Cheltenham preview: Tiger Roll still in the mix as he chases sixth Festival victory

Tiger Roll will be in contention for a record-equalling sixth Cheltenham Festival victory in March.Tiger Roll will be in contention for a record-equalling sixth Cheltenham Festival victory in March.

Tiger Could Roll Back the Years in Cross Country

Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll has been a regular visitor to the Cheltenham Festival since winning the Triumph Hurdle as a four-year-old back in 2014. He gained a second festival victory in the National Hunt Chase in 2017 and has won the Cross Country Chase three times in the past four seasons. The twelve-year-old is on course to make a ninth festival appearance after a recent prep race over hurdles. We take a look at his prospects in an intriguing renewal of the Cross Country Chase on 16th March.

Elliott happy with Tiger Roll after Navan run

Tiger Roll booked his place in the history books with back-to-back Grand National victories in 2018 and 2019. The career of Gordon Elliott’s chaser since then has not been without controversy with debate over his weight for Aintree and talk of his possible retirement. He was beaten 17 lengths by Easysland in the 2020 Cross Country Chase but reversed the form completely last year when the licence was held by Mrs Denise Foster.

Tiger Roll made an appearance at Aintree last season but on the Mildmay course in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl instead of the Grand National. He ran very poorly that day and it was a similar story in the Many Clouds Chase on the same course in December. Elliott was much more encouraged by his recent run over hurdles at Navan, despite finishing over 30 lengths adrift in fourteenth place. Last season he was beaten almost twice as far prior to going to Cheltenham.

Bookmakers rate Tiger Roll a general 11-2 chance for the Cross Country Chase, dividing the two high profile French imports owned by JP McManus. 2020 winner Easysland is 8-1 but it is recent purchase Prengarde who heads the betting at 5-1.

Enda Bolger seeking sixth Cross Country Chase win

Prengarde was snapped up by McManus after five victories in his native France and was immediately promoted to market leader. He is now in the care of Enda Bolger, a specialist in this race with five previous victories. His latest victory was over three miles and three furlongs on heavy ground, he has never fallen and it’s easy to see why the Cross Country Chase would suit him.

Easysland was touted as a possible Grand National horse after his impressive 2020 victory. He has not been seen since last year’s defeat and has now been moved to Jonjo O’Neill’s stable. He has had his training problems and it remains to be seen whether O’Neill can get a run into him before Cheltenham. Shady Operator could also carry the green and gold of McManus, the winner of the Risk Of Thunder Chase at Punchestown in November.

France could still be represented by Ajas, a withdrawal from last season’s Grand National. He won the Troytown Chase and the Prix Murat at Auteuil last year. Rachael Blackmore was booked for the prestigious Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris in May but the combination could finish only seventh in very testing conditions.

Other possible contenders include Farclas, fifth in last season’s Grand National at Aintree. He is a stable companion of Tiger Roll along with Escaria Ten, a close third to Galvin in the National Hunt Chase last season. The Cross Country Chase looks set to be a very competitive affair this season and Tiger Roll will raise the roof if he can achieve a sixth festival triumph.