Gordon Elliott is targeting a record third consecutive Randox Health Grand National victory for Tiger Roll.
Owner Michael O’Leary had intimated another crack at the National was not a given if the handicapper was too harsh, but Elliott has moved to quash that fear – with a light programme before April on the cards.
Having emulated Red Rum by winning back-to-back renewals of the Aintree spectacular, Tiger Roll would be trying to go one better than arguably the most famous National Hunt horse of all time.
In an interview with Aintree, Elliott said: “It is great to see him back, doing a bit of work again. He has had a nice couple of months of summer holidays.
“He went back to (O’Leary’s) Gigginstown (House Stud) obviously. He was probably out there and had about 10 to 12 weeks out on grass. He hasn’t had a saddle on him since Aintree and the National, but he has done a few parades and had a few good days out, which is great.
“I have seen him a couple of times during the summer at Gigginstown and he was good and strong, and I have seen him when he was here for a while before he went off to do his flat work and he looked good.
“He will probably do three or four weeks of flat work before he comes back to us in the main yard here.”
Having won both the Boyne Hurdle and the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival last season, Elliott is targeting the same races again.
“Obviously he won’t be that busy this year. We are going to have to mind him now and pick and choose where we go,” said Elliott.
“He will probably have one run over hurdles, maybe something like the Boyne Hurdle (Navan, February) again. He will go back to Cheltenham (March) for the Cross Country race and then we’ll go for the Randox Health Grand National.
“Keith (Donoghue) will ride him in Cheltenham in the Cross Country race and the Boyne Hurdle and then Davy Russell will ride him in the National.”
Elliott also ruled out running him in the Gold Cup or other such races.
He added: “People tell me I should be entering him in Stayers’ Hurdles or Gold Cups, but I was always taught and I am a big believer in going for the race you think you can win at the Cheltenham Festival and the race I think I can win at the Cheltenham Festival is the Cross Country race, so that’s where he will go. But the number one target this year will be the English National.”
Elliott is in no doubt that Tiger Roll is by far the most popular horse he has had in his care.
He said: “You don’t really realise how much the horse meant to everyone. You see all the kids and all the different people who came to the yard.
“You don’t really appreciate it when you are in the bubble yourself. You don’t realise how much of a thing there is about this horse, you know? It’s only after when you sit back and you watch the videos and read all the paper clippings, people have really got to like him.
“You know, he has got a great name, Tiger Roll, and he’s got a great heart. He has obviously won at four Cheltenham Festivals and to win two Grand Nationals has been unbelievable.
“Everyone who comes into the yard, there’s only one horse they want to see and that is Tiger Roll. He’s a people’s horse now and we are very lucky to have him.
“Red Rum was before my time, but you’ve seen the videos and heard all about him. He was an amazing horse and to be in the same league as him is unbelievable.
“I think the build up to the English National this season is going to be unbelievable. The hype – people are talking about him already. Whether he wins, loses or draws, if he gets back there to have a go at three in a row, it’s going to be great. The hype is going to be brilliant.
“We were very, very happy with the horse (last year), he was in great form and we got him there in great order. If we can get him there in half as good a form next year, then he will have a massive chance.
“He knows he’s good, he loves the attention. You just watch him walking round the parade ring before and after races and he knows he is Tiger Roll.”