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.”
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 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.”