Tiger Roll will be sorely missed at Grand National after Cheltenham triumph

There will have been tears in the eyes of many horse racing fans as Tiger Roll charged up the home straight to victory in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. The 11-year-old has become one of the most famous racehorses of all time throughout the past five or six years, with victories galore at the Cheltenham Festival, and of course the Grand National, but this latest triumph looks set to be one of the last times we see Tiger Roll line up for starter’s orders.

The decision was made by Michael O’Leary a few weeks ago that, despite being among the top tips on every Grand National betting site, Tiger Roll would not take place in this year’s Grand National, with the owner citing the horse’s unfair handicap rating as the justification for Tiger Roll’s withdrawal. That came as sad news for racing fans who were desperate to see if the gelding could make it a memorable third successive victory in the Aintree showpiece.

And so, Tiger Roll’s beloved fans must make do with this latest exhibition of his enduring class and champion quality. Due to his poor form over the last year or so, many had expected Tiger Roll’s career to fade away rather than burn out, but this exquisite racehorse had other ideas. It was a rolling back of the years, as if Tiger Roll was acutely aware that this could well be his swansong, and the resulting performance was one of supreme dominance, dismantling the chances of last year’s winner Easysland, and romping home by a commanding 18 lengths.

For jockey Keith Donoghue, the emotions were almost too much to take, as the magnitude of the horse’s accomplishments over the years hit him after crossing the line. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this horse I wouldn’t be riding. Never underestimate the Tiger. We know the horse he is. He loved it and that’s the Tiger we see at home. He is just a legend.”

It’s a shame that we won’t see Tiger Roll lining out for one last crack at the Grand National, but O’Leary was quick to state that there would be no change in his decision despite his horse’s cracking success at Cheltenham. However, the airline chief said that there will be likely be more opportunities for the 11-year-old before he is retired.

“Aintree is off the agenda and we’ve no regrets about that,” O’Leary said. “He is rated the equal of our Gold Cup horse, Delta Work, and we know he’s not as good. “It’s going to be hard to retire him after that, and he loves racing in any case. Cross-country racing got this horse back after he had completely lost his way, but we’ll have to go [again] in a Grade One just to prove he has the wrong rating. He’s a cross-country horse, that’s what he is. Whatever we decide to do, and if he never wins another race, we will enjoy today.”

The Grand National, despite the clamour around its return this year, will feel somewhat empty without the familiar presence of Tiger Roll, a horse who always packed a bigger punch than his diminutive frame suggested he was capable of. We will always have the memories, but it feels like O’Leary’s decision represents an opportunity missed to give his horse the poignant send-off he deserves, in a race that he made his own for two successive years.

But never mind, because the lasting memory of Tiger Roll’s latter years will be that charge towards the finish-line at Cheltenham, and the adulation that came with it.

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