Born on the second of March 1978, Gordon Elliott is based in County Meath and began his life in horse racing as an amateur jockey. He took out his trainer’s licence in 2006 and was just 29-years-old when his first entry into the Grand National ended up winning the race. That saw Elliott’s stock shoot up, which was only furthered in 2019 when Tiger Roll won the same race for the second time, becoming the first horse since Red Rum to win it in successive years. Elliott hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2021 when a photo emerged of him sitting astride a dead horse, resulting in him being given a 12-month ban from racing.
There was little family background in racing for Gordon Elliott, sometimes leading people to describe his emergence into the sport as the great ‘blow-in’ of Irish racing. His father was a panel-beater and he grew up in Summerhill, County Meath, entering the world of racing when he began to work for Tony Martin, the trainer, at weekends and during his school holidays. Aged 16 he took out a licence as an amateur jockey, riding in point-to-point events as well as racecourses. In the end, he rode more than 200 winners on the point-to-point circuit, as well as 46 winners on courses, yet it was as a trainer that he truly excels.
In 2006, Elliott took out his trainer’s licence and within weeks he enjoyed his first winner. That came courtesy of a race at Perth on the 11th of June, then less than a year later he become the youngest trainer to win the Grand National thanks to Silver Birch. Amazingly, he was a Grand National winner but hadn’t managed to train a winner in his native Ireland, which only changed when Toran Road won in May 2007. In 2011 he won his first race at the Cheltenham Festival, seeing Chicago Grey win the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup. Despite his relative youth and year out due to the ban, there aren’t many National Hunt races he hasn’t trained a winner in.
Gordon Elliott’s relatively young age hasn’t stopped him becoming one of the most successful jump trainers of the modern era. Here are just some of the races that he’s trained the winner in at least once:
- Grand National
- Cheltenham Gold Cup
- Liverpool Hurdle
- Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
- Grand National Hurdle Stakes
- Champion INH Flat Race
- Punchestown Gold Cup
- Christmas Hurdle
- Triumph Hurdle
- David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle
The moment that Silver Birch won the Grand National, Gordon Elliott’s stock went sky high and there will have been barely a horse owner in the United Kingdom and Ireland that wouldn’t have wanted to work with him. Horses like Delta Work, Blow by Blow and Sire Du Berlais all enjoyed success under the training of Elliott. Though his stock dropped considerably after the photo emerged of him sitting astride a dead horse, he is still a popular trainer and here are some of the biggest names that he’s worked with:
It would be impossible to discuss Gordon Elliott and not mention Tiger Roll, who was bred in Ireland and was initially planned to be a flat racing horse. In that sense, he is similar to Red Rum, so we probably shouldn’t be all that surprised that he went on to mirror that horse’s achievement by winning the Grand National two years in succession. His first win came in 2018 and then he followed that up a year later, with the chance to win a hat-trick in the race scuppered by the international health crisis of the time resulting in racing being cancelled. He did enjoy a hat-trick of wins in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, however.
Just as we couldn’t write about Gordon Elliott and leave out Tiger Roll, so too would it be all but impossible to leave out Silver Birch. The horse that made Elliott the youngest trainer in the history of the Grand National to win the race at the time was ridden in the race by Robbie Power. The win came about in 2007, with the horse having previous won the Becher Chase at the course as well as the Welsh Grand National. Even so, he was not overly well thought of, not least because he’d fallen at the Chair in the 2006 race. He had no such problems a year later, however, and won the race by three-quarters of a length from McKelvey.
In spite of his success as a trainer, Gordon Elliott had only won the Cheltenham Gold Cup once by the end of 2023. That win came in 2016 courtesy of Don Cossack, who was bred in Germany before being shipped over to Ireland for training. He had shown some promise in the early part of his career, winning three flat races run under National Hunt rules as well as a hurdle. He was switched to steeplechasing in 2013, getting wins under his belt all but immediately. Wining the likes of the Daily Star Chase, the Punchestown Chase and the Melling Chase set him in good stead for his Gold Cup win, in which he was the 9/4 favourite.