We’re heading into the final day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and it’s neck-and-neck in the race for the Top Trainer award between Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson – who was an outsider behind Irish duo Elliott and Willie Mullins before the four-day meeting set-off.
The 69-year-old, who was last crowned the Top Trainer in 2012, is currently has four winners, whilst Elliott, who was the back-to-back Top Trainer in 2017-18, is just in front with five victories. However, today’s racing results could cause a major mix-up.
Henderson got the Festival off to the flyer as Shishkin won the opening Grade One Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, beating Elliott’s Abacadabras – who was the second favourite – by a head. Outright favourite Epatante doubled-up the Englishman’s success with a victory in the Champion Hurdle, whilst Elliott’s Coeur Sublime, who was a 12/1 outsider, finished last.
Following a dismal start to first day of the Festival, outsider Ravenhill landed the Irish trainer his first victory – winning the Grade Two National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase. Elliott started day two with another win, as heavy favourite Envoi Allen didn’t disappoint in the opening Grade One Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – beating stablemate Easywork by over four lengths.
However, Henderson pulled two clear again with successive wins from Champ – in the Grade One Novices’ Chase – and Dame De Compagnie in the Grade Three Handicap Hurdle.
Two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll was heavily tipped to retain the Cross Country Chase and secure Elliott’s third victory, however, Easyland had other ideas. Elliott did get his third win, however, in the penultimate race of the day as 15/2 Aramax landed the Grade Three Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Elliott-trained Samcro was the 4/1 joint-favourite alongside the iconic Faugheen in Thursday’s openingMarsh Novices’ Chase and pulled the Irishman level with Henderson as the eight-year-old beat Melon in a dramatic photo finish.
The pair went head-to-head again in the second race of the day – the Grade Three Handicap Hurdle. Elliott’s The Storyteller was the 9/2 favourite, however, Welsh Saint, who is trained by Henderson, was hot on his tail at 5/1 in the market. Instead, it was 10/1 shot Sire Du Berlais who put Elliott into the lead with five wins.
Henderson-trained Santini and Elliott’s Delta Work will then battle it out for the illustrious Gold Cup on Friday, with the former slightly more favourable at 4/1, whilst Delta Work can be backed at 7/2. Although, it is going take something special to beat retaining champion and favourite Al Boum Photo – who is trained by Willie Mullins.
However, with Elliott-trained Eclair De Beaufeu and Chosen Mate making up two of the four favourites in the penultimate race of the Festival and Column Of Fire in the running for the final race, it’s looks like the Irish trainer will scoop his third Top Trainer award. Only time will tell, but it’s sure to be a thrilling race!