Gordon Elliot Gunning for Cheltenham Glory – Five of His Horses to Watch

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When asked to name a trainer associated with the Cheltenham Festival, most punters will rapidly respond with the name of Willie Mullins. There is, of course, good reason for that, with Mullins the undoubted dominant force at the March meeting and with a squad of contenders of which others can only dream. However, Mullin isn’t the only trainer making the trip over to Prestbury Park; Henry de Bromhead, Joseph O’Brien, Jessica Harrington, and Gavin Cromwell will all arrive with high hopes, but perhaps the man who may pose the biggest threat to the Closutton operation is County Meath supremo Gordon Elliott.

It’s no secret that Elliott targets this meeting above all others, and, backed by the Gigginstown battalions, he has returned home clutching more than his fair share of silverware over the years. Leading trainer at the meeting in 2017 and 2018, Elliott counts victories in the Gold Cup, Stayers’ Hurdle, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and Triumph Hurdle amongst 37 Cheltenham Festival successes. It would take a brave man to bet against Elliott adding to that tally in 2024. With the 45-year-old finalising his team, who do the markets suggest are his main contenders for glory?

Below we look at some of the key races where Elliott will be hoping to triumph and just how good his top horses are in each of those contests.

Brighterdaysahead (2/1) – Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Mares Novices Hurdle OddsThe Grade 2 event for the mares on Day 3 looks set to be a cracker, with the top four in the market yet to taste defeat in 16 starts between them. Jade De Grugy, Dysart Enos, and Joyeuse have all impressed, but Elliott may have the best of the bunch in the shape of Brighterdaysahead.

Going in the famous Gigginstown silks, this daughter of Kapgarde has landed two bumpers, a maiden hurdle, a Listed contest, and a Grade 3 hurdle in magnificent style – coming home in front by a combined 43¾l across those five events. At a general price of 2/1, many believe she will prove up to this step up in class. If there is a concern, it would be the fact that she has yet to race on anything quicker than yielding ground.

Teahupoo (3/1) – Stayers Hurdle

Stayers Hurdle OddsHaving recorded back-to-back wins in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, Teahupoo has already shown he is up to making his presence felt in top company. Also boasting a 15l romp in the Galmoy Hurdle to his name, we can be confident that he stays this trip. The question is whether he can put it all together on the big day and the most prestigious meeting of all.

Two previous visits to Cheltenham have yielded a distant ninth over a trip too short in the 2022 Champion Hurdle and a much better effort when going down by only ¾l in the 2023 Stayers’ Hurdle. That effort doesn’t leave the seven-year-old with much improvement to find – particularly as he endured a troubled passage in the straight – and he has deliberately been given a lighter campaign this time around. At around 3/1, he tops the betting in most lists for the Day 3 feature.

Delta Work (7/2) – Cross Country Chase

Cross Country Chase oddsSuccessful in this race in 2022 and 2023, Delta Work bids to join illustrious stablemate Tiger Roll as the only three-time winner in the history of this event. A five-time Grade 1 winner in his pomp, the 11-year-old has a touch of class not possessed by many in this sphere and has taken to the unique obstacles like a duck to water – if the water had jumps, ditches, barrels and all the rest!

A 16-length defeat in the Boyne Hurdle may not appear an ideal prep on the face of it, but it was much the same story in 2023 when he was beaten 13½l in that Navan contest before rebounding to claim this prize. 2021 Gold Cup champ Minella Indo is a formidable rival but lacks the same level of Cross Country experience as Delta Work, and plenty will be willing to place their faith in the general 7/2 shot.

Found A Fifty (4/1) – Arkle Chase

Arkle Chase OddsHaving appeared to be at the mercy of last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Marine Nationale, the 2024 Arkle now looks wide-open following the desperate effort of the Barry Connell runner in the Irish Arkle. Il Etait Temps, from the Willie Mullins operation, was the winner of that Leopardstown event, but just a neck back in second was Elliott’s Found A Fifty.

With Il Etait Temps having managed no better than fifth in two previous Festival visits, Found A Fifty would look to boast sound claims of turning the tables at a track which should suit his running style. Already a Grade 1 winner, having landed the Racing Post Novice Chase in December, and seemingly still improving, he looks set to prove popular at a best price of 4/1.

Gerri Colombe (10/1) – Cheltenham Gold Cup

Cheltenham Gold Cup OddsLast but not least, the crown jewel of the meeting and the race they all want to win. By leading National Hunt sire Saddler Maker, Gerri Colombe has long looked like a runner destined for a tilt at the Gold Cup. Arriving at the 2023 meeting with a record of eight wins from as many starts, he went off as the red-hot favourite in the Brown Advisory, only to fail by the length of a flared nostril to reel in The Real Whacker. On that effort, and most of his outings to date, this first crack at the 3m2f trip ought to suit him ideally.

Despite winning four times at the highest level, the eight-year-old arrives with a question mark against him following a subpar effort in the Irish Gold Cup – a run which comfortably the most underwhelming of his career to date. Whatever ailed him that day remains a mystery, but few are better at readying one for the big day than Elliott. At around the 10/1 mark, many will fancy him to at least hit the frame. Whether he can master the mighty defending champion Galopin Des Champs, is another matter.