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Johnny Ward: The tears that Gordon Elliott fought trumped the rest

‘For the whole team, we have had a rough year and we are back,’ he said.

Trainer Gordon Elliott pictured today at Leopardstown.
Trainer Gordon Elliott pictured today at Leopardstown.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated at 18.43

THIS WAS not a day when one crawled the floors, backside out, with a magnifier for a headline.

Charlie Carter owned and bred the first winner and Brian Cody might even have backed it, given that it ran in the Kilkenny colours – though maybe not. Willie Mullins recorded a third Foxrock treble on the bounce, one of them hugely controversial.

But it was the tears that Gordon Elliott fought that trumped the rest. The Savills Chase win of Galvin was massively satisfying for all manner of reasons.

For a start, he doesn’t want to talk about the photo of him sitting on a dead horse anymore because it’s in his mind all the time too.

Secondly, Galvin only got up on the line to beat A Plus Tard, whose owner, Cheveley Park Stud, duly abandoned Elliott in his hour of horror. He might not admit that either.

Thirdly, and by contrast, Galvin’s owner, Ronnie Bartlett, has been loyal for a long time. This he will admit.

And fourthly, it’s not like he and Davy Russell don’t go way back. This he did admit. And Russell lost out for the report hook by a similar margin to the nose which separated Galvin and A Plus Tard.

I’ve said it many times: I felt, given he was any number to 11 months out with a neck injury and turns 43 next year, with a big, young family, he was mad not to call it a day.

“The kids are at home and I am sure they are after wrecking the place again. They wrecked it Christmas morning,” he joked.

Elliott is a gruff and no-nonsense character and likely thinks tears an affront to being a man. He was thus struggling.

“That was a great ride. Ronnie has been brilliant to me all along, a gentleman and a good friend,” he said pointedly.

“I’ve nearly a tear in my eye. For the whole team, we have had a rough year and we are back! Brilliant.”

Body swayed to music, oh, brightening glance, how can we know the dancer from the dance? There was the heavy narrative and then there was Russell’s ride on Galvin which was as vintage a 42-year-old rider as can be.

Kemboy predictably dictated at a track he relishes. One previous winner of the race rallied so gamely when another, A Plus Tard, loomed up seemingly sure to win turning in.

Russell never bullies a horse because animals tend to respond better to love. That’s how he’s ridden for a quarter of a century. It’s beautiful to behold that relationship between a horseman and a horse, only a jockey by name.

Gambling and hoping that A Plus Tard might tire, Galvin led at the wire. They’ll clash again in the Gold Cup.

“We started off having a bit of fun around Perth with him and he hasn’t let us down the whole way. That’s 12 races he’s won now and he’s a horse of a lifetime,” said Elliott, almost making you forget he’s still only seven.

“He got into a lovely rhythm, he does that. He’s a good horse and he stays like hell. He’ll go straight to the Gold Cup now.”

Even Willie Mullins was moved to say: “What a ride by Davy Russell. He was absolutely brilliant!”


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Mullins was rightly ebullient after a third treble at ‘The Leop’ in three days. Gavin Cromwell was not so happy, and one could see why.

It was nothing to do with any trainer or jockey but Klassical Dream essentially fly-jumped at the start of a pretty insane Christmas Hurdle, establishing a lead that he never lost, but he was half a dozen lengths ahead of Cromwell’s Flooring Porter at the tapes but only two at the wire. Everything else finished legless.

The runner-up’s rider Danny Mullins was clearly seen roaring at the starter that this was not satisfactory. Three miles later his trainer thought the same.

Cromwell said more off the record than on but the latter amounted to: “I wish we had the start Paul Townend got.”

Mullins tends to be gracious in defeat and victory and he usually wins. The performance of Galopin Des Champs in the maiden chase was outrageous.

“It was extraordinary. We never thought a horse could put in a performance like that,” he said

“We haven’t seen something like that for a while in a beginners’ chase at Leopardstown.”
Mullins doesn’t write this stuff but what was the name of his (ludicrously easy winner) of the bumper?

Redemption Day.

This stuff, sometimes. writes itself.

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Johnny Ward

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