Gordon Elliott is once again gearing up for another big season over the jumps and he has been discussing the plans for some of his stable stars over the last few weeks.
There is no better place to start than with the Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll and the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal at the end of this month could be his starting point.
The 10 year old due to the ongoing crisis in the world was not able to head to Aintree and go for his third straight win in the National but all being well will be heading back to the Liverpool track this term.
The Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding is one of the biggest names in jumps racing and last season, however last term he did not have his best year suffering with an injury setback which meant his season never got going.
He was seen for the first time at Navan in February where he raced in the Boyne Hurdle as a prep run for the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham festival and although running a solid race he was a long way second to the French raider Easysland, who denied him a fifth straight win at the meeting.
Hopes are high he will be back better than ever with Cheltenham the number one target in March and then in April heading to Aintree for the Grand National.
(Credit ATR) 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.”
An interesting recruit for Elliott this term is the RSA Chase winner Presenting Percy who has been moved to the County Meath trainer from Pat Kelly after a disappointing two years.
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.”
One of the main attractions at Elliott's yard is the unbeaten Envoi Allen, who is a dual Cheltenham festival winner having taken the Champion Bumper and Ballymore Novices hurdle in consecutive years.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding will be sent over fences this season with heading back to the Cheltenham festival the big aim for the season, but for which race is still left up in the air.
“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).” said Elliott.
Finally, Samcro is back for another season and is set to be better than ever having had a resurgence in form when landing the Marsh Novices Chase at Prestbury Park in March having looked like a horse who had lost his star potential.
Elliott is looking to start him of in the Grade Two intermediate chase at Down Royal this month and his handler is hoping he returns like he finished last term.
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.”