Posts

Tiger ready to Roll in hunt for Glenfarclas Chase hat-trick

Tiger Roll will bid to reclaim his crown and become the first three-time winner of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

The 11-year-old claimed the prize in 2018 and 2019, but last season’s attempt at a third consecutive win was foiled by the French-trained Easysland.

Defeated by a conclusive 17 lengths, Tiger Roll has been beaten by similarly wide margins since and was pulled up when contesting the handicap chase run over the same cross-country course at Cheltenham’s November meeting.

Now campaigned by Denise Foster after the suspension of Gordon Elliott, the dual Grand National hero will cross paths with Easysland again at Cheltenham – where he is a four-time Festival winner – and is reported to be in fine fettle ahead of the contest.

Tiger Roll (right) schooling over Cheltenham's cross country fence ahead of his run the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase on Wednesday
Tiger Roll (right) schooling over Cheltenham’s cross country fence ahead of his run the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase on Wednesday (David Davies/PA)

“Keith (Donoghue, jockey) rang after schooling Tiger Roll this morning and tells me he’s in great form,” Foster said.

“He seemed in super form at home before he left.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“I watched him last week and he was very bullish in himself, which is hopefully a good sign.

“The truth is only Tiger really knows how he’s feeling, but he obviously likes Cheltenham and Keith seems very happy with him.”

On the same card is a notably competitive renewal of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, with Willie Mullins seemingly well positioned to take an 11th victory in the Grade One race.

Kilcruit ridden by Patrick Mullins after the Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H. Flat Race during day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse
Kilcruit ridden by Patrick Mullins after the Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H. Flat Race during day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse (Niall Carson/PA)

Kilcruit heads the market after a commanding victory at Leopardstown last month, where he was completely unchallenged as he cruised to an easy 12-length success.

“Kilcruit put up a huge performance at the Dublin Racing Festival and I was very pleased,” Mullins said of the run.

“I was gobsmacked actually at how well he won on the day, and I’m hoping he can put a similar kind of performance in at Cheltenham.”

Mullins will also saddle the undefeated Sir Gerhard, who joined his yard earlier in the month from Elliott.

“Sir Gerhard is a fine horse,” he said of the Cheveley Park-owned gelding.

“His form looks very good and he looks like he could be anything, as he’s got all the qualities of a good horse.

“It’s going to be very tough changing stables so soon before the race, but we’ll see what we can do.”

Paul Nicholls will be hoping for a first success in the contest as he sends out Shearer, a five-year-old son of Flemensfirth.

The gelding was last seen triumphing by nine lengths in a bumper at Warwick, before which he was beaten by just a head on his racecourse debut.

“Shearer is a very nice horse,” Nicholls said.

“He was named after Alan Shearer and I know Alan has followed him.

“He just got beaten on his debut at Hereford and then won well at Warwick on ground that was far too testing for him.

“He’s had a nice break and has improved, he definitely deserves to take his chance.”

Felix de Giles looking forward to teaming up with Easysland at Cheltenham

Felix de Giles is hoping the sacrifice of having to go into quarantine to ride Easysland in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase will be rewarded with victory at the Cheltenham Festival.

De Giles, who has been based in France for the last five years, is delighted to have picked up the plum mount – although it does mean has to serve five days in quarantine both sides of his one day at the biggest jumps meeting of them all.

Easysland, owned by JP McManus, will be one of the bankers of the entire week, despite a below-par effort over the course and distance in November.

The seven-year-old, trained by David Cottin, is hot favourite at 11-10 to repeat last year’s victory, when he put paid to Tiger Roll’s bid to take the race for the third year running, beating the dual Grand National hero by 17 lengths.

Easysland goes for back-to-back victories at the Cheltenham Festival
Easysland goes for back-to-back victories at the Cheltenham Festival (Simon Cooper/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

“I’ve ridden him once before and I’ve won on him at Compiegne. I was meant to ride the stable’s other horse called Ajas. He doesn’t run now, so they decided to put me on to Easysland,” said De Giles.

“David Cottin’s horses have been a bit ill recently, but some of them are starting to come back to form.

“I schooled him the other day. He seems in good order and everything went as planned. Hopefully Easysland travels over nicely and he can give a good account of himself.

“I might have a ride in the Coral Cup for Christian and Sophie Leech, just the two on the Wednesday as far as I know, and then I will have to head straight back to France in the evening.

