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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.”

Tiger Roll faces seven rivals in Boyne Hurdle

Dual Grand National victor Tiger Roll will tread a familiar path as he faces seven rivals in the Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle at Navan.

The 11-year-old won Sunday’s two-mile-five-furlong contest in 2019 before going on to Cheltenham Festival glory and then a second Aintree title.

Gordon Elliott also let his staying star tackle the Grade Two heat on his belated return last term, but he could finish only fifth to stablemate Cracking Smart – and was then soundly beaten in the Glenfarclas Chase at Cheltenham.

Tiger Roll has failed to shine in two starts this term, initially in a maiden on the Flat at this course, but he takes in this event on the way to another Festival challenge and possibly a third Aintree outing.

Tiger Roll with Gordon Elliott (left), and owner Michael O’Leary after his 2019 National win
Tiger Roll with Gordon Elliott (left), and owner Michael O’Leary after his 2019 National win (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott told his Betfair blog: “There’s nothing more that can be said about Tiger Roll. He’s an absolute legend, and it’s just very exciting to be back here again at this time of year with him as we look towards Cheltenham and Aintree.

“I know he was disappointing when he was last seen in action at Cheltenham in November, but I’m hoping we will see a different Tiger Roll here.

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“He’s been in very good form at home and looks to retain all his interest and enthusiasm, and he’s giving me all the right signs, so hopefully we will see it from him on the track for the first time this season.

“Obviously the focus for most people is not today but rather the future, and I understand completely, but we’ll just get this race out of the way first. He won’t be mad about the soft ground, but he’s run well on it before – and I’m just hoping that he produces a performance which shows me that the old spark is still there.”

Fury Road failed to sparkle at Christmas
Fury Road failed to sparkle at Christmas (Niall Carson/PA)

Elliott also saddles fellow Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner Fury Road, who is on a retrieval mission after suffering defeat when favourite for the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown last time.

Elliott added: “I don’t think we saw the best of Fury Road at Christmas when he was fourth to Flooring Porter, and I’m still to be convinced he is an out-and-out three-miler, and this sort of trip might turn out to be his optimum.

“Leopardstown aside, he has done very little wrong since he went hurdling last season, and his Albert Bartlett third last March is an especially strong piece of form.

“His Grade Two penalty won’t make life easy here, but he’s in great shape and comes here off a light season, and I’d like to think that he could take beating.”

Decor Irlandais is in opposition to Tiger Roll
Decor Irlandais is in opposition to Tiger Roll (Steven Paston/PA)

Gigginstown also has Noel Meade’s pair of Sixshooter and Beacon Edge in the line-up.

Decor Irlandais, Darasso, French Dynamite and Scarpeta complete the field.

Elliott’s Thyestes Chase hero Coko Beach is the star name in the opening Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free Ten Up Novice Chase.

The Grade Two heat has drawn five contenders – including Espanito Bello, who was beaten 18 lengths by Coko Beach on his latest start – and Elliott thinks his runner will take some beating.

He added: “He gave us a great day in Gowran last month when he won the Thyestes. He looked to really enjoy himself on both the testing ground and on his first try over that trip as a chaser.

“He is now switching from a handicap into a Graded race, but the performance he produced at Gowran and the way he won one of the big staying handicaps of the season would suggest a race like this could also fall his way. I think he will take beating.”

Last-time-out winners Minella Escape and Brazos feature among six declared for the Grade Three Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle, which has been rescheduled from Thursday’s abandoned meeting at Clonmel.