GORDON Elliott celebrated the landmark of 2,000 career winners in Britain and Ireland after Ted Hastings claimed a runaway victory at Ayr on Tuesday.
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.”
By coincidence Elliott’s first winner also came in Scotland when he saddled Arresting to win at Perth in 2006.
“There’s been a lot of water gone under the bridge since then, but it’s great to be back in Scotland to have my 2,000th winner. I love coming racing to these tracks, they look after us second to none.”
A native of Summerhill in Co Meath, Elliott shot to fame when landing the 2007 Grand National with Silver Birch, at a time when the then 29-year-old had not even trained a winner in Ireland.
Countless big-race successes have followed, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Don Cossack and, famously, back-to-back National victories with Tiger Roll.
His achievements are all the more impressive considering Elliott does not come from a racing background. He learned his craft by initially working for trainer Tony Martin, going on to become a crack amateur rider – partnering a Grade 1 bumper winner at Punchestown in 1998 – and working for Martin Pipe before striking out on his own.
He added: “I’m just the name on the licence and I have a whole team behind me.
“It was a bit frustrating for the last couple of days as I thought I had it (2,000th winner), then someone said there was a horse disqualified and I was counting the (five) winners I had in America.
“It’s unbelievable. To be standing here today, I think we’re in the top four or five of all-time Cheltenham winners. The owners have backed me up, and the staff – all the thanks has to go to them.
“I suppose Tiger Roll winning the second Grand National was very special and Don Cossack winning the Gold Cup. They’re all important to me, whether it’s winners in Downpatrick or Listowel or Newton Abbot or Perth, I just love training winners and that’s what I get up to do every morning.
“That’s all I care about in life is having winners and I just hope I can keep doing it.”
His career stalled in March last year, as he was given a six-month suspension by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after an image emerged on social media of him sitting on a dead horse on his gallops.
But he has bounced back to the top, winning the Irish Gold Cup with Conflated in February and enjoying two wins at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, as well as saddling Three Stripe Life and Sire Du Berlais to Grade 1 triumphs at Aintree.
He was also in Grade 1-winning form at the Punchestown Festival, courtesy of Mighty Potter.
“For the whole six months I wasn’t training, every day I counted them down on the calendar and dreamed about the first day I was going to be back,” he said. “I have to say everyone has been very nice to me and I’m just so happy to be back.”