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Winning the Gold Cup is more than a Pipe dream for Gordon Elliott

Countdown to Cheltenham: Nine days to go

GORDON ELLIOTT, rising star in Ireland's training ranks, is a Wayne Rooney lookalike.

There's the same impish grin as Elliott proudly watches his 25 Cheltenham Festival raiders, speeding up his six-furlong, woodchip all-weather gallop at his Cullentra House stables in County Meath.

 Call set ... Gordon Elliott checks up on Don Cossack
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Call set ... Gordon Elliott checks up on Don Cossack

While Sir Alex Ferguson was a football father figure for Rooney, Martin Pipe and Meath trainer Michael Cunningham are the big men in Elliott's sporting life.

Elliott said: "Martin Pipe is still my hero. Michael Cunningham and Martin are the only people I call Mister.

"He's a genius and has raised jumping to a different level, just like Willie Mullins now.

"I'd love to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle and I have been second in it twice.

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"JP McManus' SQUOUATEUR could be the one, although I have entered 21. He has done nothing wrong winning at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse. WESTEND STAR could be another runner."

In 2007 Elliott, at 29, became the youngest-ever trainer to win the Grand National, with excrock Silver Birch.

With astonishing progress his current empire has been created from a remote 78-acre farm in less than five years.

Elliott, now 38, told me: "I am the oldest person working here. All my money is ploughed back into the stables — plus having a friendly bank manager helps!

"I have no big car and never take expensive holidays. You won't see me in the Dublin nightspots after Leopardstown.

"I want to be champion trainer.

I have given myself 10 years. If I said I didn't want to overhaul Willie Mullins, I would be lying.