Elliott sets sights on Aintree again as Don Poli heads for Becher in top form
It's nearly two years since Don Poli was last seen chasing home the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John at Leopardstown and Gordon Elliott can barely contain his enthusiasm for the popular stalwart's return from injury in Saturday's Becher Chase.
Elliott was entertaining Aintree personnel and Grand National sponsors Randox Health on Wednesday to launch next year's edition of the £1 million event with his reigning National victor Tiger Roll.
However, there is a more pressing appointment with the famous Liverpool birch this weekend.
Don Poli, beaten just a length and a half by Sizing John in the 2017 Irish Gold Cup before suffering a tendon injury, will shoulder 11st 12lb in Saturday's showpiece at Aintree.
He is a top-priced 14-1 to make a winning comeback under Jack Kennedy, while Noble Endeavor is as big as 20-1 to collect for Keith Donoghue on his first outing since finishing sixth in the 2017 Irish Grand National.
"Don Poli schooled well over National fences yesterday and is in good form," Elliott said of the Gigginstown Stud-owned nine-year-old. "I don't know if I'll have him fit enough to win, but he's in some order and we're looking forward to running him. He's a class horse."
Noble Endeavor, whom Elliott suggested was "falling between two stools with his handicap mark", is among a long list of others who will also be considered for the Grand National come the spring.
Tiger Roll will lead the Elliott delegation, but his bid for a fourth successive Cheltenham Festival win in the cross-country race is objective number one.
"The cross-country race is probably his Gold Cup, because he's going to have close to top weight in the National," Elliott suggested.
"He'll run in the National and have a good sporting each-way chance, but it's going to be a massive ask. He isn't the most impressive to look at and isn't the biggest horse we have, but he has a big heart."
Bless The Wings, third to Tiger Roll in the 2018 National, Outlander, Space Cadet, Folsom Blue and French recruit Borice, who is being aimed at Leopardstown's Paddy Power Handicap Chase and whom Elliott stressed could be a National dark horse, are others on the ticket.
Elliott reaffirmed Samcro would not be going chasing this season, but the six-year-old was on Wednesday among the entries for the JLT Hurdle – formerly the Long Walk – over three miles at Ascot on December 22.
Three-time Hatton's Grace winner Apple's Jade is likely to end up in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle come March, although Elliott is not ruling out the Stayers' Hurdle.
He added: "The one race she definitely won't be going for is the Champion Hurdle."
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