Elliott excited by Christmas team and reports Apple's Jade to be back on song
The scoreline after the last three Christmas meetings at Leopardstown is 28-10 in favour of Willie Mullins but Gordon Elliott is responsible for the favourite in four of the seven Grade 1s next week, and three of those are odds-on, so could the tide turn this year?
Elliott, who sent out five winners last year, two in 2016 and three in 2015, admitted his 2018 Christmas team could be his strongest one yet and reports his top performers to be in rude health ahead of the festivities.
Apple's Jade will once again lead his powerful team into battle, just as she did 12 months ago when surging late to see off Supasundae in the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle, as she will be back to defend her crown despite pulling off a shoe while running away with the Hatton's Grace Hurdle.
"We have a very strong team heading into Christmas, it could be our strongest ever one," Elliott said.
"Apple's Jade missed a couple of days after Fairyhouse as she pulled off a shoe but it was nothing to worry about. She's fine now and seems in great form. I'm happy with her," he added.
The first Grade 1 of the week at Leopardstown is the Racing Post Novice Chase on Boxing Day and Elliott has the odds-on favourite in last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle third, Mengli Khan.
Elliott said: "I was delighted with Mengli Khan at Punchestown. He has schooled very well from day one and brought that to the track. There were a few fences down the back where he took a few lengths out of his rivals which was great to see. It shouldn't be a big field and the ground should be perfect so you'd like to think he goes there with a great chance."
No horse has come under the microscope this season more than Samcro and Elliott knows he must bring his 'A' game to Leopardstown on Saturday if he is to return to winning ways in the Ryanair Hurdle.
"He will have to be at his very best again, won't he? He will need to bring his 'A' game as it looks like it's going to be a very good race. He has come out of Newcastle in good shape and I'm happy with him," Elliott said.
Elliott saddled Outlander to spring a surprise in the 2016 Lexus Chase, the race now known at the Savills Chase, and is hoping the runaway JLT Novices' Chase winner, Shattered Love, can follow in his footsteps.
The trainer said: "I genuinely could see Shattered Love running really well in a Cheltenham Gold Cup. I think the race would suit her. She goes to Leopardstown on Friday and I have no doubt the step up to three miles will suit her. I'm looking forward to seeing how she gets on."
Elliott also issued an update on last season's Grand National hero Tiger Roll, saying: "We will find a little hurdle race for him somewhere which will set him up for another crack at the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham."
Gordon Elliott's Grade 1 goodies
Racing Post Novice Chase Mengli Khan (best price 4-5)
Paddy's Rewards Club "Sugar Paddy" Chase Doctor Phoenix (best price 25-1)
Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle Commander Of Fleet (best price 8-1)
Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle Apple's Jade (best price 10-11)
Savills Chase Shattered Love (best price 10-1)
Neville Hotels Novice Chase Delta Work (best price 8-11)
Ryanair Hurdle Samcro (best price 7-4)
Leopardstown Christmas festival
Willie Mullins: 7 winners, 4 seconds, 5 thirds
Gordon Elliott: 5 winners, 5 seconds, 7 thirds
Willie Mullins: 13 winners, 4 seconds, 4 thirds
Gordon Elliott: 2 winners, 4 seconds, 5 thirds
Willie Mullins: 8 winners, 2 seconds, 3 thirds
Gordon Elliott: 3 winners, 3 seconds, 3 thirds
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