In April 2021, if all goes well, Tiger Roll will look to become the first horse in history to win three editions of the Grand National.
A month prior to that, he will attempt to reclaim his Cross Country Chase down at the Cheltenham Festival – a race he was defeated in back in March on soft ground by the hugely impressive Easysland.
There’s a lot of time to pass until then, but trainer Gordon Elliott has confirmed that the two showpiece occasions remain firmly on the radar.
“The plan is to go back for the cross-country at Cheltenham and then obviously all of the talk will be about Aintree, but we’ll be training him for Cheltenham first and foremost. He’s in serious form at home and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
The enthusiasm shown by the ten-year-old on the gallops has made the Irish trainer and connections even more keener to get the horse back into competitive action – so much so that a shock run-out on the flat at Navan next week could be on the cards.
“We had been thinking of starting him back in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal this month, provided the ground wasn’t soft,” Elliott told the Racing Post. “But when we saw this race we said we’d give him an entry and keep all of our options open.
“He was second on the Flat for me at Dundalk a good few seasons back and it’s something we’ve done with plenty of other good jumps horses of ours before.”
Followers of the gutsy stayer should note that he won’t head for the Ladbrokes Champion Chase if he does turn out at Navan, but Elliott is keeping his options open after citing the example of Felix Desjy, the Moscow Flyer Hurdle winner who enjoyed success on the flat over the summer.
If Tiger Roll does start his 2020/21 campaign on the flat, it seems increasingly likely that his second run-out will be over hurdles, rather than fences, as connections look to up his work rate ahead of what could be a historic spring for the ten-year-old.
“We’ll have a chat and make a decision next week but, like I said, I couldn’t be happier with him at home,” Elliott confirmed.
History in the Making
There can’t be many who perceive the coronavirus pandemic to be something of a blessing in disguise.
But that’s how the connections of Tiger Roll see it after their prized asset suffered an injury in the first quarter of 2020.
It seriously undermined his preparations for the Cheltenham Festival, and while that cannot be used as an excuse – many believe that Easysland will go on to become one of the best stayers around – it has to be considered in mitigation.
“It was going to be a bit of a rush to build him back up for a Grand National and, in hindsight, what happened with the race may have been a blessing in disguise as far as he was concerned,” Elliott confirmed.
“He’s a different horse now compared to this time last year, and we can’t wait to start him back, wherever that may be.”
An extra year of preparation is incredibly welcome for a horse who may get his final shot at making history at Aintree in 2021.