Tiger Roll to bid to retain his Aintree Grand National crown
Elliott assembling a powerful team for Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse
Gordon Elliott: “The horse has come out of the race very well, and the plan is to go for the English National.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Connections stopped slightly short of directing their 2018 Aintree hero straight back to the scene of his finest hour, after Tiger Roll last week won for the fourth time at the Cheltenham Festival as he defended his Glenfarclas Chase crown.
But Elliott spelled out the widely-anticipated intention on Tuesday to head back to Aintree on April 6th with his big-race favourite, subject only to a final check with owners Gigginstown House Stud.
“The horse has come out of the race very well, and the plan is to go for the English National,” said Elliott. “Obviously I have to discuss it with Michael and Eddie [O’Leary, of Gigginstown] – but I can’t see any reason at the moment why we won’t be going there.”
If successful again next month, Tiger Roll would become the first horse since the great Red Rum 45 years ago to win back-to-back Grand Nationals.
“I spoke to the English handicapper on Monday, and he put him up 8lb [in the ratings] for winning the cross-country race [at Cheltenham],” said Elliott.
The owner and trainer’s initial qualms about the extra weight the nine-year-old will have to carry this time, compared with 12 months ago, therefore appear to have eased.
Elliott added: “He said he might have been easy on him, giving him 8lb, because he could have given him 10lb or more very easily. That only leaves him a pound wrong with last year, so it looks like he’s a better horse this year than he was last year.”
Elliott is responsible for 34 of the 110 entries for this year’s BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. Among the powerhouse stable’s huge prospective army for the Easter Monday highlight on April 22nd is last season’s hero General Principle and top-weight The Storyteller.
Delta Work, Dounikos and high-class mare Shattered Love have all been given the option.
Speaking at an Irish Grand National weights launch at his Cullentra base on Tuesday morning, Elliott said: “It was great to win it last year with my family there. I had been second the two previous years.
“We’ll hopefully have maybe 10 runners this year, and we’ll see what way we split them up between there and Aintree. We have two and a half weeks between the two races – so we’ll run plenty in both races, and we could have a few that run in both.”
Running through some of his potential Fairyhouse runners, the trainer added: “A horse fell in front of General Principle at Cheltenham [in the Ultima Handicap Chase] last week and stopped him. Jack wisely pulled him up. He’ll go to Aintree first, and there is every chance he’ll come back for the Irish National as well.
“There is every possibility that Shattered Love will run in it [Irish National], and she came out of the Gold Cup well.
“Jury Duty will run in the English National, and there is every chance he’ll come back for the Irish National then.
“Folsom Blue is in both and will go for one or the other, and Dounikos ticks a lot of boxes. He’s a horse that likes a bit better ground, and I’ll go wherever he gets the ground.”