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Tiger Roll team left deflated as Kingswell Theatre springs Cheltenham surprise

Connections of Tiger Roll were left fearing age may have caught up with the dual Grand National hero, who was pulled up in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase as Kingswell Theatre made all for a shock success.

The Cheltenham feature was billed as a rematch between Tiger Roll and Easysland – his conqueror at the Festival in March.

However, from an early stage Tiger Roll never looked happy, with Robbie Power, riding Gordon Elliott’s charge for the first time, niggling along on the first circuit and eventually pulling him up just after halfway.

Power said: “He was never travelling and he never had a cut at any of his fences.

“I pulled him up as he was in no sort of rhythm.”

Robbie Power and Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up
Robbie Power and Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for Tiger Roll’s owners, Gigginstown House stud, said: “Obviously it’s disappointing, but I’d say it is age catching up with him a little bit and that might be the first sign of it.

“He didn’t seem to be enjoying it and he was never travelling that well. That was a very poor run and we will have to see how he is. I hope he is OK, that is the main thing. We will get him back and regroup and see what happens.

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“His rating will have to be readjusted, it’s crazy. It always has been crazy, but now it’s completely crazy. Of course you would (retire him if he runs like that again).

“That was a very bad run and of course you would consider it, but he seems happy and Gordon was happy to go over there. The fire still seems to be lit, but that was a very poor run. If he ran that bad again you would be definitely pulling up stumps.”

Easysland could not repeat his Cheltenham Festival performance
Easysland could not repeat his Cheltenham Festival performance (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Easysland travelled well enough until the final half a mile when he was unable to quicken and he crossed the line in fifth, as Michael Scudamore’s Kingswell Theatre (22-1) repeated his victory from three years ago.

Racing from 18lb out of the handicap, Kingswell Theatre stayed on strongly for Tom Scudamore to beat Beau Du Brizais by five lengths, with Welsh National winner Potters Corner running on encouragingly into third.

Jason Kiely, travelling head lad for Easysland’s trainer David Cottin, said: “He had a lot of weight on that ground first time out.

“He made a mistake halfway through the race and he just got tired in the end. He didn’t want to force him to do anything serious.

“He’ll be fine and we’ll look ahead to the next day.”

Of the winner, a proud Michael Scudamore said: “He just loves it round here. It has probably fallen apart. The top two haven’t turned up for whatever reason and his experience has probably counted. What a wonderful old horse, to have done it three years ago and to still come back and love the game as much as ever.

“Without being rude to the horse, he is so slow and the grade he has got to in those staying races they seem to go so fast early he can’t get a position and he just gives up, whereas round here he is given that bit of time and room.

“He is so economical with his jumping. It’s not about being flash around here. He never gets an inch higher than he has to and he knows how to get away with these hedges and things. We will have a chat with the owner as he is 11 now. He has had a wonderful day today and we will see what we want to do from here or if retirement is the best thing.

“We will see. In some ways it would lovely to finish on a note like this. We will get him back have a chat and see how he is. If he is fit and well, we could look at these sorts of races.”

Christian Williams was equally happy with Potters Corner.

The Welsh trainer said: “I’m very happy. He ran over hurdles first time last year and pulled up, then he disappointed again then he won so it probably takes a run or two (to get fit).

“I’d be surprised if he was fully fit there. We will do similar in December. I would have thought we will stick to this, but we will speak to the owners.

“I would have thought that would have suited better than the Welsh National. This (cross-country) could be the route we go down.

“I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t step forward from here to December and from December to March and that will be the main aim. It will be a better prep for the Grand National than the Welsh National.”

Tiger Roll pulled up at Cheltenham, as Kingswell Theatre shines

Kingswell Theatre made every yard of the running to win the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase in which Tiger Roll was pulled up.

The Cheltenham feature was billed as a rematch between dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll and Easysland – his conqueror at the Festival in March.

However, from an early stage Tiger Roll never looked happy, with Robbie Power, riding Gordon Elliott’s charge for the first time, niggling along on the first circuit and eventually pulling him up just after halfway.

Power said: “He was travelling and he never had a cut at any of his fences.

“I pulled him up as he was in no sort of rhythm.”

Robbie Power riding Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up
Robbie Power riding Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Easysland travelled well enough until the final half a mile when he was unable to quicken and he crossed the line in fifth, as Michael Scudamore’s Kingswell Theatre (22-1) repeated his victory from three years ago.

Racing from 18lb out of the handicap, Kingswell Theatre stayed on strongly for Tom Scudamore to beat Beau Du Brizais by five lengths, with Welsh National winner Potters Corner running on encouragingly into third.

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Jason Kiely, travelling head lad for Easysland trainer David Cottin, said: “He had a lot of weight on that ground first time out.

“He made a mistake halfway through the race and he just got tired in the end. He didn’t want to force him to do anything serious.

“He’ll be fine and we’ll look ahead to the next day.”

Of the winner, a proud Michael Scudamore said: “He just loves it round here. It has probably fallen apart. The top two haven’t turned up for whatever reason and his experience has probably counted. What a wonderful old horse, to have done it three years ago and to still come back and love the game as much as ever.

