Don Cossack tipped to deliver King George VI for Elliott
Gordon Elliott feels "lucky" to be training a horse as good as Don Cossack for a race as mouthwatering as the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The highest-rated staying chaser in training, Don Cossack, has been imperious for the last 18 months, with his only defeat coming in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March.
He has won eight of his last nine races, with four of those at Grade One level, and in any other year he would probably be an odds-on shot - but the strength in depth of this year's race means he can still be backed at bigger than 2-1.
The fact there are so many dangers abound is not lost on Elliott, who in some ways wishes Don Cossack was able to race in a different generation.
"I got excited talking about him as a younger horse, and Michael (O'Leary, owner) gave me a bit of a telling-off," said Elliott.
"He won a Grade One as a novice, but he is the finished article now. It's a very strong division at the moment. There's no hiding place.
"It's great for the game, but unfortunate for me I've got such a good horse in this day and age. I would love to have had him three years ago.
"I'm very lucky to have him. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the ultimate plan."
According to the bookmakers his biggest threat is the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour.
Despite Mullins' huge domination at Cheltenham in recent years he has only won this race once, when Florida Pearl scored way back in 2001.
Vautour will be racing over three miles for the first time and on his winning return at Ascot was nowhere near as impressive as he had been at Cheltenham, jumping left into the bargain.
One doubt Mullins has is that his two least impressive performances have come at this time of year.
"I'd be hoping he'll stay. He won the JLT last year and the way he came up the hill there didn't look to be any stamina issue," said Mullins.
"He was so impressive at Cheltenham, like he was the year before there.
"Whether we can get it out of him at Christmas (I don't know), but I don't want it out of him until March, it's just the way we train our horses for that peak in March, not Christmas.
"I'd love to win the King George and hopefully he's good enough, but it seems to be the way we train, we've never won a Lexus yet we can turn the Lexus form around in February and March as we win the Hennessy (in Ireland).
"It will be interesting to see, will he jump right this time? He was jumping a little left (at Ascot) and that has to be a concern, especially going round a track like Kempton.
"Kempton will be a different race, hopefully there's going to be a different horse making the running and hopefully he'll jump straight and we'll follow him."
Mullins also runs Valseur Lido, a big price in the betting but a Grade One winner over three miles as a novice. He chased home Djakadam on his reappearance in the John Durkan at Punchestown. "It looks like three miles around there will really suit him. I see he'd be one of the outsiders, but he'd be no 33-1 shot," said Mullins.