Kevin Blake

Gordon Elliott’s declaration of intent at the sales has Kevin Blake envisaging a solid fight for the trainer's title.

  • Monday 26 October
  • Blog
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Less than 18 months ago, the world of National Hunt racing was rocked by Michael O’Leary’s announcement’s of phasing out his involvement in the sport. It was feared this decision would have far-reaching ramifications for both the racing and bloodstock sectors, but one man who was expected to be affected most was Gordon Elliott.

Elliott’s relentless rise up the National Hunt training ranks has been remarkable to witness. He rose from the very bottom of the ladder right up to the highest rungs in an incredibly short time. The already impressive velocity of his rise was accelerated by him being the main benefactor of Gigginstown’s high-profile split with Willie Mullins in September 2016. Indeed, in what was a scenario that would have been considered exceptionally unlikely just a couple of years earlier, Elliott came within a whisker of taking the Champion Trainer crown from Mullins that same season.

The fierce competition between Elliott and Mullins has driven both of them to all-new heights in terms of their personal performances during the years which followed that epic title battle, but the Gigginstown announcement was feared to be a crucial blow to Elliott’s dream of becoming Champion Trainer. 

Gordon Elliott is ready for another winter battle with old foe Willie Mullins

However, anyone who thought Elliott would sit back and let the consequences of that move unfold without doing anything to try and counter it, doesn’t know him very well.  

It was expected Elliott would seek new owners and encourage his existing ones to up their spend with a view to filling the gap left by Gigginstown not sending him new horses. However, the extent to which Elliott has achieved this is likely to have exceeded the expectations of even the most ardent believers in his drive and ambition.

This is best illustrated by Elliott’s activity at the sales since the Gigginstown announcement. During the last year, 42 horses from point-to-point backgrounds have realised £100,000 or more at public auction. Eleven were bought by or sent to Gordon Elliott. Those purchases included five of the 10 highest-priced lots during that time, namely Sir Gerhard (£400,000), Ballyadam (£330,000), Fiston Des Issards (£255,000), Hollow Dreams (£255,000) and Gerri Colombe (£240,000). It wasn’t just ex-pointers that Elliott was active in purchasing either, with Grand Roi (£400,000) having been a notable horse-in-training purchase by him during the summer.

To offer some perspective of illustrating just how notable such a level of action at the sales is, the next two biggest benefactors of those sales were Colin Tizzard and Henry De Bromhead, with both getting four horses apiece. The horses Tizzard picked up from them were notably eye-catching, three of the four being amongst the seven highest-priced lots of the group, namely Killer Kane (£300,000), Amarillo Sky (£280,000) and Shirocco’s Dream (£260,000).

Interestingly, only two of them are now with Nicky Henderson (Gallyhill for £450,000 and Patroclus for £150,000) and one is with Willie Mullins (Brandy Love for £200,000), while Paul Nicholls didn’t end up with any of them. Mind, one point to note is that at the time of writing it was unclear which trainer remains in charge of two of the horses sold for £100,000 or more at those sales.

Of course, horses from point-to-point backgrounds certainly aren’t the be-all and end-all of talent recruitment. French imports that were acquired publicly and privately have long formed a major part of the modus operandi of Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls. However, the above statistics very much illustrate the intent with which Gordon Elliott is attacking talent acquisition for his operation.

Such an aggressive level of talent acquisition is a loud and clear declaration of intent from Elliott. Gigginstown or no Gigginstown, he’s still fighting for that title, and would love it if he won. Love it.

Kevin Blake
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