Trainer Gordon Elliott opened the doors to his stables in Cullentra, County Meath, Ireland, to members of the media in a stable visit organised by Aintree Racecourse this morning.
On show was eight-year-old Tiger Roll, who captured the thrilling 2018 running of the £1-million Grand National at Aintree in April by a head under Davy Russell in the colours of Gigginstown House Stud.
The son of Authorized is also a three-time winner at the Cheltenham Festival, having captured the 2018 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (3m 6f), the 2017 National Hunt Chase (4m) and the 2014 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m).
Tiger Roll made an encouraging return to action when a staying-on fourth in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase over three miles and six furlongs at Cheltenham.
He is set to return to Cheltenham for the £35,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase over the same course and distance on Friday.
A tilt at the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, at Cheltenham, in March is his main aim before a repeat bid in the Grand National.
Tiger Roll will bid to become the first horse since Red Rum (1973 & 1974) to win a second running of the world’s most famous and richest chase over four and a quarter miles.
Elliott commented: “Tiger Roll is in good form. We are very lucky to have him and it was a great performance last year in the Grand National.
“The main plan with him is to target the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He will run at Cheltenham next week at The International in the Cross Country Chase and I’ve been pleased with him since his latest run at the track.
“The Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival is going to be his Gold Cup really. We will then head to the Grand National after that.
“I was pleased with his comeback run. He gave lots of weight to some very good horses, Keith Donoghue was happy with him and I probably minded him a bit more this year, as I thought I had him fitter than I actually did. It was a very good run and he took a couple of blows after the race.
“Having won three races at the Cheltenham Festival and winning a Grand National, I probably went a bit soft on him in terms of the amount of work we did, so we will make sure we give him lots of work.
“Tiger Roll is a special horse. He is not the biggest horse we have in the yard and he might not be that great to look at, but he wears his heart on his sleeve every day of the week.
“If I am going to be perfectly honest, it is going to be very tough for him to come back and win the race as he will probably have close to top-weight and that will be difficult for him.
“He will run and have an each-way chance, but I do think it’s going to be tough with all the weight he will have.
“You always hope that these horses take to the fences, but you never really know if they will until they’ve jumped three or four of them.
“Keith Donoghue will ride Tiger Roll in the Cross Country races and Davy then might ride him in the Grand National.”
More immediately, Elliott could be double-handed in Saturday’s £150,000 Becher Chase at Aintree over the Grand National fences over an extended three miles and one furlong, courtesy of nine-year-olds Don Poli and Noble Endeavour.
Don Poli, owned like Tiger Roll by Gigginstown House Stud, has been off the track since finishing third to Sizing John in the 2017 Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, but Elliott is looking forward to running the 2015 RSA Chase winner on Saturday.
Elliott revealed: “Don Poli is very well. I’ve been wanting to get a run into him for a while and I think he might just need the run at Aintree on Saturday.
“We are looking forward to seeing him run and how he takes to the fences. Don Poli has been schooling very well.
“He sustained some heat in his leg in the Gold Cup two years ago and that has kept him off the track since. We are really happy with him, but he will probably come on for the run.”
Noble Endeavour won the Paddy Power at Leopardstown in December, 2016, but has been limited to two runs since, his latest start being a sixth-placed finish in the 2017 Irish Grand National.
“Noble Endeavour is a very talented horse and he is also set to run in the Becher Chase on Saturday”, said Elliott.
“The handicap rating  he has might make life slightly difficult as he is caught in between slightly, but the Grand National is a target. He has had a couple of niggly problems, but we are pleased with him.”
Discussing some of his other possible Randox Health Grand National contenders, Elliott continued: “There are a few horses who could end up heading to Aintree for the Grand National.
“Bless The Wings was third in the race last year, Monbeg Notorious might be a Grand National horse this year, Don Poli, Mala Beach, Woodswell, Tiger Roll, Noble Endeavour, Outlander, Ucello Conti, Folsom Blue, General Principle and a horse called Borice will all be entered for the race.
“Borice has come from France and is owned by Simon Munir & Isaac Souede – he could be a dark horse for the race. He will need to go up in the weights but he is set to run in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and that looks a good place to start.
“Borice ran in some good races in France and hit the crossbar in a few of them – I think he could be a Grand National horse as he has experience and this change of scenery might suit him.
“Ucello Conti is going hunter chasing and maybe point-to-pointing for the time being with a view to potentially coming back for the Grand National. He travelled well in the race last year and has been unlucky a couple of times in the Grand National when falling.
“General Principle is a very nice horse and he won the Irish Grand National last term. We’re looking forward to running him this year and he could maybe develop into a Grand National horse.”
“Outlander is another horse who could potentially run in the race this year.
“The Grand National is a very special race. When we won it in 2007 with Silver Birch, we perhaps didn’t appreciate it as much as we should have.
“Everyone knows about the Grand National. You want to win the race and we’ve been lucky enough to win it twice – it was special to win it again last year.
“We will probably have 10 or 15 entries and then we maybe four or five runners in the race overall. I’ve picked a couple of horses out for the race and hopefully they get there in one piece. We usually build a Grand National fence in preparation for the race.”
Reflecting on his own career, Elliott remarked: “I enjoy what I do. I’m very lucky to be able to train good horses and we’re enjoying a fantastic time of things at the moment and it’s been great.
“You dream about being successful and I’m very lucky to have had success. Now we can constantly look to the future and see if we can improve things, whereas when I started, it was about trying to get by every day.
“I’ve been in a lot of different yards all over the world and if I see something I like in terms of facilities, training methods whatever, I try and implement here – we’re always doing something new.
“You’re always learning in this job. You still make mistakes every day of the week and it is all about learning. None of us are perfect and you just try to keep on improving.
“I’m very lucky in terms of all the horses and staff I have.”