I’D always wondered what it might be like to go on the beer with Gordon Elliott. Wonder no more as the Cullentra maestro treated myself and 600 others to that experience at a Matchbook-sponsored Cheltenham preview night in aid of Hurling for Cancer (Irish Cancer Society) at Dtwo Nightclub, Harcourt Street on Wednesday night.

No one on a star-studded panel which consisted Davy Russell, Joseph O’Brien, David Casey, Sir A.P. McCoy, Gary O’Brien and MC Kevin O’Ryan, was safe from a fully fuelled Gordie, who dished out the banter and more than his usual share of information.

Russell was the early target for abuse when he was labelled an old age pensioner and blamed for Mengli Khan’s loss to Getabird at Punchestown. All tongue in cheek of course and McCoy got the first big laugh of the night when he alluded that he’d hoped Gordon’s horses had gone through better preparation for Cheltenham than their cheerful trainer.

A.P. went on to suggest Kalashnikov has shown serious improvement and will be a big threat to Getabird.

On to the Arkle and there were arguments presented for both Footpad and Petit Mouchoir. It was mentioned that Petit Mouchoir beat Footpad three times over hurdles last season but Gary O’Brien suggested the latter has improved for fences and questioned the jumping of Henry de Bromhead’s horse. Gordon was more outright and said: “Petit Mouchoir was as big as me before his run at Leopardstown, so I’d fancy him to get a lot closer now.”

The Champion Hurdle chat goes by without many fireworks – A.P. thinks Buveur D’Air fully deserves to be the price he is while David Casey admitted: “it’s hard to know with Faugheen, and you’re just hoping.”

All agreed Apple’s Jade wins and we’re on to Wednesday. O’Ryan tees up Russell by asking if red-hot Ballymore favourite Samcro has any holes in him to which he replies: “Yes he has one at the front and one at the back - they’re his only two holes.”

Gordon suggested if the ground comes up heavy there is a possibility Samcro could be rerouted to the Supreme which gathered lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the packed crowd.

In the RSA, Elliott loves Presenting Percy. “He is the best horse in Ireland at present. He’ll win the RSA and he’ll win the Gold Cup next year.”

Casey reveals Al Boum Photo and Bonbon Au Miel are set to represent Closutton and said he was underwhelmed that Ballycasey got so close to Presenting Percy at Gowran Park.

In the Champion Chase, Russell talks for about 10 minutes and basically fancies everything except Altior. Casey suggests backing Douvan non runner no bet is a solid option but he doesn’t know if Ruby will ride him or Min.

On to the JLT Chase and Gordon went into a heartful soliloquy on his intended runner Shattered Love. “I love her, she is a good girl. I tell it as it is – I’d love her to win but in my heart of hearts, she is not good enough. She has already a Grade 1 and that’s great.”


This isn’t the night to be crossing eyes with Gordie so young Joseph is in trouble when he gets caught laughing at the buoyant Meathman.

“What are ya laughing at Joseph ha? Good man yourself – the big baby Jesus head on ya!”

Joey laughs it off and is well able to hold his own throughout the evening, by expressing sarcastic love for his own horses when the opportunity arises.

All agree that the JLT isn’t the greatest race and Monalee would be a short favourite if he was rerouted. Russell hopes so, although he doesn’t go about saying it.

Casey thinks it is absolutely bizarre Waiting Patiently will be kept for Aintree – “bar the Grand National, no one ever remembers Aintree winners.” Earlier in the day Top Notch was ruled out of the race and the whole panel suggest the Ryanair looks like cutting up badly. A.P. sums it up by labelling Un De Sceaux “bombproof”.

There is little inspiration floating around for the Stayers’ Hurdle. There is a vote for Supasundae, a vote for Sam Spinner, a vote for L’Ami Serge and a vote for The New One. A.P. says the decision to reroute Yanworth here was based on the logic that Supasundae is the favourite, and Alan King’s horse beat him over three miles last season.

Apple’s Shakira gets a strong vote for the Triumph Hurdle with the prospect of soft ground suggested as very much an enhancement of her chances. Contrary to mainstream opinion, Gordon isn’t too fussed about the Irish juvenile form and plays down the chance of Farclas. Casey says runaway Fairyhouse winner Stormy Ireland could be anything. He also suggests Sayo could be a big price at 25/1.

The Albert Bartlett passes without any fireworks though Joseph says there is a fair chance Grade 1 scorer Tower Bridge could be supplemented for the race. Gary O’Brien says that if 12/1 chance Chris’s Dream “was as good as he looked at Clonmel, he’ll take a lot of stopping.”

Our Duke and Killultagh Vic feature prominently in the Gold Cup chat. The latter in particular gets some glowing references with Russell recalling a run over hurdles at Punchestown when the horse hit every hurdle on the track but still motored away from his horse Diamond King. Gary O’Brien thinks Our Duke is spot on now for a big run while Tony McCoy gives a glowing reference to Definitly Red, who he thinks can definitely be placed.

The remainder of the chat clears up the rest of the meeting. Gordon would run 10 in the Martin Pipe if he could, and that includes Dortmund Park who is instead Albert Bartlett-bound. Elliott also would love to run Dounikos in the four-miler but it looks like he’ll go for the RSA Chase. He says De Plotting Shed is too short a price for the Close Brothers but he gives a real positive mention for his only Champion Bumper entry Felix Desjy.

Casey likes Max Dynamite in the Coral Cup and Lagostovegas in the County Hurdle. Laurina also “just wins” the Mares’ Novices’. Russell suggested to back Mall Dini (Kim Muir) who is also liked by McCoy and Gary O’Brien. Joseph issues a positive bulletin on Early Doors in the Martin Pipe while Gary O’Brien also suggested Wholestone (Stayers’) and Jer’s Girl if she goes for a handicap.

The night finished with two sets of J.P. McManus silks, signed by McCoy, auctioned off for €2,000. An enjoyable night at good atmospheric venue - it was genuinely good to see the interest in racing from Dubliners, both local and emigrated. Bring on the Festival.

Panel naps:

Sir A.P. McCoy – Definitly Red e/w (Gold Cup)

David Casey – Laurina (Mares’ Novices’)

Gary O’Brien – Presenting Percy (RSA)

Gordon Elliott – Un De Sceaux (Ryanair)

Joseph O’Brien – Buveur D’Air, Apple’s Jade, Un De Sceaux treble

Kevin O’Ryan – Felix Desjy e/w (Champion Bumper)

Davy Russell – Mall Dini (Kim Muir)