Gordon Elliott considering Down Royal return for Aintree hero Tiger Roll

Mon 5 Oct 2020

Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll could start his season in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal on October 31.

The 10-year-old was denied the chance to join Red Rum as a three-time winner of the Aintree spectacular when it was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Tiger Roll was last seen finishing second in the cross-country chase at Cheltenham in March, with Easysland denying him a remarkable fifth success at the Festival.

Hopes are high he will be back at Liverpool in April, but trainer Gordon Elliott has his sights firmly set on another Cheltenham victory as the first big aim.

Speaking on Betfair’s Racing Only Bettor Podcast, Elliott said: “It was a very rushed preparation to get him to Cheltenham last year and he got a little setback, as everyone knows. We got him to Cheltenham. He was very tired after Cheltenham. He was very tired. He had a hard race.

Tiger Roll travels powerfully, but can't match Easysland in the 2020 Glenfarclas Chase

“The ground was probably softer than what he wanted that day. He was stiff and sore after the race. If you watch the re-run again, he loses his hind-end a little bit turning in, and he was sore.

“I think it might have been a blessing in disguise (no Grand National run). He’s a fresh horse this year. He’s absolutely bouncing at the moment.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to start him off yet, but do you know, he’s definitely going to have an entry in Down Royal in the big chase because if the ground turned up quick, you’d be nervous about running Presenting Percy or Delta Work. I’d hate to not have him entered.”

Asked whether Cheltenham would again be seen as 'the target' ahead of a history-making Aintree bid, Elliott said: “Well, it’s a big priority for me and he’ll be trained for Cheltenham, number one, and the Aintree Grand National, number two.

"I'm not going to make the mistake of running him on soft to heavy ground, real testing ground at an early stage during the season. Obviously, if we get to Cheltenham or Aintree, he'll have to take his chance, but before that, definitely not. We'll decide on ground and we'll pick and choose where we go from there."

Elliott has taken charge of Presenting Percy after owner Philip Reynolds opted to switch the classy chaser from Pat Kelly – and he could emerge as a rival to Tiger Roll at Aintree.

Elliott said: “He’s not your typical big three-mile chaser. He’s a short-coupled horse but he’s got – the one thing about him is he’s got a real deep girth, so loads of room there for oxygen, and a good heart. We’re happy with what he’s shown us at home.

“He’s being trained for the Gold Cup at the moment, but I definitely have the English Grand National in the back of my mind. I think he’s the type of horse that would suit the race. He’s got a lot of class. He travels. He jumps.

"He's being trained for the Gold Cup at the moment and we'll just feel our way. Come Christmas, we'll make our decision whether it's going to be the English Grand National or the Gold Cup."

Presenting Percy wins the 2018 RSA Chase under Davy Russell

In a yard packed full of talent, much attention will focus on Envoi Allen, as the dual Cheltenham Festival winner embarks on a novice chasing career, rather than remaining over hurdles for another season.

Elliott said he does not expect to step up to three miles this season with the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding, adding: “I’d imagine if you asked me to put my hand on my heart now, his target in Cheltenham; I’d say it’s the Marsh (Novices’ Chase over two miles and five furlongs).

"He was bought to be a Gold Cup horse, like you want every horse hopefully to be a champion hurdler and also a Gold Cup horse, but we decided chasing is the way to go. I made the decision to keep Samcro hurdling a couple of seasons ago and I don't think it was the right thing to do, so I'm not going to make the same mistake with this horse."

Reflecting upon Envoi Allen's victory in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at last season's Festival, Elliott said: "It's kind of hard to knock him really. I suppose he was pretty impressive all year but if you actually look at what he had to beat, he would never go eight or ten lengths away from them. I suppose Cheltenham was the one day that I had my heart in my mouth for ten strides. Just went he sprang off the home turn, I thought 'Oh my God'."

In contrast, Abracadabras will be staying over hurdles this season after finishing second to Shishkin in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle when last seen.

"I just thought it was an easy decision to make. He's a classy horse," said the trainer.

"He's a real two-miler. We really like him. Look, he got beat in Cheltenham last season. He maybe got there a little bit too soon. You couldn't say he didn't get home because he did battle back. He got headed and he battled back, but he got beat by a very good horse at Cheltenham. There was no excuse. He got beat by a better horse. I suppose the only excuse I'd have is, if we were to do it again, we probably wouldn't have been there until going to the last. We ended up there probably half a furlong before the last hurdle, but he's a good horse.

Abracadabras goes down fighting to Shishkin at Cheltenham

"The Champion Hurdle is going to be tough. JP McManus looks like he's going to have a very strong team again this year for it, but there's an awful lot of money to be picked up in Ireland with these type of horses. You've got the Morgiana; all them good two-mile hurdles with small fields. I think it could be a big bonus to our team this year. He could pick up a lot of prize money."

The County Meath trainer also reported Samcro himself to be in good form and that he too could start at Down Royal, in the Grade Two intermediate chase.

He said: “He’d done a bit of work last week. Keith Donoghue rode him and he had a grin from one side of his face to the other. He was thrilled with him.

"Everyone says it was a great training performance to get him back to winning Cheltenham, but on the same breath, probably running him in Limerick on heavy ground was very stupid. I won't make that mistake again. I think he's just not the same horse in really, really heavy ground. If you asked me his aim in Cheltenham, if it was next week, I'd say it'd be the Ryanair."

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