Elliott puts Grand National plan in place this weekend
The Aintree Grand National may seem like a long way away but two-time winning trainer Gordon Elliott is already planning for a return to Liverpool.
Elliott's quest to win the most famous jump race for a third time will begin at Aintree this Saturday as he sends over two runners for the Becher Chase over the National fences with a hope that both will return in April for the main event.
The 2015 Lexus Chase winner Don Poli will be joined by the 2016 Paddy Power Chase winner Noble Endeavour at Aintree this weekend and while Don Poli may need the run, Elliott thinks he could develop into a Grand National type.
Don Poli's last run was when third to subsequent Gold Cup hero Sizing John in the 2017 Irish Gold Cup and a spin over the National type fences has had the desired effect already.
"I'm not sure I have Don Poli fit enough to win on Saturday to be honest with you but he's really going well and he's a classy horse," Elliott said at his Cullentra base outside Longwood yesterday.
"We gave him a school over the National fences a couple of days ago at the Curragh and ever since he has just seemed to have come alive. He could be a prime candidate for an English Grand National."
Jack Kennedy will head to Aintree this weekend to ride Don Poli with Keith Donoghue set to partner Noble Endeavour.
"Noble Endeavour is off the track a while too but he is a very, very good horse as well. He'll probably come on for the run a bit having been off for so long but he also jumped the Aintree fences very well this week and he'll be one of the eight or 10 horses that we have the Grand National as a long term plan for."
Last season's Grand National hero Tiger Roll will be geared towards returning to Aintree but his trainer admits that burden of being much higher in the weights leaves him with an almost impossible task.
"If I'm to be totally honest the Cross Country Race at Cheltenham in March is his Gold Cup this year," Elliott admitted. "He'll go back to Aintree and we'll give it a go but he'll have top weight or close to it and it'll be hard for him.
"I was very happy with him comeback at Cheltenham last month, I thought I had him fitter than I did, but he'll go back there again next and then on to March."
Borice is a horse that wouldn't be familiar to many Irish punters but was earmarked as "a proper darkhorse" for Aintree by Elliott.
The fine, big seven-year-old is owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and is set to have his first start for Elliott in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown later this month.
"I'm not sure if he'll be rated high enough to get into the Grand National but he'll go for the Paddy Power and we'll go from there."