- Gordon Elliott’s horses have conquered all before them so far this winter
- His horse Teahupoo beat odds-on favourite Impaire Et Passe at Fairyhouse
- Elliott is back after his six month ban following that picture with the dead horse
Gordon Elliott was caught in the middle of the back-slapping bonhomie but, suddenly, the expression on his face changed.
It had been another stellar day for Elliott, whose horses have conquered all before them so far this winter. Teahupoo had delivered the standout victory, taking the scalp of odds-on favourite Impaire Et Passe under a brilliant ride from stable jockey Jack Kennedy to retain the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
There had also been a one-two in the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle when Farren Glory, again ridden by the outstanding Kennedy, got the better of King Of Kingsfield; this is how things have been for the past six weeks, with big prizes seemingly on tap.
Elliott is an ebullient figure, who backs himself relentlessly in the pursuit of winners, but as Teahupoo jig-jogged behind him after his exertions over two-and-a-half miles there was a moment of reflection and contrition. These days, he noted, need to be savoured. ‘To be honest, we were here three years ago and I had everything — then we lost it all,’ said Elliott.
This was the result of him being banned for six months after a photograph of him sitting on top of a dead horse, smiling, at his Cullentra Stables was published online and went viral. High-profile owners removed their strings and opprobrium rained down for what he later described as a ‘moment of madness’.
Gordon Elliott’s (pictured above) horses have conquered all before them so far this winter
Teahupoo had delivered the standout victory, taking the scalp of odds-on favourite Impaire Et Passe to retain the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse
‘But we’ve worked very hard to get back,’ he added. ‘The team I have behind me, from all the staff in the yard to all the lads buying the horses and the owners, is fantastic.
‘There were two or three weeks after (the picture emerged) I was very lonely. But a lot of people stood by me.’
He is now reaping the dividends and there was nothing fortunate about Teauphoo’s surge past Impaire Et Passe, who had been second-favourite behind Constitution Hill in ante-post lists for the Champion Hurdle and had looked magnificent before the race, prowling around the paddock.
Willie Mullins, the gelding’s trainer, would never make a snap judgement in such circumstances and his faith that Impaire Et Passe will line up in the two-mile championship is unshakeable.
Elliott (left) was banned for six months after a photograph of him sitting on top of a dead horse, smiling, at his Cullentra Stables was shared on social media
He insisted ‘no buttons had been pushed’ in the build-up to his reappearance and there was ‘a long way’ to go.
What route he takes to Cheltenham must be decided but Mullins will not send any of his stable to contest next week’s re-arranged Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Sandown, after Newcastle’s abandonment. Constitution Hill’s presence in that race is uncertain.
Elliott received a magnanimous handshake from Mullins as they crossed paths after Teahupoo’s success but the latter didn’t go home empty-handed, as I Am Maximus landed the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase.
Here was a rare double, as I Am Maximus had won the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday and a shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup may now be on the cards for the JP McManus-owned gelding.