Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll could start his season in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal at the end of this month.
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.
“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 about Cheltenham as a target, Elliott added: “It’s a big priority for me and he’ll be trained for Cheltenham, number one, and the Aintree Grand National, number two.”
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.”
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.
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).”
The County Meath trainer also reported Samcro 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.”