Tiger Roll returns to happy hunting ground
Elliott’s Grand National hero heads to Cheltenham for Cross Country Chase
Tiger Roll: bids to maintain his impressive record at Cheltenham on Friday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Gordon Elliott’s charge has packed a lot into his eight years to date, as he has also won at the Cheltenham festival three times – in three different races.
That shows his versatility, but he had looked in the doldrums before springing back to life in March, winning over the cross-country course before going on to write his name into the Aintree history books.
“He is only eight, which is hard to believe. He has been a great servant to the yard and has really taken to the cross-country jumps well. It is something to look forward to again with him,” said Elliott.
“This time last year he wasn’t easy to train. We had a few problems with him and I was scratching my head what route to go with him. We are looking forward to starting him off on Friday. I know it is a big ask off top weight. March [back at the festival] is the race we want to win.”
Elliott also runs the 13-year-old Bless The Wings, who also ran a fine race at Aintree to finish third.
Josies Orders, a three-time winner over the course and distance, represents Enda Bolger, with Peter Fahey’s Bay Of Freedom and the Gearóid O’Loughlin-trained Jarob also making the journey across the Irish sea.
Midnight Shot and Fact Of The Matter complete the seven-runner field.
The Steel Plate and Sections Novices’ Chase has an illustrious roll of honour, which includes Denman, Grands Crus and last year the ill-fated Finian’s Oscar. Seven promising types line up on this occasion, with Nicky Henderson running Jenkins, who is already a winner over fences, and Mr Whipped, who is making his chasing debut.
Colin Tizzard’s White Moon returns after a wind operation, while Jerrysback is having his first outing for over 600 days for Philip Hobbs. Count Meribel, Graasten and Le Breuil all have a win over fences to their name, with Ben Pauling hoping the latter fulfils his potential.
“I think he’s very nice, he couldn’t have jumped any better the other day and while there were only two of them, they went a good gallop and it looked a fair test,” said Pauling.
“It usually takes him a run to get fit, so he’ll come on massively for that, and if he puts in a nice round of jumping he could have a fair chance.
“Trying to give weight to a horse like Mr Whipped, if he’s on form, could prove tricky, but he’s always a horse I’ve thought a lot of and it’s nice to have a day he can prove how good he is.”
Pauling then gives a hurdling debut to Nestor Park in the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s a very nice horse, I wanted to run him at Exeter on Wednesday, but the ground was too quick. He hits the ground quite hard, so I will have to check the ground when I get there, but he’s a very able horse who I think a lot of.”
Jamie Snowden’s Double Treasure sets the standard, having finished second in the Persian War at Chepstow last time out. Henderson’s Pym, a beaten odds-on favourite at Ascot, is another to note.
Only seven go to post for the BetVictor Handicap Chase in which Pauling provides the top weight, A Hare Breath, who has won first time out in two of his three seasons with the trainer. His sole defeat came when a fine fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle at this meeting.
“He looks well handicapped even with top weight and he’s always very good first time out,” said Pauling.
“He’s in exceptional form at home, he’s just got to jump nicely and he didn’t have a nice experience in the Arkle there. He’s schooled well at home, though, and I’d like to hope he’ll run well.”
Doitforthevillage, winner of the race 12 months ago for Paul Henderson, is back off a 2lb higher mark, with Bun Doran and 2015 Galway Plate winner Shanahan’s Turn in the mix.