Horse of a lifetime Tiger Roll signs off in gallant fashion
Dual Aintree Grand National winner Tiger Roll brought the curtain down on his fantastic career with a gutsy display at the Cheltenham Festival, though it wasn’t enough to end with a win.
Sustained rain in the Cotswolds left the ground heavy, to the dismay of Tiger Roll’s connections, with trainer Gordon Elliott suggesting the five-time Festival winner would ‘hate the ground’ ahead of the race.
Gallant Tiger carried out in style
Despite fears over the ground, Tiger Roll swept around the Cross Country track with his usual zest.
Davy Russell took up the running with strong-travelling Tiger Roll in the final stages of the three-mile-six-furlong journey, and the Cotswolds crowd soon roared them into the lead.
However, another Elliott runner – Delta Work under Jack Kennedy – was soon accompanying them as the pair settled in for a duel up the home straight.
Tiger Roll led over the last, but Delta Work battled with him and, to the groans of the grandstands, overhauled him for a narrow win.
It was a typically gallant effort from Tiger Roll, even in defeat and he accompanied Delta Work on the walk to the winners’ enclosure, taking rapturous acclaim from the Cheltenham stands along the way.
Fond farewell for jumps great
Tiger Roll was having the 45th and final run of a career which started in 2014 and earned owner Michael O’Leary over £1.4 m in prize-money.
He won a Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2014 and added the four-mile National Hunt Chase in 2017.
In later years, he made the Cross Country race his own, winning in 2018, 2019 and 2021, whilst also finishing second on his farewell appearance and in 2020.
Afterwards, an emotional O’Leary paid tribute to his long-serving star, who is now set to head to his Gigginstown Stud for a relaxing retirement.
“I really would have loved to see Tiger go out on a win. It’s hard not to be disappointed. You’ve a winner at Cheltenham and I’m disappointed.
“It’s just a magical fairytale on ground that doesn’t suit him. He’s gone out on his shield, he’s a warrior and that’s a Gold Cup horse that has beat him and only just on ground he wouldn’t like.
“I’m actually upset – I would have loved to see him win it.”
“This is his send-off – he owes us nothing. He’s been wonderful to come back here for the six, seven, eight years.
“He’s been the horse of a lifetime and in many ways Cheltenham has been his spiritual home. He’s won five times here in Cheltenham. I know he’s won two Grand Nationals, but he started here in Cheltenham.
“To start off winning the Triumph Hurdle here as a four-year-old, then win the National Hunt Chase and three cross-country races, it’s incredible. He’s a legend.”
Horse of a lifetime
For trainer Elliott, Tiger Roll was once more acclaimed as the “horse of a lifetime” in his final run.
The Cullentra handler, who enjoyed a double at Cheltenham with Commander Of Fleet also a winner on Wednesday, said he’ll be “impossible to replace”.
“Tiger has been the horse of a lifetime and he’ll have a brilliant retirement now with Gigginstown and Michael.
“He’s been with us nine years and he’ll be impossible to replace. To be honest I had a tear in my eye at the reception he got, if he’d won it would have been unbelievable but I’m still delighted with him.
“Tiger has been a big part of my life, we love him. The reaction didn’t surprise me, it was very nice, but imagine what it would have been like had he won. He got the reaction he deserved. It was a great race and we’re very happy.