This week Tiger Roll will attempt to win a record‐equalling sixth race at jump racing’s greatest meeting, The Cheltenham Festival.
Here we look at his astonishing rise to jumping stardom.
When Sheikh Mohammed’s then chief bloodstock advisor John Ferguson raised his hand at
Tattersalls auction house with the bid at £73,500, a career in the Godolphin blue beckoned for the unnamed son of Derby winner Authorized.
After failing to make the track Tiger Roll was discarded three years later by the powerful operation and snapped up for just £10,000 by Devon jumps trainer Nigel Hawk.
It was money well spent as, just three months after buying him, he won on his hurdles debut at Market Rasen in November 2013.
Tiger Roll had taken his first step towards becoming a jumping legend.
That wasn’t to be with Nigel, himself a Grand National‐winning jockey, as he was cashed in for
£80,000 with Mags O’Toole picking up the tab on behalf of Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud.
The juvenile hurdler, with just one run behind him, joined Gordon Elliott’s burgeoning stable in Co Meath, Ireland.
He wasted no time in sending him to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle. Although he didn’t win, his second behind Guitar Pete booked his first trip to the Cheltenham Festival.
Hitting The Big Time
The Triumph Hurdle – the top prize for juvenile hurdlers – beckoned for Tiger Roll.
It was a happy coincidence the Grade 1 contest was to take place on 14 March 2014 ‐ his fourth birthday.
A decent field was assembled with Guitar Pete also in the field is well as Broughton, trained by the same John Ferguson who had bought him as a foal.
Ridden by Davy Russell for the first time, Tiger Roll cruised through the race and was delivered with a well‐timed run approaching the final flight of hurdles.
He came clear of Kentucky Hyden and Guitar Pete to spark Tiger Roll’s birthday celebrations in style.
His name was there on the roll of honour for all to see alongside the likes of Champion Hurdlers Kribensis and Katchit, as well Irish Grand National hero Commanche Court.
It was hard to know what the future held for the latest Triumph Hurdle winner. His pedigree hardly hinted at a staying chaser and he certainly wasn’t built for it.
When he disappointed at the Punchestown Festival it raised the question whether Tiger Roll might have just been a flash in Cheltenham’s sizzling‐hot pan.
The Drop Off and Comeback
Life is often tough for hurdlers in the season after their juvenile campaigns.
Tiger Roll found it very tough. After returning to Cheltenham in the October following his Triumph Hurdle win, he failed to register another win that season.
He then missed ten months before returning with a promising Flat run and two poor hurdles efforts at the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals.
It looked like Tiger Roll had enjoyed his finest hour and was destined for a career in racing’s backwaters.
After all, he wasn’t exactly built for chasing. Luckily, that did not stop him being sent over fences.
He had already had ten chase starts when he arrived at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival for the National Hunt Chase – a race nearly twice as far as the Triumph Hurdle.
Despite making numerous blunders he stayed on his feet under amateur jockey Lisa O’Neill and came home to win the Festival’s longest race.
Already the following year’s Grand National seemed a feasible target for this remarkable little horse.
Aintree and Cheltenham Legend
With two Cheltenham Festival victories already behind him, Tiger Roll arrived at the home of jumping racing in March 2018 for the meeting’s only Cross Country Chase.
Run over the unique obstacles on the inside of the main track, it looked like Gordon Elliott was using it as a prep race for the Grand National.
It was the same route the trainer had used for Silver Birch when he landed the great Aintree prize as a total unknown back in 2007.
It was some prep race as Tiger Roll battled on deny French challenger Urgent De Gregaine for his third Festival victory.
A month later that obvious will‐to‐win came to the fore again on the lung‐busting Aintree run‐in when he clung on to victory from fast‐finishing Pleasant Company by a head to land his first Grand National.
The following year, in 2019, it was a whole lot easier. His 22‐length Cross Country Chase romp was scintillating and the defence of his Aintree crown could not have gone to plan any better.
Cruising around the world‐famous course, he never looked like getting beat as he became the first horse since Red Rum more than 40 years earlier to win a second Grand National.
There was to be no crack at a record‐equalling third National but he did attempt to win a third Cross Country Chase in 2020. It ended in a surprise defeat to French star Easysland but Tiger Roll set that record straight last year when way too good for his younger rival.
It was a fifth Cheltenham Festival victory and ensured his place among the greatest horses to grace jump racing’s biggest stage.
The Last Hurrah
Tiger Roll will head to this year’s Festival as a 12‐year‐old approaching the end of his career.
It will be eight years since he was first cheered into the famous winners’ enclosure following his Triumph Hurdle victory.
He will attempt to join a most exclusive club when he lines up with a fourth Cross Country Chase in his sights.
If successful, it will be his sixth Cheltenham Festival victory – a feat only achieved by Quevega.
It could well be a last hurrah as his owner has already ruled out another trip to Aintree so this week could be last chance for racing fans to glimpse a true jumping legend.
In a sport where longevity and determination is held in the highest regard, it’s little wonder Tiger Roll has been taken to the hearts of jump racing’s passionate supporters.
For one last time, he is set to thrill them all at the Cheltenham Festival once again.
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