Any doubts surrounding Tiger Roll’s participation in the Aintree Grand National were allayed by his trainer Gordon Elliott yesterday, who also revealed that the gutsy nine-year-old may well be one of a number of his charges who could follow up in the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.
Elliott hosted the launch for the latter contest at Cullentra House yesterday and having won the €500,000 feature he had coveted for so long for the first time in an eventful renewal last year thanks to General Principle, has 34 of the 110 entries this time around and will in his own words, “be firing as many darts as we can at it” again on Easter Monday.
Gigginstown House Stud spokesman, Eddie O’Leary cast a doubt on Tiger Roll’s return to Aintree in the aftermath of the nine-year-old’s 22 length romp to a fourth Cheltenham Festival success in the Cross-Country Chase last Wednesday, citing the increase in weight of nine pounds as a result of his Liverpool heroics of 12 months ago as a cause for concern.
While adding the rider that he would still have to discuss the matter with O’Leary and his brother Michael, Elliott made it clear that he could not see any obstacle to a bid for a defence of his Aintree crown.
Indeed going along with the consensus that Tiger Roll has improved this year, it was evident that the gelding’s conditioner believes his charge has real chance of emulating Red Rum, the last horse to record back-to-back Aingree Grand National triumphs in 1974, and the last multiple victor, grabbing his third win in 1977.
“He’s great, he’s bouncing” related Elliott of one of the most popular racehorses in training.
The plan is to go to the English National. Obviously I’ll have to discuss it with Michael and Eddie but he’s come out of the race very well so I can’t see any reason at the moment why we won’t be going there.
“I spoke to the English handicapper yesterday and he said he put him up eight (pounds) for winning the cross-country race. He said he might have been easy on him, he could have put him up 10 or more very easy but because it was a cross-country race he put him up eight, so that only leaves him a pound wrong with last year. It looks like he’s a better horse this year than last year.
“Obviously he’s going to go for the English but in a Grand National, you never know, if you happen to tip up over the first couple, it’s two and a half weeks to come back to Fairyhouse and if it did happen, there’d be every chance he could come back.”
A query on whether Tiger Roll might go for a different race at Cheltenham next year – perhaps a Gold Cup or a Stayers’ Hurdle, given the obvious rise in his graph, was met with a firmly negative response however.
“No. I’m a big believer in going for the race you think you can win.”
Meanwhile, Elliott revealed that Apple’s Jade, who was found to be sick after being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle won by his close friend Gavin Cromwell with Espoir D’Allen, would be aimed at the Punchestown Festival, though a decision on whether she would target for two- or three-mile honours would be deferred until closer to the time.
“She scoped dirty after the race. We thought she was in great form going over but to me she was bet after two hurdles. She stepped into the second hurdle and never looked happy after it. She’ll be back at Punchestown, all being well.
“No taking it away from the winner. I don’t know if any horse on the day would have beaten the winner the way he won. He was very impressive.”
Former Champion Hurdle favourite Samcro, who missed Cheltenham as a result of a lung infection, will work on Friday.
“I’m in no panic. Eddie O’Leary lets it up to me what I’m going to do so I’m not going to put any pressure on myself with him. I don’t need to. He’s a good horse and once we have him back chasing next year, that’s all we want. There’s every chance (he will run this season) but nothing’s in concrete.”