Gordon Elliott admits Tiger Roll surprised him by slamming the opposition in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan as he warmed up for his big annual targets at Cheltenham and Aintree.
The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, followed by the Grand National – both of which Tiger Roll won last season – beckon for the admirble nine-year-old.
“He’s in great form – I couldn’t believe how well he won on Sunday,” Elliott said during a press visit to his Cullentra stables.
“It was a surprise to me – I thought he’d finish second or third-last, to be honest.
“I thought it would be a good pipe-opener for the cross-country – but he just showed how good a horse he is.”
Tiger Roll has a remarkable winning CV.
Elliott added: “To win at three Cheltenham Festivals and a Grand National – and then come back and win a Boyne Hurdle – we’re very lucky to have him, and he’s one of my favourite horses in the yard.
“He’s unbelievable – it puts a smile on your face watching a horse like him.
“I’m lucky I’ve got a lot of good horses.
“Tiger Roll might not be the best horse I’ve ever trained, but he’s definitely one of the most likeable.”
Elliott decided not to chance Delta Work at Leopardstown earlier this month, and believes the ante-post favourite for the RSA Chase has done enough on the track before heading back to Cheltenham.
“He is in very good form,” said the County Meath trainer.
“I didn’t run him at Leopardstown (Dublin Racing Festival), because I was fearful of the quick ground. Davy (Russell) said it was as quick as he’d want it (there) at Christmas.
“He has plenty of experience – he’s had three runs over fences and won two Grade Ones.
“He’s beaten Le Richebourg – who is a dual Grade One winner since.
“I just felt I had nothing to gain and everything to lose by running him on that ground.”
Shattered Love will represent the Elliott stable in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, despite disappointing in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December.
“She’ll go for the Gold Cup. She came home with sore shins after the last day – the ground was quick enough,” he said.
“She has a couple of bits to work to do – but all being well, she’ll run in the Gold Cup.
“When you’re going into those races over those longer trips, it’s always an unknown. But if she turns up in the form she was in for the John Durkan, I think she’s got a great each-way chance.
“She’s travelled over and won there before.”
Elliott has pencilled in The Storyteller for the Ryanair Chase and thinks the eight-year-old has place claims.
“At the moment the plan is to go for the Ryanair,” he said.
“Will he be good enough to win it? I’d say he’d need a lot to go his way – but looking at the style of the race and the way he’s ridden, I’d say he could sneak into a place.
“It was a messy race the last day, whereas they’ll go a good gallop in the Ryanair – and that would suit him well.”
Elliott could aim Mengli Khan at the JLT Novices’ Chase and Hardline at the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.
“I’m half thinking of stepping Mengli Khan up in trip for the JLT. He wasn’t really having a cut at his fences the last day,” he said.
“I’m thinking of bringing Hardline back in trip for the Arkle. The day he won his Grade One in Limerick, he was going to put it up to Getabird when he made a mistake.
“He ran a good race the last day after making a bad mistake.
“I’m not saying he could beat Le Richebourg, but he’d have a good each-way chance.”
The four-mile National Hunt Chase is set to be Champagne Classic’s objective.
“Nothing is concrete, but the four-miler is the race I’d like to go for with him,” said Elliott.
“I think the race would suit him, and we have Delta Work for the RSA. We’d like to split them up if we can.”
Glenloe holds an entry in that race but is not certain to be fit in time for Cheltenham.
“He’s missed a bit of work, so I’m not quite sure if he’s going to get there,” said Elliott.
“We’ve no plan for him in the near future.”