishes, not least when Nicholls’ quirky Modus was given an early
‘I’m really focused this year, things are looking good’ TRAINER REBECCA CURTIS
candidate for ride of the season by Barry Geraghty to foil Duke Of Navan in the valuable Randox Health Handicap Chase.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Cubomania, ridden by Richard Johnson, takes the lead in the Novices’ Chase
The Mighty Don (left) claims a handicap hurdle under Leighton Aspell for trainer Nick Gifford, fending off Sykes (right)
Relentless Dreamer (right) tops a handicap chase ahead of Cogry