Gordon Elliott Profile
|Born||Mar 02, 1978|
There have been few to have grabbed more headlines in 21st Century horse racing than Gordon Elliott. Planet Sport takes a closer look at the controversial career of one of racing's modern greats.
With no racing background, Elliott made into one of the most successful trainers the sport has seen, landing all of National Hunt's great prizes.
He celebrated a 2000th winner in Britain and Ireland in May 2022 when Ted Hastings won at Ayr.
However, whatever he achieves in his career is likely to remain tarnished by the infamous dead horse photograph that found its way on to the front pages of the media in February 2021.
Dead horse photograph ban
In the photograph, which went viral on social media, Elliott appeared to be sitting on a dead horse making a peace sign. It was a fact that he later confirmed. The horses's name was Morgan and the photo was taken after it had died on the Cullentra House gallops in 2019.
In March 2021, Elliott received a 12-month ban, with six months suspended, from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB).
The sentence meant that he was unable to attend race meetings or point-to-points until September of that year. Elliott accepted the ruling and was also ordered to pay 15,000 Euros in costs.
The bad publicity cost the trainer some of his high profile horses, Cheveley Park Stud removing big names such as Envoi Allen and Quilixios and sending them to Henry de Bromhead, while also moving Sir Gerhard to Elliott's major rival Willie Mullins.
He was, however, publicly supported by other leading owners Michael and Eddie O'Leary, responsible for Gigginstown House Stud. The pair condemned the photo but at the same time showed the trainer some loyalty.
While that whole affair has cast its shadow, there is no doubt that Elliott has been a raging success in terms of producing horses to win big events.
Youngest to train a Grand National winner
Having only taken out a trainer's licence in 2006, he almost came from left field to train the winner of the 2007 Grand National, Silver Birch.
He had not even had a winner in his native Ireland to that point (he achieved that for the first time three weeks later), but Elliott had jaws dropping as he became the youngest ever trainer of a National winner, at just 29 years of age.
Cheltenham Festival successes
It was no surprise then that, having hit the jackpot so early, he began to receive good support from owners and built a formidable string.
It wasn't too long until he notched up his first Cheltenham Festival success, when Chicago Grey won the National Hunt Chase in 2011, with Carlito Brigante winning the Coral Cup to double his tally at the same year's Festival.
Since then he has added another 30 Festival winners to his CV across 17 different races. The undoubted pick of those was Don Cossack, who spoiled the popular Cue Card's potential Â£1million bonus by powering up the hill to win the 2016 Gold Cup in fine style under Bryan Cooper.
While most are only too delighted to have one Grand National winner, Elliott wanted more and he achieved that with the great Tiger Roll.
A Triumph Hurdle and multiple Cheltenham Festival winner, this fabulously versatile gelding was wonderfully well placed by connections on route to the 2018 Grand National.
On that day, from an official BHA mark of 150, the diminutive Tiger Roll jumped superbly around the Aintree fences under the vastly experienced Davy Russell. Travelling strongly three out, he was sent on before the second last and then drew six lengths clear at the elbow.
However, hearts were in mouths as arch rival Willie Mullins-trained Pleasant Company kept on strongly and forced the issue all the way to the post, where Tiger Roll just held on for a dramatic big race success by a short-head. The pair were 11-lengths clear of the third horse Bless The Wings, also trained by Elliott.
Triumph Hurdlers wouldn't normally be known as future Grand National winners and Elliott continued to defy convention with the horse, taking an alternative route back to Aintree the following season, in an attempt to be the first since Red Rum to win the great race in successive years.
Beaten on his reappearance in a Cheltenham cross country event, he went on to win a Grade 2 hurdle at Naas and another cross country contest at Prestbury Park, helping to preserve his mark for the big day in April.
There, from just 9lb higher than a year earlier, he made light work of both the fences and the opposition.
Jumping superbly, save for a slight mistake down the canal side of the track as they headed for home, he was in command between the last two and had almost three lengths to spare over Magic Of Light as Russell crossed the line aboard him and acknowledged those who witnessed history at Aintree.
