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Beacon edges Boyne Hurdle as Tiger Roll trails home

Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll remains on course for the Cheltenham Festival despite finishing a tailed-off last of six runners behind Beacon Edge in the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle at Navan.

A surprise winner of this Grade Two contest two years ago before going on to seal his second success at Aintree a couple of months later, Tiger Roll returned to Navan on a recovery mission following a disappointing start to his season around Cheltenham’s cross-country course.

However, while the 11-year-old travelled strongly for much of the two-mile-five-furlong journey under Keith Donoghue, he weakened out of contention early in the home straight and finished some 48 lengths behind the fifth placed Decor Irlandais.

Tiger Roll in action at Navan on Sunday
Tiger Roll in action at Navan on Sunday (Niall Carson/PA)

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Trainer Gordon Elliott was not too disappointed as he felt conditions were against his runner, who is now set to head for the Glenfarclas Chase at the Festival next month.

Elliott said: “Keith said he travelled well to the third last, in horrible ground, and just got tired.

“It’s still all systems go for Cheltenham. Keith said he was happy with him, but he just got tired in the ground. He’ll be OK.

“Of course you want him to run better, but he hated that ground.”

At the business end of proceedings, it was the other two Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners who fought out the finish.

Tiger Roll’s stablemate Fury Road was the 11-8 favourite in the hands of Jack Kennedy and cut out much of the running before being joined by the Noel Meade-trained Beacon Edge (15-8) and Sean Flanagan after the final obstacle.

No quarter was given by either horse or jockey after the final flight, but it was Beacon Edge who pushed ahead where it mattered to prevail by a neck.

Meade said of the winner: “He had a colic at Christmas and he spent nearly a week in Kildare. Even though we thought he was at the time, he just wasn’t himself on his last run at Naas.

“He’s a fair horse. I wondered about him getting the trip, but he stays.

“Michael (O’Leary, owner) had it in his head that he’d go to Liverpool (Aintree) for the two-and-a-half-mile race (Aintree Hurdle), but he is in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. We have Diol Ker for that as well and we’ll see what turns up in it.”

Meade lines up Hatton’s Grace for Beacon Edge

Noel Meade is keen to have a crack at next month’s Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse with his improving youngster Beacon Edge.

Denied a run at any of the spring festivals because of the pandemic, Beacon Edge has returned to action early this season and already has two wins on the board.

The most recent came in Grade Three company at Galway from two well-regarded types, and Meade feels he has earned a step up in class on November 29.

“I’m keen on the Hatton’s Grace – because it was either that or the Lismullen, but I think the Lismullen comes up just a little quick,” said Meade.

“Running in the Hatton’s Grace will also give us a chance to find out exactly where we are.

“I’ve always thought a lot of this horse. He’d won a bumper for Nicky Richards at Ayr, and then Eddie (O’Leary, Gigginstown Stud racing manager) bought him from the Cheltenham sale for me.

“We ran him in two winners’ bumpers in Leopardstown and Punchestown but we probably didn’t make enough use of him, he stayed on well.”

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Meade added: “He won his maiden hurdle, and I wanted him to go to Cheltenham, but Michael (O’Leary) wanted him to go to Liverpool. I even rang Michael the day the horses were leaving for Cheltenham – but Michael said ‘what part of no don’t you understand’, so he didn’t go!

“Of course Liverpool and Punchestown were then off. He did have two runs at home – he was beaten a nose at Naas and a neck at Navan, but they were over two miles, and he wants further.

“I think he’s done well over the summer and he was impressive at Galway the other day – but I don’t know what he beat.”

Another youngster in the Gigginstown colours Meade has high hopes for is Diol Ker, who had some classy hurdles form to his name but fell on his recent chasing debut.

Diol Ker fell on his chasing debut but Noel Meade still rates him highly
Diol Ker fell on his chasing debut, but Noel Meade still rates him highly (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “Diol Ker is ok. (Jockey) Sean (Flanagan) felt he was just too fresh.

“He’d been jumping very well at home. He’s a nice horse – he beat Willie’s who won the three-miler at Cheltenham (Monkfish) on his only run last season and then had a small setback.

“I’ve always thought jumping fences would suit him better, but that was a bad way to start. Because of covid, you can’t take them to a track to school – which is a shame.

“He wants a trip. I’d be hoping he’ll be running in the three-miler at Cheltenham by the end of the season.”

This year’s Ladbrokes Troytown Chase at Navan comes a little earlier in the season than normal, but it is a race Meade tries to target, and he has won it twice with Heist and Tout Est Permis.

He has three entries this year in Cap York, Brace Yourself and Valdieu.

“I’m chairman at Navan, so that’s one reason I love to have winners there, but I am only six or seven miles away,” he said.

“We’ve been lucky enough to win it a couple of times.

“We’ve three entered, but the most likely runner is probably Brace Yourself. I think three miles will be right up his alley, and his run at Galway won’t have done him any harm.”

Of course, entries for races like the Troytown these days are dominated by Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott – and while Meade counts them both as friends, he admits the days of him adding to his seven champion trainer titles look over for the foreseeable future.

“It’s extremely difficult, but I’ve always said training horses isn’t the most difficult part of the game – it’s getting the horses,” he said.

“It’s a bit like being a jockey – if you’re winning races you get on better horses. Usually what happens is those who win in the sale win on the track. But you’ve got to be successful on the track to get the people to buy horses.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen or will see Willie’s like again. He’s done things with horses the great Vincent (O’Brien) would struggle with. He takes them to Japan, Australia, everywhere – phenomenal.

“Gordon has been phenomenal since he started, and I’m lucky enough to call both of them my friends. Gordon has a fantastic brain – he’s very dedicated to winning the championship and races, and Willie is the same. You have to be like that.

“When you are not chasing the championship as hard it’s easier. When you were chasing it, the minute the season was over you wanted to get going again, but it took quite a bit out of you and you don’t enjoy it as much.

“It’s not that I don’t want to win all the time – of course I do – but when you chase the championship it puts an awful lot of pressure on you.”

Beacon Edge sets up Hatton’s Grace bid with Galway triumph

Beacon Edge confirmed himself a smart prospect with victory in the Marlin Hotel Dublin, Supporting The National Breast Cancer Institute Hurdle at Galway.

Trained by Noel Meade and sent off the 10-11 favourite for the Grade Three contest, the Sean Flanagan-ridden six-year-old tracked the mare Minella Melody for much of the journey, with the pace hotting up going to two out.

The market principals jumped it almost together, but by the final flight the Meade runner had taken command.

Flanagan was able to coast home after the last, with the margin of victory four and three-quarter lengths over Minella Melody, whose only previous defeat over hurdles had been when favourite for the mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned winner is now set to tackle Grade One company at Fairyhouse, as Meade explained.

He said: “From the first day he arrived in the yard we’ve just loved him.

“Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) thought he should stay over hurdles and I was happy to agree. He’s more than justified the decision now.

“They didn’t go much of a gallop there, but Sean said he was cantering at all stages.

“The Hatton’s Grace looks the obvious race for him and we’ll see how it’ll work.”

The Tu Va handler also reported his earlier faller on the card, Diol Ker, none the worse: “He seems OK and Sean said he was just too fresh.

“With the whole Covid thing we hadn’t got him away. Ideally we’d have brought him to Navan or somewhere for a school.”