David Cottin (right) receives his prize with owner JP McManus after Easysland's win at Cheltenham last year
David Cottin (right) receives his prize with owner JP McManus after Easysland’s win at Cheltenham last year (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I’ve got to come over and quarantine beforehand, but I’m hoping it’s going to be a decision that pays off.

“I’ve got to do five days quarantine in England and then five back in France on my return, so it could be quite costly if the horse doesn’t win!”

De Giles, brother of Herefordshire trainer Ed, is no stranger to success at the Cheltenham Festival, having won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on Andytown for his then boss Nicky Henderson in 2009.

Jockey Felix de Giles collects his trophy from retired trainer Martin Pipe after his victory on Andytown at the Festival in 2009
Jockey Felix de Giles collects his trophy from retired trainer Martin Pipe after his victory on Andytown at the Festival in 2009 (David Jones/PA)

“It was a long time back. I’ve had a second and third at the Festival since, so it would be nice to get my head back in front again,” said De Giles.

“It’s going fine. It’s a bit quiet at the moment, but it’s been good since I came over.”

David Cottin planning dual assault on Glenfarclas contest

Last year’s winner Easysland is set to be joined by stablemate Ajas in the Glenfarclas Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The JP McManus-owned Easysland produced one of the most impressive performances of the meeting last season, when beating four-times Festival winner and dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll by 17 lengths in the cross-country race.

The seven-year-old could only finish fourth on his latest visit to the Cotswolds in November, but is reported to be in rude health by trainer David Cottin, who also plans to saddle potential Grand National contender Ajas.

“Easysland is in good form before the Festival. I’m very happy with him and he’ll go there fit and ready,” Cottin told thejockeyclub.co.uk.

“Ajas will also run, as I think it will be a good prep for him in view to the Grand National.

“It’s been a good stepping-stone for Tiger Roll in the past, so I think this is the ideal option for him too.

“Ajas is a very good horse. It’ll be interesting to see him run over a bit of distance and in a race with pace.

“I think he’ll adapt well as he’s easy to ride and respects his fences.”

Easysland swerves Cheltenham outing on Friday

Easysland will not attempt back-to-back victories in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Friday.

The six-year-old, trained in France by David Cottin, was surprisingly beaten on his seasonal debut when only fourth to Kingswell Theatre over the course and distance last month.

He was odds-on favourite that day despite the presence of Tiger Roll, having beaten the dual Grand National hero comprehensively at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

It looked as if Easysland, owned by JP McManus, was going to return the Cotswolds for the race he won by seven lengths 12 months ago. However, Cottin is disappointed their horse would meet the first three that day – Kingswell Theatre, Beau De Brizais and Potters Corner – on worse terms, although an unsatisfactory scope means Potters Corner also misses the race.

Celebrations for the Easysland team at Cheltenham in March
Celebrations for the Easysland team at Cheltenham in March (Simon Cooper/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

Cottin said: “Firstly let me report that Easysland is fit and well, and I am very happy with the horse.

“Unfortunately this weekend we won’t be going to Cheltenham to run in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase as I found it disappointing that the handicapper should see fit that we would meet the winner on 4lb worse terms despite being beaten by nine lengths, the second who beat us by four lengths, also on 4lb worse terms and the third horse on 1lb worse terms.

“Disappointed not to be going to Cheltenham this weekend, as it has been on his programme for the year and while his handicap mark was left at 167 which I have no difficulty with.

“It is hard to understand that we are to meet the winner, second and third on worse terms than the last day, considering they are both handicaps.

“We are very disappointed he is not going and having discussed with the owner, we had no choice. We did raise it with the BHA (British Horseracing Authority), but had no success.

“Hopefully we will be back at Cheltenham next March in good form.

Potters Corner will not run at Cheltenham on Friday
Potters Corner will not run at Cheltenham on Friday (Clint Hughes/PA)

The Cheltenham race had been due to see a second run over the unique obstacles for Welsh National winner Potters Corner, as he treads a path aimed at the Grand National.

However, trainer Christian Williams tweeted on Tuesday: “Potters Corner returned an unsatisfactory scope following his final preparation for Friday’s Glenfarclas Chase at Cheltenham.

“He will not run and was immediately scratched from the race at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Easysland all set for Glenfarclas Handicap defence

Easysland will try to get back on track in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham next week.

