Gordon Elliott's rise up the training ranks has been swift. He took out a licence in 2006 and the following year he saddled Silver Birch to win the Aintree Grand National. His success at the Liverpool venue all the more notable by the fact, that at the time, he had yet to train a winner in Ireland. 

The Co Meath handler was on his way. Yet, two weeks out from this year's Cheltenham Festival where he'll be hoping to add to his haul of 32 winners at Prestbury Park, Elliott is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Over the weekend an image emerged of the trainer sitting on a dead horse at his Cullentra base.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) have launched an investigation that Elliott will be "co-operating fully" with. Horse Racing Ireland and Cheveley Park are among the racing bodies that have condemned the image of Elliott sitting on the dead animal. 

Jack Kennedy speaks with Gordon Elliott and Micheal O'Leary after  Apple's Jade win at Leopardstown in 2019

"A momentary lapse of judgement by Gordon" was the reaction of Michael O'Leary, whose Gigginstown House stud banner includes a number of horses that are housed at Elliott's yard. O'Leary does intend to maintain the association. 

We'll wait to see what comes from the IHRB investigation, but it's unwanted news for the sport of racing, coming as it does so close to the National Hunt showpiece in the Cotswolds. For Elliott, the focus now has shifted from his success in churning out winners and keeping pace with Willie Mullins in the quest to be the top handler in Ireland.

Gordon Elliott did not come from a racing background, but trainer Tony Martin had a base near the family home in Summerhill, Co Meath. It was a there where the teenage Elliott worked at weekends and over the summer months. At the age of 16, a career in the amateur riding ranks began.

The up-and-coming jockey enjoyed a decent career in the point-to-point sphere, before progressing to the racecourse where he rode for Martin Pipe in the UK. In total, Elliott chalked up 46 winners on the track, the highlight being his win in the Punchestown Champion Bumper on the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained King's Road in 1998.

In 2005, at the age of 27, the Meathman call timed on his riding career. Striking out on his own as a trainer, he initially enjoyed success with runners at tracks in the north of England and Scotland. His first winner came at Perth in 2006.

Just before the following year's Aintree National, Elliott acquired Welsh National winner Silver Birch from Paul Nicholls.

A fresh-faced trainer leads Silver Birch in after National glory

Under a brilliant ride from Robbie Power, the 33-1 shot landed the world's biggest steeplechase and the 29-year-old trainer wrote his name into the record books as the youngest to saddle a National winner  Three weeks later, Elliott would train his first winner on Irish soil, when Toran Road obliged at Kilbeggan.

A first success at the Cheltenham Festival came when Chicago Grey landed the National Hunt Challenge Cup in 2011. In 2016, Don Cossack gave Elliott a first victory  in the Gold Cup. The subsequent two years saw the Meathman take home the leading trainer accolade at the Festival.

Elliott and Tiger Roll after the 2019 Aintree win

In recent years, Tiger Roll is the horse that has given Elliott the most high-profile success.

A winner of the Triumph Hurdle and over the Cross-Country fences at the Cheltenham Festival, Tiger Roll then went on to complete back-to-back victories at the Aintree National in 2018/19. Covid-19 and the subsequent cancellation of last year's renewal put pay to a hat-trick bid, but the horse is, at this stage, set to run in this year's staging on 10 April, a few weeks on from another intended tilt at the Cheltenham Cross-Country.

Flat success is also not beyond Elliott's remit, with Dirar landing the 2010 Ebor at York before Commissioned gave him a notable Royal Ascot victory in the 2016 Queen Alexandra Stakes. Group-race glory awaited in 2017 too, as Beckford claimed the Railway Stakes at the Curragh - proving Elliott's ability under both codes.

Notable wins as NH trainer

Cheltenham Gold Cup - (1) Don Cossack (2016)
Aintree Grand National - (2) Tiger Roll (2018/19)
Irish Grand National - (1) General Principle (2018)
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase - (3) Cause of Causes (2017), Tiger Roll (2018, 2019) 
Supreme Novices' Hurdle - (1) Labaik (2017) 
Triumph Hurdle - (2) Tiger Roll (2014), Farclas (2018)
Punchestown Gold Cup -(1) Don Cossack (2015) 
Hatton's Grace Hurdle -(3) Apple's Jade (2016,2017,2018) 
Irish Champion Hurdle -(1) Apple's Jade (2019
Christmas Hurdle -(4) Prince Of Scars (2015), Apple's Jade (2017,2018,2019)
Irish Gold Cup - (1) Delta Work (2020)

A trainers' championship has continued to elude him, however, as his heavyweight battles with Willie Mullins have become something of the norm over the last few seasons.

He came agonisingly close in the 2016-17 campaign, holding the lead until the penultimate day of the season when perennial champion Mullins edged back in front in a competition determined by prize-money, rather than the number of winners saddled.

Elliott sent out 193 winners that year compared to the 180 of Mullins, while the following year he saddled 210 winners, yet Mullins still topped him with two more wins and a chunk more money.