A winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival will see Gordon Elliott reach another milestone in his career, as he bids to eclipse his old boss Martin Pipe’s haul of 34 victories at the meeting.

The Cullentra maestro is loading the bases with another massive team for the 2023 bonanza, including big-race favourites Mighty Potter (Turners Novices’ Chase), Gerri Colombe (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase) and Delta Work (Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase).

He certainly has the depth of talent to beat his tally of two winners last year, though matching the phenomenal eight winners he saddled at the 2018 Festival will require a serious effort from the ultra-ambitious trainer.

However, there is the potential for him to have a major say in the meeting’s handicaps, with more horses qualified in these races than his great rival Willie Mullins.

Elliott, who turned 45 on Thursday, gave the lowdown on his 2023 Festival squad at his Co Meath base this week.


Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

I thought Doctor Bravo ran a great race when third behind Fil Dor in the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran last time. We’re targeting him at the Supreme and I think if Willie Mullins trained him he’d be 8/1 - not 25/1. It was a serious run for a novice against more experienced horses.

Ultima Handicap Chase

The Goffer is being aimed here. Davy [Russell] was brilliant on him when winning at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’s a good horse and could be a Grand National type some day.

Unibet Champion Hurdle

Zanahiyr had been very disappointing all season but we found a problem with his stifles and he ran well in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time. I don’t know if Honeysuckle is getting faster or slower, but we were the same distance behind her there as was the case the year before. I’d say we’ll run here. Pied Piper could go here or the County Hurdle.

Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle

If Honeysuckle was running in the Champion Hurdle I’d be more confident about Queens Brook but she’s never been as well. This time last year she was only back cantering three weeks before she went to Punchestown on her final start before finishing second in the Mares’ Hurdle. It was a terrible preparation but she’s a good mare. Softer ground will suit her.

National Hunt Chase

Chemical Energy is a definite runner, all being well. He needed the run plenty last time at Naas after a break. Even though he’s a big horse, he likes nice ground. Minella Crooner wants a trip and qualified for this race last time at Fairyhouse. Fakiera, who has plenty of experience over fences, is also in the mix but has an entry for the Kim Muir.


Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

I thought Absolute Notions ran a lovely race when second to Good Land at the Dublin Racing Festival. The penny only dropped with him from the second-last to the line - he flew home. Good Land is priced around 7/2 or 5/1 for the Ballymore, whereas this horse is 16/1 and was only a length and a half behind him. I think he’ll run in the Ballymore.

If American Mike goes to Cheltenham, I’d imagine he’ll go for the Ballymore. I think he has improved since his last start as I had been minding him beforehand, but he needs to.

Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

Gerri Colombe does all his talking at the races. I don’t know how good he is because if you worked him with an ordinary horse he’d show as much as if you worked him with a classy horse. I don’t know what’s underneath the bonnet. Once the ground is safe I’m not worried for him. He was a big baby when he won a novice hurdle at Thurles last season on ground described as yielding that was probably actually a bit quicker. He came back a bit sore and that’s why I was waiting for easy ground all the way along, but I think he’ll handle better ground fine. In terms of us campaigning him over shorter trips as a chaser than he’ll face at Cheltenham, it’s probably just how the races fell. He showed a great attitude at Sandown.

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase

I was delighted with Delta Work’s run [when sixth] in the Boyne Hurdle. It takes a few runs to get him right and that’s why I ran him back there. This race is his target again.

Galvin could be dangerous. We’ve brought him away to different places to do some schooling and he was brilliant around Cheltenham last week on his first go there. He’ll travel to Cheltenham on the first lorry and will get a few days more schooling over there before he runs. We’ve rectified an issue with his back this season. If I didn’t have Conflated, Galvin would be in the Gold Cup but it’s winners we want.

Delta Work goes on good ground but is much more effective with an ease. Galvin loves it good but Delta has the experience. They both have great chances. It’s a race I’d probably be disappointed not to win. Mortal and Hardline also run here.

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase

Hopefully Andy Dufresne is coming to himself with the sun beginning to shine. He was a good second in the race last year.

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

We have six entries here. In terms of riding arrangements, Jamie Codd will ride Better Days Ahead. When I asked him who he’d like to ride, he didn’t think twice. Davy Russell, if he’s riding, will ride Pour Les Filles as he has an association with [joint-owner] Kenny Haughey. King Of Kingsfieldscoped wrong after he was beaten at Leopardstown. If the ground was dry it’d suit him well as he’s one who is capable of being a decent, quick flat horse too. No Time To Wait did it well at Down Royal on his last start, and Samui looked a nice type when winning at Naas. Quantum Storm finished second on his debut for us at Punchestown and will be a nice chaser in time.