“Without being rude to the horse, he is so slow and the grade he has got to in those staying races they seem to go so fast early he can’t get a position and he just gives up, whereas round here he is given that bit of time and room.

“He is so economical with his jumping. It’s not about being flash around here. He never gets an inch higher than he has to and he knows how to get away with these hedges and things. We will have a chat with the owner as he is 11 now. He has had a wonderful day today and we will see what we want to do from here or if retirement is the best thing.

“We will see. In some ways it would lovely to finish on a note like this. We will get him back have a chat and see how he is. If he is fit and well, we could look at these sorts of races.”

Christian Williams said of Potters Corner: “I’m very happy. He ran over hurdles first time last year and pulled up, then he disappointed again then he won so it probably takes a run or two (to get fit).

“I’d be surprised if he was fully fit there. We will do similar in December. I would have thought we will stick to this, but we will speak to the owners.

“I would have thought that would have suited better than the Welsh National. This (cross-country) could be the route we go down.

“I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t step forward from here to December and from December to March and that will be the main aim. It will be a better prep for the Grand National than the Welsh National.”

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for Tiger Roll’s owners, Gigginstown House stud, said: “Obviously it’s disappointing, but I’d say it is age catching up with him a little bit and that might be the first sign of it.

“He didn’t seem to be enjoying it and he was never travelling that well. That was a very poor run and we will have to see how he is. I hope he is OK, that is the main thing. We will get him back and regroup and see what happens.

“His rating will have to be readjusted, it’s crazy. It always has been crazy, but now it’s completely crazy. Of course you would (retire him if he runs like that again).

“That was a very bad run and of course you would consider it, but he seems happy and Gordon was happy to go over there. The fire still seems to be lit, but that was a very poor run. If he ran that bad again you would be definitely pulling up stumps.”

Easysland and Tiger Roll face off again at Cheltenham

All eyes at Cheltenham on Friday will be on the eagerly-awaited rematch between Easysland and Tiger Roll in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase.

Gordon Elliott’s dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll was denied the chance of joining Red Rum as a three-time winner of the Aintree spectacular by the coronavirus pandemic, but has an equally excellent record over the cross-country course at Prestbury Park.

However, he had no answer to emerging star Easysland in March when they raced off level weights – and on this occasion the French raider carries 4lb less.

Robbie Power has come in for the ride on Tiger Roll – with Keith Donoghue, who would have been on board, staying in Ireland rather than sitting out 14 days in isolation on his return.

“It’s great to get the call-up for him, but it’s very unfortunate for Keith Donoghue that the restrictions in place over in Ireland meant he would have had to isolate for 14 days if he came,” said Gold Cup-winning rider Power, now based in Britain.

“Keith’s having a really good run at the moment, so he couldn’t justify losing 14 days. It’s a great spare for me to pick up, though, and I’m really looking forward to it.

“His main objective will be Cheltenham in March and Aintree in April, but this is a path he’s taken before – so if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. He’ll probably have another run over hurdles somewhere after this before the Festival.

“Obviously he faces a very tough task having to give 4lb to Easysland, who beat him at level weights back in March, but I know Gordon is very happy with him.

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“I’ll be having a good chat with Keith and I’ll be doing whatever he tells me to.”

Tiger Roll does at least have the advantage of having a recent run on the Flat, while Easysland has not been out since his victory at the big meeting in the spring.

He is trained by former champion jockey David Cottin for owner JP McManus, and the Grand National is his ultimate aim this season.

“After Cheltenham he went and had a break in Ireland – and when we got him back from Ireland, David was thrilled with him, because he felt he had really filled out,” said Cottin’s partner and assistant, Amanda Zetterholm.

“He hadn’t grown, because he’s never going to be a big horse, but he’s really strengthened up.

“He’s working to a good level, but this is not going to be his main objective, obviously – so we’re looking to build towards the Cheltenham Festival in March and then hopefully the Grand National.

“We don’t know yet if he’s going to go for the Grand Cross at Pau, there’s no decision yet – it depends how it will fit in as preparation for the Grand National.

“It obviously is up to the owner what they want to do this year, but so far the plan is the Cross Country at Cheltenham and the National.”

Also involved is Christian Williams’ Potters Corner, last season’s Welsh National winner who also has the distinction of winning the Virtual Grand National – which was held in absence of the real thing in April.

Potters Corner, trained in Wales, was a very popular winner of the Welsh National
Potters Corner, trained in Wales, was a very popular winner of the Welsh National (David Davies/PA)

Williams said: “Potters Corner is in great form.

“He schooled well over the cross-country fences at the track a couple of weeks ago.

“We are targeting the race as we are just trying to give him a different avenue. He’ll be 11 come January, and there are only a certain amount of Nationals you can run in before they take their toll.

“Introducing the cross-country route with him this season will hopefully give us a bit more longevity. This could help get another season or two out of him, and I am optimistic he will enjoy it.

“Instead of having to constantly run in Nationals, the cross-country route might mean he can also go to places like France and run in races like that.

“He is being thrown straight into the lions’ den, with both Easysland and Tiger Roll in opposition, but everything we have asked of him he has duly obliged.

“The Aintree Grand National remains the main aim, and we are looking forward to getting his season started.”