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Tiger Roll: the key moments in his outstanding and unbelievable career


Originally posted by Racing Post on 16 February 2020 by James Stevens

'Everyone loves him. He's a little like myself. He likes the good life. He eats, sleeps and drinks. He wants to win. He's the people's horse.'

As Tiger Roll begins his seventh season in today's Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle at Navan, James Stevens looks back at the phenomenal career of the brilliant Gigginstown star.

November 10, 2013: classy newcomer
Bought by Nigel Hawke for £10,000 when sold by Darley, Tiger Roll quickly made a name for himself as a shrewd buy when winning at Market Rasen.

Although he idled that day, his class was evident and he was subsequently bought by Gigginstown for £80,000. He has already returned a profit of £1.3 million for his powerful owners.

March 14, 2014: Tiger's Triumph
Tiger Roll went to his first Cheltenham Festival with decent each-way claims but very quickly made a name for himself in the 2014 Triumph Hurdle.

Sneaking into the race behind the leaders, he always travelled like the winner as he eased into the lead but showed his toughness – something the Cheltenham crowd have become accustomed to – to hold off Kentucky Hyden.

Gordon Elliott said after the race: "I got the horse by accident at the Brightwells sale here in November – there was another horse I wanted the day he was bought and there was a big row on the night."

May 1, 2015: He is "going nowhere"
Like the fate endured by so many Triumph winners, Tiger Roll struggled to cut it at the top level the following season. He scored once, winning at the October meeting at Cheltenham, before being well beaten on his next six starts.

After his 36-length defeat in the four-runner Punchestown Champion Hurdle the Racing Post analysis read: "Tiger Roll looks to be going nowhere." We know now hurdle races over the minimum trip is the polar opposite of what he wants.

May 31, 2016: Back in business at Ballinrobe
As soon as Tiger Roll crossed the line on his chase debut, it was obvious that was the direction in which his career was heading. His jumping was generally very impressive – bar a few mistakes – and he ran out a comfortable eight-length winner of Ballinrobe's beginners' chase.

But Gordon Elliott was far from certain that Tiger Roll would go on to become a sensation over fences. He said after the win: "I'm not sure if he can get back to his Triumph Hurdle form but that was good."

October 9, 2016: The Munster surprise
Tiger Roll had a busy summer in 2016 with his Munster National win his eighth start in 70 days. He was sent off at odds of 20-1 but won in the fashion you would expect of an odds-on favourite.

His preparation was straightforward. He did not want to run on his previous start over jumps – described by David Jennings as "enthusiastic as a child heading to the dentist" – while his trainer did not even want to run.

Elliott revealed: "I wanted to take him out this morning. All the credit has to go to Eddie [O'Leary, Gigginstown's racing manager]. I was mad keen to take him out because of the ground, but then it dried and he wanted him to run. He was right and I was wrong. Fair play to him."

March 14, 2017: Tiger's love of Cheltenham rolls on
If racing fans were not aware of Tiger Roll, they were after this win. Not many Flat-bred horses can translate their form over jumps and very few in races over four miles.

Under Lisa O'Neill, Tiger Roll jumped for fun in the National Hunt Chase and stamped his class to land a second Cheltenham Festival win.

She said after the race: "Tiger Roll is a brilliant horse to have at home and he loved it today. I was wondering whether he'd finish it out, but he did. I think he was taking the mickey out of me because he was loving it so much."

March 18, 2018: the Cross Country king
By now Cheltenham loved Tiger Roll and Tiger Roll loved Cheltenham as he was roared home when winning the Cross Country Chase.

His regular rider and biggest fan, Keith Donoghue lost 8lb to be able to ride him and it paid off. He jumped boldly throughout and moved with ease before the pair dug deep to hold Urgent De Gregaine by two lengths. It was a simply perfect performance.

Tiger Roll joined a very select group of horses to have won at each of the three Cheltenham courses.

April 14, 2018: Aintree ace
If Cheltenham was spectacular, then Aintree was brave. Tiger Roll went into the Grand National as one of the leading players and did not disappoint.

Again he jumped strongly, racing in a prominent position before striding into the lead after the last. He gave backers a bit of scare when almost coming to a halt in the final 50 yards but was able to narrowly repel the challenge of Pleasant Company.

Gigginstown's owner Michael O'Leary gave a memorable quote: "Some people don't think I have a heart but I can tell you it was beating very hard and very fast for the last 100 yards of that race."

February 19, 2019: Boyne Hurdle brilliance
Tiger Roll has enjoyed plenty of surprise wins but none more than his remarkable triumph in Navan's Boyne Hurdle 12 months ago. He was sent off 25-1 in the Grade 2 event but won in scintillating fashion, proving he was primed to defend his crowns at Cheltenham and Aintree.

Once again, he shocked his trainer: "I thought he and Cracking Smart would have been second-last and last, so it's a nice surprise!"

March 13, 2019: Tiger roars at Cheltenham again
It takes a lot for a horse to grab the headlines from a superstar Champion Chase winner like Altior but this was a performance that racing fans will remember forever.

Whether it was the fact his price of 5-4 was far too tempting, or just how popular he was, he made Prestbury Park feel electric. He jumped and travelled with his usual exuberance but as they turned in it turned into a demolition.

Roared home by a packed-out festival crowd he sluiced home by an imperious 22 lengths. The victory will be remembered as arguably one of the best performances in festival history.

An elated Elliott said: "He looked as good as he's ever been, he was unbelievable and I feel very lucky to have him."

April 6, 2019: Tiger becomes a National treasure
It may have taken 45 years to see a horse successfully defend the Grand National, but Tiger Roll made it more than worthwhile.

Well punted at 4-1 and with, it seems, all punters behind him, he was almost impossible to spot throughout the race with Davy Russell just slotting himself in the pack. But when the pair emerged they moved with menace and soon Tiger Roll breezed into the lead and powered clear to make history.

Elliott described him: "Everyone loves him. He's a little like myself. He likes the good life. He eats, sleeps and drinks. He wants to win. He's the people's horse."

This remains his career-defining moment, but perhaps he can rewrite the history books at Aintree in April once again.