Turners Novices’ Chase

Mighty Potter is in great form. I thought he was very good at the Dublin Racing Festival. Everything is just so easy to him. He’s exciting. I’d say you could run him over any trip, the Arkle or the Brown Advisory wouldn’t matter to him, but he’s going for the Turners. In terms of Cheltenham last year [when pulled up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle], he never jumped hurdles great and didn’t run badly. It just never happened for him after a bad mistake at the fourth. He’s a very relaxed horse and is a year older - he should be okay over there. He’s still a big shell of a horse... What’s he going to be like when he fills into himself with another summer?

Pertemps Final

We could run three or four here. Maxxum has a chance. He got no run last time at the Dublin Racing Festival when stuck in a pocket in a race where they went very steady. He went by the line strong. The handicapper hasn’t missed him, though.

The Bosses Oscar ran well last time at Musselburgh. He’s had bad sinus problems but we’ve got that sorted now. He’s not getting any younger but it’s a race that suits him and he was second in it two years ago. Salvador Ziggy hasn’t run since he qualified in October but has been going the right way.

Ryanair Chase

The trip will suit Fury Road. His jumping is very good. I thought he ran a great race in the Irish Gold Cup last time, and if you had backed Galopin Des Champs coming towards the final fence you would have been sweating with how Fury Road was pressing him. He’s got a great each-way chance in a race that has opened up with Allaho coming out. Drying ground would be a massive plus.

Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

Teahupoo is in great form and is working very well. Davy [Russell] was glad he rode him last time [when winning the Galmoy Hurdle] because he thought he was going nowhere on him but after a kick in the belly he was in front at the third last. That’s not Davy’s style of riding or how the horse wants to be ridden. Everyone is talking about him needing soft ground but that doesn’t worry me. He’s not a big horse. When he disappointed in the Champion Hurdle last year it was just because he was taken off his feet over two miles. I think this trip will be perfect for him. Hopefully he’s one of my best chances of the week.

Magners Plate Handicap Chase

I’m going to drop Escaria Ten in trip here. He’s baffled me because you’d look at him as being a staying chaser but he’s not seeing it out over those trips. I was very happy with Battleoverdoyen [when third] at Naas and he could go here or to the Grand Annual. Gevrey is also a possible runner.

Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

(Sponsored By Ryanair)

We’re looking at running Halka Du Tabert and Shecouldbeanything at the moment. Liberty Dance picked up a knock and has been ruled out.

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase

The plan is for Dunboyne to run here. He came back with a fibrillating heart after pulling up at Fairyhouse two starts ago but he ran a great race when just touched off in the Thyestes last time. If it’s very fast ground, he wouldn’t run.


Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

I could run three or four in this. Three Card Brag is probably unlucky not to be unbeaten. He’s a good horse and I’m looking forward to running him here. Favori De Champdoumight want softer ground but we’re happy to have a crack with him over three miles. Search For Glory will run here too.

We have a decision to make with Cool Survivor after the handicap weights came out this week, but I’d say he could run in this. I loved the way he came home when fourth at the Dublin Racing Festival - he ran better than I expected. We had been trying to make the running with him on soft ground but he looked a lot happier dropping in on better ground. He stays well.

Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup

Conflated is in good form. He was running well in the Ryanair Chase when falling two fences from home last year, but I think I ran him in the wrong race. All he does is gallop and we’re looking forward to running him in the Gold Cup. I think he’ll love the trip. Galvin was two and a half lengths off finishing second in last year’s Gold Cup... I’d imagine Conflated would have been second if he ran in the race 12 months ago. He’s a better horse this season. He was a lunatic as a young horse but has settled more each year.

Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase

Riviere D’Etel looks great. She got very light on us earlier in the season and had an operation on her back. Her and Galvin are the two horses heading to Cheltenham who will need their next bits of work because they both had issues. I was very happy with her recent work at Fairyhouse. She’s forgotten about but goes there with an each-way chance.

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

We have plenty of options here. Riaan definitely goes for the Martin Pipe. We’ll have a think about Firm Footings after the weights came out this week; he’s in the Ballymore but I’d say he’ll be in the Martin Pipe or Coral Cup. Imagine is going the right way and will probably come here too. I think he’ll appreciate stepping up in trip.

Elliott on…

His 2023 Cheltenham team

We might be coming in under the radar a little this year but it’s a good team. I’m very happy. and they’re in great form. We’ll head there with somewhere between 50 and 60 horses.

Britain’s new whip rules

It’s scary and one thing that I actually lie in bed at night thinking about, that you could win a Gold Cup and lose it. My biggest worry is for the owner. They buy a horse, pay all the training fees and other costs along the way, and could win at our Olympics only to have that race taken off them for doing nothing wrong. We could lose owners over this.

White hurdles and fences at Cheltenham

I’ve got them now because an owner might question why I don’t have them to school horses over ahead of running in Britain. I’m not as big into this as some other people but, in this day and age, I can’t understand how we’re not all just using the same obstacles. There should be uniformity.