In less than a week’s time we will get to hear that spine-tingling roar from the crowd as the Cheltenham Festival gets underway. There is so much excitement for this year’s edition because we are set to witness some amazing horses compete across an action-packed four days.
One of the horses that many people are looking forward to seeing is Gordon Elliott-trained Gerri Colombe, who is the favourite for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on Wednesday. The seven-year-old is one of the most promising horses from Cullentra House for the festival and he is heading to Gloucestershire as a heavily-backed horse by punters.
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As we know, the Elliott camp suffered a blow for the festival with top jockey Jack Kennedy not recovering in time from the broken leg he sustained at Naas earlier in the year. Elliott was immediately boosted by serial Cheltenham winner Davy Russell coming out of a very brief retirement to help out in Kennedy’s absence.
Elliott has emphasised that even without Kennedy he has a great team of jockeys ready to go out and deliver success at Cheltenham. He recently told the Racing Post: "We have a terrific team of jockeys here in Cullentra and I'm in the very lucky position of having Davy Russell, Jordan Gainford and Sam Ewing there.
“Davy's experience around Cheltenham is invaluable, while Jordan and Sam are a huge part of the team here. I couldn't speak highly enough of them. There will be plenty of rides for them all at Cheltenham."
Although Russell has the most winning experience at the festival, there is a very strong chance that Gerri Colombe will be assigned to Gainford, having been his rider on his past two outings, one coming before Kennedy’s injury. The young jockey maintained the gelding’s unbeaten record by claiming victories at Limerick and Sandown and you get the sense that Elliott will entrust him with one of his star horses in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
It was only two years ago that he rode his first Festival winner, The Shunter, in the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase, which was also a first Festival triumph for trainer Emmet Mullins.
Gainford has been catching the eye in Ireland over the past couple of years and he could further thrust himself into the spotlight if he gets the chance to ride some of the top talent in Elliott’s stable on British racing’s biggest stage.
It also makes sense for him to be partnered with Gerri Colombe for the festival given how successful they have been together in their two previous rides. There is no doubting that riding a favourite for Cheltenham is a whole different ball park to a victory at Sandown, but these are the experiences that Gainford needs to hone his skills as a jockey and become an even more reliable rider for Elliott.
In the past, Gainford had stated that veteran Russell was his idol growing up, and he will be able to lean on the seasoned rider at the festival next week which will only help him in his preparations for riding an outright favourite.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change | Non Runner No Bet