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Raider Elliott to hit target

Gordon Elliott is no stranger to cross-channel raids and with more than 60 winners already this season -- 32 of which have come in the UK -- the ever-emerging Meath trainer is again planning to hit the target across the Irish Sea with three very noteworthy entries, including a leading Cheltenham Festival fancy.

The Gigginstown Stud-owned Carlito Brigante caused a slight surprise when winning at Leopardstown on his penultimate start and justified favouritism in a Triumph Hurdle trial at Musselburgh two weeks ago.

The Leopardstown victory saw him defeat Saturday's subsequent Fairyhouse winner Alaivan, and Elliott cannot wait for the Triumph Hurdle to come around, with the horse set to undergo a final racecourse gallop this weekend.

"He's in very good from at the moment and the plan would be for him to work after racing at either Navan on Saturday or Leopardstown on Sunday. After that he'll go straight to Cheltenham for the Triumph Hurdle and we'll see what happens," Elliott said.

He is far from concerned about the bookmakers' reading of the race, as they make Alaivan shorter in the betting than Carlito Brigante, and the modest Elliott puts that down to the trainer.

"Maybe Alaivan is shorter because Edward O'Grady trains him but I think we beat him fair and square at Leopardstown. We've also gone on and won again at Musselburgh since and I think Cheltenham will suit our horse very well."

Elliott said: "He's tough, improving and will love the hill so I wouldn't swap him for anything else in the race."

More immediately, Elliott is planning a trip to Kempton and Newcastle this weekend with two horses with contrasting campaigns.

Classy novice Grey Soldier, who suffered defeat to Rite Of Passage at Leopardstown but bounced back to winning ways at Naas last time, could be in action at Kempton this weekend as he is likely to bypass the Cheltenham Festival in favour of Ireland's major festivals.

"He has a couple of options," Elliott said of the Gigginstown Stud-owned son of Galileo. "At the moment we're looking at going to Kempton as hopefully he'll get some better ground there.

"He's won on soft and heavy ground but he'll actually be a much better horse on a better surface. He's in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle but he probably won't go to Cheltenham, and we'll wait for Fairyhouse and Punchestown later in the season."

Backstage is prominent on the bookmakers' list for the Aintree Grand National, which Elliott famously won with Silver Birch and Robert Power back in 2007, and could be in line for a run at Newcastle.

The eight-year-old appears continually progressive and is owned by the stable staff at Capranny, where Elliott trains, just outside Trim.

"There is a chance he might travel over to Newcastle for a novice hurdle on Saturday, but it will all depend on the weather and the ground. He's in good form and we were delighted with his run in Musselburgh the last day as it was his first run back and he wasn't 100pc," he admitted.

"I think if it had just been a normal northern novice hurdle he'd have nearly won but he bumped into a couple of good ones on the day. We had to start him off somewhere and he will only continue to improve."

Although a shade disappointed that Silver Birch is likely to miss the cut for the Liverpool feature, Elliott was content with the weight handed to Backstage.

"We had to start him off somewhere and he will only continue to improve. We were happy enough with 11 stone for the National, although you would always like a couple of pounds less. He has been trained for the race and I'm very happy with where he is at the moment."