Tiger rolls back the years to win at Cheltenham again
Tiger Roll was an incredible winner at the Cheltenham Festival for the fifth time when reclaiming his Glenfarclas Chase crown in scintillating fashion.
Having hitherto disappointed this season, it seemed the form that had seen him win back-to-back Grand Nationals was in the past.
But back at his favourite track and sent off the 9-2 second-favourite behind his conqueror from last season, Easysland, he looked a lot younger than his 11 years skipping round the cross-country course.
The French challenger briefly closed up and looked threatening, but it soon became apparent that Keith Donoghue had only given Tiger Roll a breather.
He quickly went clear again and rounding the home turn the race was over, with his only danger in front of him – but he skipped the last and powered home by 18 lengths from Easysland, with Some Neck third.
Now in the care of Denise Foster following long-time trainer Gordon Elliott’s well-chronicled ban, Tiger Roll usually runs in this race prior to heading to Aintree for the National, but the decision was taken a few weeks ago to take him out of the race as connections believed his handicap mark was unfair.
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, said: “That was unbelievable – what a fantastic horse, we’re over the moon here. He’s a legend of a horse.
“There was a rush to retire this horse earlier in the season, but he’s a cross-country horse, that’s what he is, and we always said we’ll wait to see how he gets on over the cross-country fences once more. To win at five Festivals is amazing, what a horse.
“Aintree is off the agenda and we’ve no regrets about that. Both him and Easysland are rated too high. He is rated the equal of our Gold Cup horse, Delta Work, and we know he’s not as good.
“It’s going to be hard to retire him after that, now, and he loves racing in any case.
“He’ll probably have to run at Punchestown in the Grade One, where he will probably prove he is nowhere near a 166-rated horse, and it is a pity we have to do that.
“Cross-country racing got this horse back after he had completely lost his way, but we’ll have to go in a Grade One just to prove he has the wrong rating. He’s a cross-country horse, that’s what he is.
“Whatever we decide to do, and if he never wins another race, we will enjoy today.”
There's no better horse than Tiger Roll to silence the doubters
Donoghue said: “He really came alive today and jumped brilliant. I was in control of the race from halfway and within his comfort zone – when Tiger Roll is like that, you don’t take him back.
“We never doubted that we had him peaking for the right time. We were happy with his last run in Navan on ground that he absolutely hates.
“I knew the way he was going today, it would take a good horse to get by him.
“We had the faith and knew what this horse could show. There’s no better horse than Tiger Roll to silence the doubters.”
Lisa O’Neill, representing Foster, said: “He’s a sensation – words cannot describe what he is.
“He means so much to the team at home. Some people might have lost a bit of faith after his last few runs, but we retained all the faith we had in him and knew he still retained plenty of fire in his belly. He showed it there today.
“I suppose he disappointed here in November and then had a run over hurdles. Neither of those runs were too encouraging, but he tells you when he’s feeling alive at home and he loves coming to Cheltenham and coming up that hill and the sun on his back.
“He showed what ability he has today to turn the tables on Easysland from last year.
“He’s been a revelation for Keith and Davy Russell, of course, winning two Grand Nationals.
“He showed real enthusiasm and sweetness for the game today.”
On not running in National, she added: “Gigginstown thought it was the best choice to take him out and I suppose they have his best interests at heart.
“We’ll go home and speak to the owners and see what the plan is then.”