It’s looking like the end of an era. Having defined this generation with a plethora of memorable victories, Tiger Roll could be running for the last time at Cheltenham this year after Michael O’Leary pulled the legendary horse out of the Grand National.
The 12-year-old, who is certainly in the twilight of his racing career, will be a few days short of his 13th birthday by the time the festival rolls around.
He is hardly in the peak of his powers, but following what was described as ‘ridiculous’ ratings for his weight, Gigginstown House Stud boss O’Leary announced the Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll won’t be running in the Grand National — meaning his turnout at Cheltenham in the Cross Country Chase could prove to be his last.
He said: “Tiger Roll is now 12. He is clearly not as good as he was at eight or nine, yet the UK handicapper now rates him 2 lb higher than his 159 rating in April 2019, when he won both the Boyne Hurdle and the Grand National.
“This rating is absurd and unfair on a 12-year-old chaser. It is a pity that the handicapper won’t give Tiger Roll either a fair rating or a fair weight in the Grand National.”
It means the pressure will be on to deliver a final win in the Cross Country Chase — culminating his legacy with one final swansong.
He comes into the race as one of the favourites amongst the racing betting odds alongside French-bred Prengarde and David Cotton-trained Ajas.
Tiger Roll certainly comes into the Cross Country in some lukewarm form, but safe in the knowledge that he can deliver on the big stage. Despite his diminutive stature, the 12-year-old is a powerful runner, having won last year’s race with Denise Foster.
Elliott will be relishing the opportunity for one last race, in the middle of serving a six-month ban last Cheltenham, and with Keith Donoghue aboard, they can put the underwhelming runs in Navan and the Many Clouds Chase behind them.
Given his reputation at Cheltenham, there’s every chance Tiger Roll can deliver one last time. Having won a plethora of accolades, he boasts five wins to his name including the Triumph Hurdle, National Hunt Chase, and remarkably three wins in the Cross Country, with Easysland’s victory in 2020 the only blip on a perfect record at Prestbury Park in recent years.
While we’re still unsure what the future will hold for Tiger Roll, its’ certainly a shame he can’t have one last shot at equalling the record number of wins in the Grand National — set by Red Rum with three in the 1970s.
Next year would be the golden anniversary of his first triumph and it would have been interesting to see if Tiger Roll could have added his name to the history books by levelling Ginger McCain’s legendary champion.
Alas, it remains a tale of what ifs which is unfortunate considering the unpredictability of the big occasions — Tiger Roll would certainly have had a chance, but only time will tell what happens next.