Gordon Elliott 2018 Cheltenham Festival Stable Tour

Sat 10 Mar 2018

By Racinguk.com staff

Gordon Elliott insists Samcro will need to improve to extend his unbeaten record in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old has won each of his three starts over hurdles, to go with his three victories in bumpers, and graduated to Grade One level with honours after producing a stunning display in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown earlier this month.

He is odds-on across the board to continue his winning ways at Prestbury Park, but Elliott is taking nothing for granted.

Speaking at a Festival press event at Naas on Sunday, Elliott said: "He's a nice horse and he has done everything right but still has to keep improving.

"It's a big step up again at Cheltenham. It's the first time he's travelled from Ireland to England to race and that can often be a big ask, too.

Samcro study - Feb 2018 - Leopardstown Samcro will be having his first run outside of Ireland (Racingfotos)

"Last year we took Death Duty and thought he'd win, but he never travelled and got very light.

"He's a big laid-back horse, so I don't see it being a problem."

Samcro will lead a formidable team of between 30 and 40 horses set to make the journey from Elliott's Cullentra base to the Cotswolds in little over a fortnight's time.

The trainer's other major hope for the showpiece fixture is Apple's Jade, who will be a warm order to successfully defend her crown in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle on the opening day and Elliott issue an upbeat bulletin on her condition.

"Samcro has to improve, whereas Apple's Jade has been there and done it. Hopefully she can do it again," he said.

Apple's Jade Fhouse 06 Elliott regrets not running Apple's Jade in the Irish Champion Hurdle (PA)

"She's in great form. Lisa O'Neill rides her out every day and she's like a bull at the moment - she's mad for a run."

While some have suggested Apple's Jade could hold her own against the boys, Elliott is happy to keep her to her own sex at Cheltenham, but admitted to having one regret when discussing her season so far.

He said: "I think it's the Mares' Hurdle is right race to go for. Some people are saying we should go for the Champion Hurdle or the Stayers', but I was always taught to run in the race you believe you can win and I think it's her best chance of winning a race at the Festival.

"If I made one mistake all year with her I'd say it was not having her in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

"Hindsight is a great thing and at the time Faugheen was still Faugheen, but looking back I should have had her in the Irish Champion Hurdle."

The remarkable Cause Of Causes will bid for his fourth Festival success in the Glenfarclass cross-country chase.

2017 Randox Health Grand National Festival - Grand National Day - Aintree Cause Of Causes will seek a third Cheltenham Festival triumph (PA)

The 10-year-old won the same event last season, to go with his wins in the National Hunt Chase and the the Kim Muir, before going on to finish second in the Grand National at Aintree.

Elliott said: "He's in great form and obviously he's a stable favourite.

"If he could go back and win for a fourth time in Cheltenham, that would mean more than any winner, I suppose.

"He loves a bit of sun on his back and the older he's getting he seems to like a bit better ground.

"Cheltenham and the Grand National have been the plan all year."

Cracking Smart is disputing favouritism for the Albert Barlett Novices' Hurdle.

The six-year-old pushed the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination close in a Grade One at Naas in January an a rematch could be on the cards.

"He goes for the Albert Bartlett. He ran very well at Naas behind Next Destination," said Elliott.

"Next Destination is a very good horse, but over three miles, I'm not saying we'll beat him, but I think we should get closer.

"Three miles on a tougher track like Cheltenham - I think the race is made for him."

Fairyhouse Winter Festival - Fairyhouse Races Mengli Khan will have another crack at Getabird in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (PA)

Mengli Khan needs to turn the tables on another Mullins inmate, Getabird, in the curtain-raising Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Elliott is more hopeful than confident.

He said: "On form I can't see how he can beat Getabird. I was stood at the last in Punchestown the last day and he impressed me the way he went by me to the line.

"A few very shrewd judges tell me he is a lot better going right-handed, so that is the only thing that I'm hoping might help me.

"There'll be three or four of them swinging off the last turn in the Supreme and if my lad gets a clear run he'll be one of them. If he's good from there, we'll see."

Elliott confirmed Farclas an intended runner in the Triumph Hurdle, while Flawless Escape could be one of several representatives for the yard in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle.

Dounikos, Jury Duty and Fagan form a potential three-pronged assault on the National Hunt Chase.

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