Photograph Tom Jenkins Observer
The owner of the horse that won the “People’s Race” here on Saturday is one of Europe’s most high-profile multi-millionaires, but Tiger Roll, who beat Pleasant Company by a fast-diminishing head, is a horse with whom the watching millions could identify. Like most of us, Tiger Roll has always had his good days and bad days – and when it mattered most he had the best day of all.
Punters who take their betting seriously know all about the Timeform squiggle, the mark against a horse’s name in the ratings that suggests it is unreliable and cannot be trusted to give its all at the business end of a race. Tiger Roll has had a squiggle for years, despite a record that includes three victories at the Cheltenham Festival. Even Michael O’Leary, his owner, called him “a little rat of a thing” after the race.
But Tiger Roll now has one of the most complete and impressive winning records of any jumper of recent years and O’Leary paid rich tributes not only to Tiger Roll and his rider, Davy Russell, but also Gordon Elliott, the trainer who somehow persuaded a Triumph Hurdle winner, over the minimum trip of two miles, to win the world’s most famous steeplechase over four-and-a-quarter.
“If you look at the size of him,
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we never thought he’d make a chaser,” O’Leary said. “We kept him hurdling for two years and then there was nothing else to do, so we tried him over fences. He wasn’t a particularly brilliant novice chaser, either. But the phenomenal training performance here is that this horse has the speed to win a Triumph Hurdle and only four years later he’s winning four-mile races at Cheltenham and Aintree on soft and tacky ground. It is a brilliant
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With the exception
of a minor mistake at the first, Tiger Roll was foot-perfect throughout and one of the few runners able to keep Pleasant Company within striking distance as Willie Mullins’s runner produced an exceptional round of jumps.