Despite the easier fences and slightly shorter trip in modern times, comparisons with Red Rum were not as fanciful as some might argue and Tiger Roll made it look as though the Grand National's first ever hat-trick of wins was within his compass.
Defeat in both his prep races for the 2020 renewal didn't stop the bookies making him favourite to set his own racing record but when Covid-19 forced the nation into an extended lockdown from March of that year, the race was abandoned and with it Tiger Roll's hat-trick opportunity.
In 2021, after much argument about what weight he would receive from the handicapper for another crack at the big race, the O'Learys decided to bypass the National in protest and instead headed to Cheltenham.
With Elliott now serving his IHRB ban, Denise Foster officially held the training licence as Tiger Roll won a third Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, a fifth Festival triumph for an unbelievable servant to his sport.
Cossack the Don at Cheltenham
Bred in Germany, there would have been few who immediately saw a Gold Cup winner when he made his debut for trainer Edward Hales in a Punchestown bumper on May 3, 2011, finishing fifth in a field of 24 after acting up at the start.
Acquired by Gigginstown House Stud and sent to be trained by Gordon Elliott before his next run in October of that year, someone had clearly seen something.
Kept to just three runs in his second season, Don Cossack took to his task with relish, dotting up in bumpers at Naas and Fairyhouse (the latter under a penalty) and in between seeing off six rivals in a Grade 2 contest at Navan. A star was born.
It looked like being plain sailing over hurdles too when, on his debut at Navan in November 2012, he justified odds-on favouritism to win easily by over nine lengths.
A faller at the last when again odds-on for his next assignment, the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle, he managed second and third (the latter behind Annie Power) in two further Grade 2 contests that season.
Connections, however, believed that he was always going to be a better chaser and again they were to be proved correct.
Kicking things off with a stroll to win a Galway beginners' chase over two and three-quarter miles, the highlight of his novice chase season was when he beat future Irish Gold Cup winner Carlingford Lough in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in December 2013.
However, some of the gloss was taken off that when he was unable to win any of his four further starts that season, falling in the RSA Chase won by O'Faolains Boy and then second to Holywell in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase at the Grand National meeting in April.
What happened from that point on was little short of sensational. Returning to action in October 2014 for his second season as a chaser, he rose to the top echelon of steeplechasers, racking up six wins from his seven chases.
A Punchestown Grade 3 kicked things off, a Down Royal Grade 2 followed, before a four and a half length defeat of Boston Bob in the Grade 1 John Durkan at Punchestown returned him to the big league.
Freshened up for the Cheltenham Festival, he met with his only defeat of the campaign when third to Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase, where he was outpaced and looked very much as though a stiffer test of stamina really would suit.
Undeterred, under A P McCoy for the only time in his career, he went on to thrash Cue Card in Aintree's Grade 1 Melling Chase (2m4f).
Finally, he beat another regular adversary, the Willie Mullins-trained Djakadam, by seven lengths on being stepped up to 3m1f in Punchestown's equivalent of the Gold Cup. What a season!
On the back of that Don Cossack was prominent in the Cheltenham Gold Cup markets ahead of the 2015/16 campaign. He began with regular pilot Bryan Cooper back up and the pair enjoyed a commanding 12-length win in the same Punchestown Grade 3 that had kick-started the previous season for him.
Dismissing his three opponents easily in the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal a couple of weeks later, he was targeted at Kempton's traditional Boxing Day championship, King George VI Chase next.
By now everyone had heard of Don Cossack. He was the highest rated chaser in training and it was no surprise when he was the subject of a gamble and eventually sent off as the 15/8 favourite to win the showpiece.
The tighter turns at Kempton perhaps didn't suit his style quite as much as elsewhere, but he was making ground and almost upside eventual winner Cue Card when falling at the second last.
Elliott initially hinted that he would send his star chaser straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but as it was he opted to bring him out less than three weeks later for the Grade 2 Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.
By now he looked as though he definitely needed all of three miles, so this two and a half miles on soft ground that he was reputed to have hated, were potential reasons for why he may not win. Not a bit of it.
The 1/8 chance was clearly not quite at his best, ran in snatches and raced lazily, according to his trainer, who added that he would now go straight to Cheltenham and sport cheekpieces in the Gold Cup.
