Friday 26 May 2017

'To beat Willie is incredible' - Gordon Elliott claims Irish Independent leading trainer award

Irish Independent leading trainer Gordon Elliott with his trophy during the Cheltenham Racing Festival at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, England. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Irish Independent leading trainer Gordon Elliott with his trophy during the Cheltenham Racing Festival at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, England. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

A new chapter in the enthralling rivalry developing Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins was written today after the county Meath handler pipped the Closutton trainer to the Irish Independent leading trainer award at Cheltenham.

Champagne Classic gave Elliott his sixth winner of the Cheltenham Festival when taking the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle under JJ Slevin.

The horse, described by owner Michael O'Leary as "the worst we own" after the race, followed up the successes of Labaik, Cause Of Causes, Fayonagh, Apple's Jade and Tiger Roll for the Cullentra House trainer.

Mullins, who has 10/1 on Wednesday night to win the award when he trailed Elliott 5-0, finished on six winners, but missed out due to the fact that Elliott had more second place finishes.

Mullins is also trailing Elliott by €353k in the race to be leading trainer in Ireland. It would be Elliott's first champion trainer title, if he manages to hold off Mullins.

Elliott said: "It's been an amazing week.

"To beat Willie, with the strength he has - and he's an amazing trainer - is brilliant.

"It's a credit to the staff and the owners, I'm part of a team so we'll enjoy it.

"Coming over I was hoping for one and we won the first race with Labaik so everything else has been a bonus.

"It's unbelievable, we had three winners Tuesday and had a bit of a drink, too much so we haven't touched a drop since. When we get home next week we'll have a staff party.

"Apple's Jade winning was sweet, Cause Of Causes was special but winning the Martin Pipe race is great."

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