Elliott’s rise to Aintree stardom
There’s already been plenty written about Tiger Roll’s quest for Aintree immortality and a third successive Grand National success.
But what of the man behind the legend; Gordon Elliott?
The Cullentra trainer propelled himself into the big-time when Silver Birch won this great race in 2007 and Elliott heads into the 2020 Randox Health Grand National as mastermind behind the box office attraction.
Low-key for big stars
Elliott is the fastest-rising star in Ireland’s training ranks. Were it not for the utter dominance of a certain WP Mullins, the Co Meath based handler would surely be a multiple champion trainer by now.
Indeed, it is a hallmark of the size of the fight in this dog that Elliott has gone so close in the past to pipping Mullins for that honour.
He is mostly an understated operator. Elliott largely prefers to allow his horses do the talking, before and after their races.
He’s often eager not to overhype them, and, when they win, the trainer deflects the praise towards his equine stars.
Silver lining at Aintree
Few could have predicted where Elliott’s career was headed when he had his first Grand National runner in 2007 with Silver Birch.
His training license was not yet a year old and Elliott had yet to saddle a single winner in Ireland.
Silver Birch meanwhile had gone more than two years and eight races without success, falling in the previous year’s Grand National when trained by Paul Nicholls in England.
Elliott worked the oracle and Robbie Power’s mount held off the fast finishing Mckelvey under Tom O’Brien to win the National at 33/1.
“We will have a party and enjoy it, then think about the next move,” a fresh-faced Elliott told the press after his win.
Onward and upwards from there
His next move was to accelerate forward and begin the journey towards becoming one of the finest trainers of his generation.
Elliott soon gained the patronage of the Michael O’Leary-led Gigginstown House Stud and they’ve been his strongest supporters in the intervening years.
A Cheltenham Gold Cup arrived in 2016 with Don Cossack to add to a litany of big-race wins at Elliott has provided in the famous maroon and white silks.
His stature has grown all the while and it was Gigginstown that chiefly sought to fuel his charge to displace Mullins as Champion Trainer in 2017 when the leading yards went down to the wire on the final afternoon of the season at Punchestown.
As ever, Elliott took his defeat with grace. Mullins has held sway since and the young pretender admits his dream above all is to be champion trainer one day. It will surely happen for him.
Tiger’s front page news
No horse can have done more for Elliott’s stature than Tiger Roll. Successive wins in Cheltenham’s Cross Country race matched by his glorious Aintree victories.
He is the brightest star of jumps racing and Elliott manages his progress with modesty and care.
That was never more evident that in the recent storm over the BHA ratings and weights for this year’s National.
While plenty around him lost the ability to reason, Elliott quickly surmised that Tiger Roll’s mark for the hat-trick bid amounted to “fair play” from handicapper Martin Greenwood.
It was an admirable and no unexpected stance from Elliott, who meets each challenge in his career with the same understated but steely determination.
Nobody is better placed to have Tiger Roll ready for his date with destiny on April 4.
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