Dirar keeps Elliott on the up
GORDON ELLIOTT isn't the first trainer to win fame with his jumpers before landing a major prize on the Flat, but the former amateur rider from Meath is doing it with panache and yesterday saddled Dirar to land the coveted Ebor at York.
Elliott took out a licence in March 2006 and 13 months later he had sent out Silver Birch to land the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree. Overnight, he was a 'bullet entry' on the trainers' list and with regular raids on Scottish and Northern jumping tracks since, his reputation has continued to grow. Feelers to secure his services to head up a British stable are a certainty.
Has he been approached? Elliott, fresh-faced and still in his 30s, replied: "Not yet, but if I had a good offer ... ."
The sentence is not finished, but you are left to believe he would up sticks to take his chance if anything half-decent came along.
Elliott's training quarters, situated in rich farming country 35 miles north-west of Dublin, are purely functional. He has a circular all-weather gallop, a seven-furlong straight strip, boxes everywhere and an open barn where horses roam at will, day and night. The horses are clearly thriving.
Dirar is the smallest horse in Elliott's stable of 50, yet the trainer always held high hopes that he would land a major prize. He came to York off the back of a creditable third to Overturn in the Galway Hurdle and yesterday, ridden confidently by Jamie Spencer, he ran on strongly to beat Rosika by a length and a quarter, with Bridge Of Gold a short head back in third. Like the Epsom Derby winner Workforce, Dirar is a son of King's Best, whose progeny are talented yet take understanding.
"We have good staff at home, some good lads around us and some good owners, and that's what it's all about," Elliott said.
"Galway was the plan but Overturn overturned us. We'll look at taking him (Dirar) to Dubai for their Carnival in the winter before bringing him back for the Galway Hurdle again next year."
Kieren Fallon had won the opening mile-and-a-half handicap aboard The Fonz for Michael Stoute, and when his mount Rosika hit the front inside the final furlong, he must have thought, for a split second, that he could complete a double for his old boss. It was not to be. The 9/2 favourite Martyr weakened to 10th while Overturn, the Galway Hurdle and Northumberland Plate winner, tailed off at the finish.
Michael Jarvis' young stayer Opinion Poll grabbed the first major prize of what could be many when coming home best of all under Frankie Dettori to win the Lonsdale Cup.
The Halling colt, sent off at 9/2, does have a distinct preference for soft ground and fast ground proved his undoing on his previous start at Sandown, but he seemed to handle it better here and reopposed the winner that day, King Of Wands, which was sent off the 3/1 favourite.
However, it was the market leader's stablemate Samuel which proved the biggest threat to Opinion Poll, going for home two furlongs out before he was collared near the line by the half-length winner.
"You don't want too many of these in one day. He was quite lazy halfway through the race," said Dettori. "We had to knuckle down deep in the last two, but I knew there was plenty in the locker.
"He is a much better horse on soft ground but he showed great guts today. All those staying races at the end of the season will be under consideration, I would have thought, but there's not too many."
Highclere syndicates have enjoyed their best year ever, with the success spread over many different groupings of owners, but Approve's win in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes was the icing on a pretty impressive cake. Trainer William Haggas, a proud Yorkshireman, may be put up to make the traditional Gimcrack speech in December. (© Daily Telegraph, London)