No National regrets for stunning Tiger Roll
Eddie O’Leary insists that Gigginstown House Stud have ‘no regrets about the Grand National’ despite seeing an imperious Tiger Roll cruise to another Cheltenham Festival win.
The dual Grand National winner pummelled his rivals to win the Cross Country Chase for the third time in the hands of Keith Donoghue on Wednesday afternoon.
Cross Country rout for imperious Tiger
Tiger Roll’s efforts over the last 12 months had given rise to many wondering if retirement was looming and, indeed, Gigginstown admitted that a lacklustre run in the Cheltenham Cross Country event might signal the end of his decorated career.
Donoghue was eager to allow his partner maximum opportunity to show his well-being and he sent Tiger Roll forward in the early stages of the 3m6f race.
The pairing know every inch of the Cotswolds countryside, having won the race in 2018 and 2019, but Tiger Roll was swatted aside last year by talented French youngster Easysland. The latter was the short-price favourite to score again for trainer David Cottin in the JP McManus silks.
Tiger Roll, however, had other ideas and was far more enthusiastic than he was racing over the same course back in November – when he was pulled up – and he took a commanding lead out of the field as they entered the closing stages.
Easysland went off in pursuit but, in what amounted to a complete role reversal from 12 months ago, it was he who simply could not bridge the gap this time and he plugged on to finish second.
With long-time handler Gordon Elliott suspended, it was a first success for the now Denise Foster-trained Tiger Roll, who was landing his first success since winning the 2019 Grand National.
Tiger Roll knows what he likes
Reflecting on the success at Cheltenham, Eddie O’Leary suggested spring ground was probably the key to Tiger Roll’s re-energised performance. Deep winter ground isn’t for him now. He also confirmed that any notion of retirement has been cast firmly to one side now.
“You couldn’t put into words what that means. What a legend,” said the Gigginstown racing manager. “There is no end to him. You couldn’t retire him after that. I’m delighted for the whole team at Cullentra. It means the world to us all.”
O’Leary added: “There was a rush to retire this horse when he disappointed at Cheltenham back in November but he had a smile on his face there today. The ground was the difference. At this stage in his career, he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. That is his discipline.”
No regrets over Aintree absence
Tiger Roll won the 2018 and 2019 Grand Nationals at Aintree, but was denied the opportunity to go for three-in-a-row last spring when the race was cancelled.
He was handed a mark of 166 by BHA Handicapper Martin Greenwood – 7lb higher than when he retained the Grand National crown in 2019 – for the next month’s renewal. Gigginstown decided to take him out of the race, suggesting the mark was unfair and the latest Cheltenham success – his fifth at The Festival – wasn’t enough to have them regretting that call.
The Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse next month is a possibility instead, says O’Leary.
“We have no regrets about the Grand National. None whatsoever,” he added. “He is too highly rated. You can’t compare these cross-country horses to Gold Cup horses but he’s rated the same as our Gold Cup horse Delta Work which is ridiculous.
“Tiger Roll and Easysland have ridiculous ratings. Sorry, they are not Gold Cup horses. We’ll see what the Irish handicapper does now. He could go for the Irish Grand National next.”