STORYTELLER CREATES NEW CHAPTER FOR ELLIOTT
Gordon Elliott completed a 209/1 treble on day three of the Cheltenham Festival following The Storyteller's (5/1 favourite) success in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate over two miles and five furlongs.
Ridden by Davy Russell, registering a 377/1 treble, the seven-year-old son of Shantou veered to his right after the final fence but kept on to score by one and three-quarter lengths from Nigel Twiston-Davies' Splash Of Ginge (25/1) in second.
Elliott, landing his sixth contest of the week at Prestbury Park, emulating last year's total, which saw him land The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award at The Festival, was also landing his 20th Cheltenham Festival winner overall.
He said: "Joe and Pat Sloan [owners] are big supporters of my yard and have been with me since I started, so for them to get a Cheltenham Festival winner is great. Davy gave the horse a peach of a ride.
"I thought that The Storyteller was one of my naps of the week last year and he pulled a muscle a week before Cheltenham. This was my horse for the Martin Pipe and we went wrong but he is a good horse and it's brilliant.
"His lack of experience was my big worry. He was novicey - he wandered around up the straight and gave me a bit of a fright - but I am absolutely thrilled.
"Winning the Gold Cup was something else and we had six winners last year. To level that, is brilliant, and it's unbelievable to be in the position I am in, with the owners and staff that I have. It's a big team effort and we will enjoy it.
"I can't believe it - six winners in Cheltenham! It just shows the horses we have in Ireland. Willie and myself are bouncing along, then Henry [de Bromhead] and Pat Kelly.
"If it was called off now, I would be having a good week!"
RUSSELL'S STORY IS TOLD ONCE MORE
The Storyteller flew up the hill to overhaul Splash Of Ginge and win the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase, justifying his starting position as 5/1 favourite.
The seven-year-old chestnut was a sixth winner of the week for trainer Gordon Elliott, and a fourth for jockey Davy Russell, for whom it brought up a 377/1 treble of the day. This brings Russell's total of Festival winners to 22.
Russell said: "I don't know if too many trainers would have run this horse in a handicap. Fortune favours the brave and Gordon is the bravest man I have ridden for.
"He is a master; a marvellous man. I have known him a long time - we rode together in point-to-points - and he is a great man. It's not even work - it's pleasure every day, with a pleasant atmosphere. He gives me so much confidence. He gave no instructions other to go out there and enjoy yourself.
"This horse has run keenly in the past. He was going to run a big race against Invitation Only at Punchestown in January but missed the second-last. He recovered and went on for it, and we felt there was a bit more in the locker. Keith [Donoghue, who won yesterday's Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase] gave him a lovely ride last time out in Graded company [at Leopardstown on February 4] and he will have learnt a lot from that. That's why Keith is so important to the team.
"It is so important for the Sloans [who own The Storyteller]. They are brilliant supporters of the yard and great supporters of me. I am over the moon to be able to repay them.
"It is the thing of dreams [this week so far]. I am having a wonderful year and have a marvellous family at home. My wife is expecting next week. "
Russell leads the field for the Holland Cooper Leading Jockey Award for The Festival 2018.
4.10pm Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
1 THE STORYTELLER (Mrs P Sloan) Gordon Elliott IRE 7-11-04 Davy Russell 5/1 fav
2 SPLASH OF GINGE (John Neild) Nigel Twiston-Davies 10-10-05 Jamie Bargary (3) 25/1
3 KING'S ODYSSEY (William & Angela Rucker) Evan Williams 9-10-10 Adam Wedge 14/1
4 BALLYALTON (John Westwood) Ian Williams 11-10-09 Tom O'Brien 16/1
Distances: 1¾, 5, 1
Tote Win: £5.60 Places: £2.10, £4.20, £3.60, £4.00 Exacta: £169.50
Gordon Elliott - 20th winner at The Festival
Davy Russell - 22nd winner at The Festival
BetBright Cup - standings after 19 races
Great Britain 5
SO NEAR FOR GINGE
A late decision to run Splash Of Ginge in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase nearly yielded a bumper dividend for connections.
The admirable 10-year-old went down by a length and three-quarters to The Storyteller, who was 5/1 favourite.
"It's heartbreaking but at the same time we are so proud of him," said owner John Neild. "There's not much more we can say and I almost treat that like we have won.
"I thought he's left his race behind in the BetVictor Gold Cup, when the ground was so testing here in November. But with the soft ground today we decided we had better run and we were just beaten by a better horse.
"That's it now for the season and we'll be back here in November to try and win the BetVictor again. The handicapper surely can't change his mark because he just keeps running so consistently."
Jockey Jamie Bargary, who would have lost his claim if winning, added: "It went very smoothly the whole way and he has tried his hardest for me after the last. I was thinking on the way in if there was anything I could have done differently but I don't think there is. He has run his heart out and that was it.
"He was tight at the second last but it didn't really stop my momentum. He kept going, picked up at the back of the last and was as brave as a lion. Good Cheltenham rides don't come along too often, so you have to enjoy them even though I was beaten."