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.

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“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.”

Shearer scores late to bring up Nicholls’ century

Shearer provided trainer Paul Nicholls with his 100th winner of the season – going one better than on his debut as he took the final National Hunt race of the year at Warwick.

Named after former Newcastle and Blackburn striker Alan Shearer, the Max McNeill-owned gelding dominated in the Join Today £99 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Racing prominently throughout over two miles, the 8-13 favourite cleared away smartly late on to win by nine lengths from Bowtogreatness.

It is only the second time the 11-time champion trainer has reached a century of winners before the new year, having previously achieved the feat in 2016.

Nicholls, speaking away from the track, said: “That was just the job. It’s a nice milestone to reach before January 1.

“It’s credit to all the staff who have worked so hard. It reflects well on them and gives them pride in what they are doing, and is good for morale.

“It is only the second time we have reached 100 winners before the new year – and this is more of an achievement, given the circumstances.”

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The Ditcheat handler will continue taking small steps with Shearer for the remainder of the campaign, before sending him over hurdles next season.

He added :  “He is one that needs time and patience, and we wouldn’t be going to one of those speedier tracks in the spring.

“He is a real stayer and he will make a lovely novice hurdler. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is one for the Challow Hurdle next season. ”

Winning rider Adrian Heskin was recording his first success since returning from a recent spell on the sidelines with a broken arm.

Heskin said: “I’m delighted to get my first winner back on a nice young horse like him.  He has a nice future ahead of him.

“We know he has plenty of stamina, and Paul was confident he was fit, so we just wanted to get him rolling good and early.”

Nick Mitchell celebrated his first winner since resuming his training career in October, as 16-1 shot Trump Lady scored by a length and three-quarters in the LPS British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Having relinquished his licence at the end of the 2018-19 season, Mitchell – who saddled The Listener to Grade One glory in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in 2009 – was delighted to be back among the winners.

He said: “I stopped training, and the National Trainers Federation were very good and I did some work for them, then for the BHA – but nothing really came of it.

“I’ve known Syd Hosie, who owns Sherborne Utilities, for years – but I didn’t know he was setting up this new yard. He gave me a ring and asked if I would be interested in training them.

“We’ve been knocking on the door with a few, so to have one get its head in front is really good.”

Mitchell pointed to a change of training routine for Trump Lady after her first success under rules.

He said: “I blame myself for her pulling up at Exeter, because I was too hard on her at home and I didn’t lay off her.

“She improved markedly at Ludlow, and we just do nothing at home with her now as she is a busy little thing and she gets herself fit. ”

The Tom Symonds-trained Mr Washington made it four wins from as many starts this season in the Jonjo O’Neill Racing Club Handicap Hurdle, which the 15-8 favourite collected by three-quarters of a length.

Assistant trainer David Dennis said: “He takes a bit of time to warm to it, and I thought he was beat turning in.

“I thought he would appreciate the step up to three and a quarter miles, and he has got the job done.

“He went over fences last season but he didn’t enjoy it, so we put him back over hurdles this season to get his confidence back – which he has.”