Elliott eyes more bounty with huge festive assault
If Gordon Elliott does indeed win the prize that he insists is not even on his mind, he will look back on a colossal haul of victories in handicap chases as pivotal in a success he could not have envisaged at the start of the season.
While pretty much everyone in racing envisaged the Co Meath man becoming champion trainer one day, few if any thought it may happen in 2017 - until the Gigginstown-Willie Mullins split announced in late September changed everything.
Curiously, the runners acquired out of the carve-up have yet to exert much influence in terms of prize-money in a season in which Elliott has won the Galway Plate, Kerry National, Munster National and Troytown.
In Ucello Conti and Noble Endeavor (among others), he contends that he has bright prospects of adding the €190,000 Paddy Power Chase to this amazing list of triumphs on Tuesday.
Both are prominent in the market for the Leopardstown contest, with Elliott downplaying the significance of his sizeable lead over Mullins in prize-money this season - on which the crown is decided.
"I think Ucello Conti ran very well at Aintree last time and basically got a little tired, with the National back there his long-term plan," he said.
"Noble Endeavor also gave a really good account in the Troytown and if you are asking me for two horses of mine to follow over the Christmas, I give each of them a really solid chance.
"I imagine that Davy Russell will ride Noble Endeavor and we will see about Ucello Conti, as Daryl Jacob may not be available, in which case we may well use Jack Kennedy."
Elliott pictures running around 60 horses over the four days upcoming, bringing horses too to Limerick, Down Royal and Wetherby, though he does not envisage having anything at Kempton. Though a little shy of runners in the Grade One events, he is not giving up hope on Don Poli putting his Down Royal flop behind him in the Lexus Chase on Wednesday.
"All I can say is there is nothing wrong with his work at all," said the 38-year-old, who was mystified by how little he showed in the Northern Irish venue. "I guess he has had a hard race nearly every day he showed up and maybe it is a case that he just can't keep pulling out, but we'll see.
"If the Lexus goes wrong, we could go jumping banks with him, though you'd love him to come back. He's been hunting to keep him busy."
With around 22 runners expected on Monday, Elliott has bright prospects of kicking off the Christmas period in a manner befitting his hunger for a title he continuously says he cannot win.
Prince Of Scars, which floored Alpha Des Obeaux at Leopardstown 12 months ago, could be joined by stable ally Jetstream Jack in the Neville Hotel Novice Chase on the final day of the four at Foxrock, though he has yet to even win a maiden chase.
"I've the option of A Toi Phil in that too but I might leave him for a week or two later.
"While he's a maiden, I think that three miles on proper soft ground is what Prince Of Scars wants, and he hasn't had enough of a test yet. As far as I'm concerned, he's genuine."
With the lead standing at €462,100, even those bettors who hammered into Willie Mullins winning the title for the tenth year running at even-money on news of the Gigginstown split concede concern. The young pretender admits people are asking him about the potential achievement that dare not speak its name. "It is something I don't even think about and realistically I've no chance; I just hope the horses keep running well in what has been a great season.
"Everyone asks me the question alright but I've no interest in thinking about it. I know I've no chance as does everyone else," he reiterates, as if even his horses may get sidetracked by all the title talk.
Elliott is a naturally outgoing character but is well aware of the colossal responsibility on his shoulders these days. The stable's Christmas party, held on Tuesday night, was considerably tamer than has been the case in previous years.
"Ah, everyone was in good form but it is now at the stage that we've become so big, it's different.
"There was a time there would be 10 or 12 of us at it and it'd be great craic. It isn't like that anymore. I mean, I was home at half past 12."
One can become accustomed to success. He'll take that. He has had an incredible 729 Irish runners this season, more than his nearest three rivals in the table combined. With Don Cossack nearing a return, too, the outlook could hardly be brighter.
Just don't tell him that he might win the title.