Grand National 2015: Older and wiser Gordon Elliott puts faith in Cause Of Causes

Cause Of Causes is in top form, having won at the Cheltenham Festival

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Gordon Elliott confesses that he was not ready to appreciate Silver Birch’s Grand National triumph properly in 2007 when just setting out on his training career.  “To be honest, I was a bit young and silly back then,” he said.

But eight years and a few hundred winners later, the Co Meath-based trainer is experiencing the normal mixture of excitement and trepidation ahead of his latest challenge.

Cause Of Causes is in top form, having won at the Cheltenham Festival last month, and the tension is building. “He’s in great form and the horses are running well, so I’ll say a little prayer tonight,” said Elliott, speaking after Don Cossack had run away with the Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday.

Ironically, Don Cossack was guided to his facile win by Tony McCoy, who turned down the ride on Cause Of Causes in favour of owner J P McManus’s other National runner, Shutthefrontdoor.

On Thursday Paul Nicholls ruled out another crack at the Gold Cup with Silviniaco Conti, but he has a ready-made replacement in Saphir Du Rheu, who made short work of decent opposition in the Maghull Novices’ Chase.

The grey six-year-old was last seen following home Cole Harden in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, but chasing is his game and now the sky is the limit. “That was ideal,” said Nicholls. “After Friday,  I thought we might not have a Gold Cup horse for next season, but now we have.”

Sam Twiston-Davies was certainly impressed with Saphir Du Rheu’s ability and potential, if not his intelligence. “He’s a bit numb, but if you just throw the reins at him he actually uses his brain – it may be small, but he does have one,” the jockey said.

Whisper (2.50 Aintree) proved no match for Cole Harden at Cheltenham last month, but it was a creditable effort and it would be no big surprise if he turned the tables in today’s Liverpool Hurdle, a race he won last year.

Court Minstrel (2.05) also has some catching up to do after finishing behind runner-up God’s Own in the Festival’s Arkle Trophy, but he is better suited by sharp tracks and can turn the tables.