The six-year-old, trained in France by David Cottin, was surprisingly beaten on his seasonal debut when only fourth to Kingswell Theatre over the course and distance last month.

He was odds-on favourite that day despite the presence of Tiger Roll, having beaten the dual Grand National hero comprehensively at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

All is reported well with Easysland, who bids to make amends next Friday in a race he won 12 months ago – after which he changed ownership and was bought privately by JP McManus.

“The plan is hopefully for him to come to Cheltenham next week,” said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

“He was disappointing the last day. But it his was his first run, and they tell me he’s come out of the race well, so we’d be hoping for a better run the next day.”

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.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“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.”

Easysland and Tiger Roll set for rematch at Cheltenham on Friday

Easysland and Tiger Roll will cross swords once again in a top-class renewal of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Friday.

Gordon Elliott’s dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll was sent off the odds-on favourite to complete his Aintree preparations with victory in the cross-country feature at the Festival back in March – only for French raider Easysland to dish out a 17-length beating.

Trained by David Cottin, Easysland was unbeaten in his previous six starts before that effortless victory – with JP McManus snapping up the six-year-old prior to his Festival run.

Easysland has not been seen since the Festival, and while in contrast Tiger Roll enjoyed a spin on the Flat at Navan last month he will have to concede 4lb to his old rival this time after the pair raced off level weights in March.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Tiger Roll will have Robbie Power aboard for the first time, with Keith Donoghue, who usually rides him in his cross-country missions, opting not to make the trip to Britain due to the 14-day quarantine period he would have to undertake on returning to Ireland in line with Covid-19 restrictions.

He told his bookmakers.co.uk blog: “This was a very hard decision.

“As everyone knows I adore Tiger Roll, without this horse I massively doubt I would still be a jockey. So every time he runs I obviously want to be on board.

Keith Dongohue with Tiger Roll, Michael and Anita O'Leary following his 2019 Festival win
Keith Dongohue with Tiger Roll, Michael and Anita O’Leary following his 2019 Festival win (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“The decision not to ride Tiger Roll this weekend was hard enough without adding in the fact that he is in really good form at home. As I’ve said before you know Tiger Roll is ready for action again when he starts acting wild. The more kicking and bucking he does, the more you know he is coming back to himself.

“I just can’t risk the journey with Covid. Being a jockey is all about momentum and I’m enjoying the best season I’ve had in a long time. I think I’d be stupid to jeopardise that with the potential of two weeks out of action.

“It doesn’t take long to be forgotten in this game and I want to make sure I’m available for every ride I can be here in Ireland.

“I hope the real Tiger Roll shows up on Friday, but in any case he will improve a lot for the outing and I don’t think his legendary story is finished quite yet!”

Welsh National winner Potters Corner lines up at Cheltenham
Welsh National winner Potters Corner lines up at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Adding further interest to the three-mile-six-furlong event is the Christian Williams-trained Potters Corner, who will be having his first start over the cross-country obstacles.

The 10-year-old won the Welsh National on his latest start in December, with a planned Grand National run scuppered by the Covid-19 lockdown and cancellation of the Aintree meeting – although he did win the virtual version that proved so popular.

Cottin also runs Vino Royale with Little Bruce, Kings Temptation, Beau De Brizais, Vivas and Kingswell Theatre – winner of this race in 2017 – all having to run from out of the handicap due to Tiger Roll’s mark of 171.

Easysland set for Cheltenham return

Easysland will try to make it three wins from as many appearances at Cheltenham when he returns to Britain for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase on Friday.

Trained in France by David Cottin, the six-year-old is the new kid on the block in that sphere, having toppled Tiger Roll with a dominant performance at the Festival in March.

Easysland had impressed on his first visit to the Cotswolds in December after winning the Grand Steeplechase Cross Country de Compiegne in November.

It was after his first win at Cheltenham that owner JP McManus stepped in to buy the gelding.

Connections have decided to bypass Compiegne this year and go to Cheltenham instead – where he could face an early rematch with Tiger Roll.

“The plan is to come to Cheltenham,” said McManus’ racing manager, Frank Berry.

““Everyone is very happy with him. It will be nice to see him back there, and the ground and everything should be good.

“With a bit of luck he’ll stay in one piece and give a good account of himself.”