O’Leary happy with Tiger’s effort

Last Updated 25 Feb 2021 | By Enda McElhinney | Commercial content | 18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply | Wagering

Eddie O’Leary has expressed his relative surprise at the reaction to Tiger Roll’s performance in Sunday’s Boyne Hurdle at Navan.

The dual Grand National winner was all but pulled up in the Grade 2 contest – a race he won in 2019 – but his connections insist it wasn’t as poor as some critics made out.

Negativity a shock to Gigginstown

O’Leary, racing manager for the Gigginstown House Stud operation, suggests he was taken aback by the reaction to Tiger Roll’s latest run.

He went off an 11-1 chance in the betting for the 2m5f contest and travelled nicely at the rear of the five-runner field under Keith Donoghue.

He was in touch running to the second-last flight but his rivals soon got away and Donoghue allowed him to come home at his ease thereafter.

He won the race on yielding ground in 2019 at odds of 25-1 but finished well beaten last year on similarly heavy ground to what confronted him on Sunday. His rider was right to bring him home gently once his chance was gone, says O’Leary.

“I have to say I was surprised to have read so much negativity about the run. I was very happy with him. The enthusiasm was there and that was the main thing. He raced with loads of zest and enjoyed himself,” he said.

“You would think coming to three out he actually had a chance of winning and, once his chance had gone, Keith [Donoghue] sat up on him and didn’t give him a hard race.”

Cheltenham next up

The Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham in a little over three weeks’ time is next up for the Gordon Elliott-trained 11-year-old before a possible tilt at winning three successive Aintree Grand Nationals.

O’Leary felt Tiger Roll was “as enthusiastic as ever” in his Navan run, as he confirmed that the Cotswolds would be next up following a “run will stand him in really good stead heading to Cheltenham”.

Donoghue steered Tiger Roll to his 2019 Boyne Hurdle win and was the man on board for both wins in the Cross Country race at Cheltenham in 2018 and 2019.

As with O’Leary, the rider felt the ground was very much against his mount at Navan and he shares the optimism that Tiger Roll will be a different proposition come mid-March on a better surface.

“If you stopped the race at the third-last you would have been absolutely delighted with how he ran,” he said.

“You’d be a little bit disappointed he didn’t finish out the race a bit better but I would just put that down to the ground. You’ll see a different horse on nice ground at Cheltenham. He hates it when it’s holding like that.”

Aintree odds lengthening

Tiger Roll Grand National 2018

Jockey Davy Russell jumps the last fence on Tiger Roll on his way to winning the Grand National horse race on the final day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, northern England on April 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS @SCANPIX

Tiger Roll, of course, has his chance at a historic third successive Grand National victory at Aintree on April 10th.

Gordon Elliott described the mark of 166 allotted to him last week by BHA Handicapper Martin Greenwood as “fair enough” and expressed his hope Tiger Roll would be at Aintree to take his chance.

It’s 7lb higher than the perch from which he gained his second Grand National victory in 2019 and very much higher than the mark Gigginstown had expressed hope he would be given.

The O’Leary’s – Eddie and brother Michael – have not commented since the Grand National weights were announced last week but they have suggested Tiger Roll might be retired after Cheltenham, if they weren’t happy with his weight for the National.

Following Sunday’s run at Navan, Tiger Roll can be backed at odds up to 25-1 to retain his Grand National crown this spring. He went off the 4-1 favourite for his second win in 2019.

Follow Tiger’s odds as well as other favourite runners here.

Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is a racing writer with a growing portfolio of work on both British and Irish racing, with a particular fondness for National Hunt racing. While he acknowledges there have been many great runners; there has only ever been one Denman.

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