As it turned out, the headgear was left off on the big day and it did not make a jot of difference.
Travelling well on good ground throughout the race under a typically quiet ride from Bryan Cooper, the nine-year-old took a serious interest in proceedings as they turned to come down the hill back towards home.
As they approached three out, last year's second Djakadam and Ruby Walsh were on the inside, Don Cossack was towards the outer and fans' favourite (and race second favourite) Cue Card split the pair.
They took the fence together with the outer pair looking as though it might end up being between them but Cue Card and Paddy Brennan ploughed through the fence and came to grief, leaving the Irish pair to scrap for the blue riband prize.
Seizing the initiative, Cooper sent on his charge around the home turn and, as if he had been made for this track and three and a quarter mile trip, Don Cossack went into overdrive, pinging the last two fences and poured it on up the hill for a very impressive four and a half length success, Djakadam again having to settle for second best.
Reflecting on the performance Elliott said: "I did think about cheekpieces until I worked him a few days ago on good ground. He's so much better on the good ground. He's the best horse I've ever trained."
However, when there are highs racing so often has its way of biting back.
Being readied to defend his Punchestown Gold Cup crown the following month, Don Cossack suffered a tendon injury. Although he did make it back into training with the aim of defending his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown in 2017, in January of that year Elliott revealed that he had suffered a recurrence of the tendon problem and would be retired from racing.
The 2016 Gold Cup had proved to be both his zenith and his final start, but what a way to bow out.
Ireland's big prizes
In addition to those two stellar performers and those Cheltenham and Aintree successes, Gordon Elliott has landed many of Ireland's major jumps prizes including the Irish Grand National with General Principle (2018) and the Irish Gold Cup with Delta Work (2020).
He's has also picked up four Christmas Hurdles - Prince Of Scars (2015), Apple's Jade (2017, 2018, 2019) and the Irish Champion Hurdle with Apple's Jade (2019).
Royal Ascot success
In addition to all of those winners of British and Irish jumps races, Elliott has also proved he can mix it with the best of the Flat brigade when he chooses.
His first big winner on the level came in 2010 when he prepared Dirar to win the Ebor Handicap at York under Jamie Spencer at 14/1.
Since then he has added two Royal Ascot successes, with Commissioned (2016) and Pallasator (2018), who both won the marathon Queen Alexandra Stakes.
2000th UK and Irish winner
Gordon Elliott achieved a landmark 2000 winner in UK and Ireland when 13/8 favourite Ted Hastings won by seven and a half lengths in the Book Summer Racenight With Gok Wan Maiden Hurdle.
Elliott told Racing TV: "It's great and a big credit to all the staff and the owners, my family and the whole team I have around me."
Gordon Elliott's best horses
Don Cossack (foaled 2007 - retired 2017)
Most famous wins: Cheltenham Gold Cup (2016), Future Champ INH Flat Race (2011), Drinmore Novice Chase (2013), Daily Star Chase (2014, 2015), Powers Irish Whiskey Chase (2014), Punchestown Chase (2015), Kinloch Brae Chase (2015, 2016), Melling Chase (2015), Punchestown Gold Cup (2015), JNwine.com Champion Chase (2015)
Apple's Jade (foaled 2012 - retired 2020)
Most famous wins: Christmas Hurdle (2017, 2018, 2019), Irish Champion Hurdle (2019), Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (2015), Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle (2016), Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (2016), Hatton's Grace Hurdle (2016, 2017, 2018), David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle (2017), Mares Champion Hurdle (2017), Lismullen Hurdle (2017, 2018)
Tiger Roll (foaled 2010)
Most famous wins: Grand National (2018, 2019), Triumph Hurdle (2014), National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (2017), Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (2018, 2019, 2021), Boyne Hurdle (2019)
Gordon Elliott personal life
Elliott is not married, but is in a relationship with Kate Harrington, the daughter of Gold Cup-winning trainer Jessica Harrington.
Gordon Elliott net worth
The Irish Sun reported Elliott's total earnings at around Â£16million in 2019.
Gordon Elliott News
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