The Cheltenham Festival just has a knack for producing the very best storylines. Written off by many, withdrawn from this year’s Grand National due to an unfair weight balance, Tiger Roll, one of the nation’s favourite horses, won Wednesday’s Glenfarclas Chase with an absolutely flawless performance.
It marks his fifth win at the Festival in his career, added to the two Grand National titles to his name, once again reminding every racing fan just how special he is. The horse of a lifetime came home, winning by a whopping 18 lengths as he put in a truly special performance. Keith Donoghue was the man lucky enough to be riding the great champion, and he was overflowing with praise for the little horse after passing the finishing post.
"It’s unbelievable to come and do it again. I am speechless,” he told ITV. “Without this horse I would not be riding. Simple as that. Never underestimate Tiger, a lot of people keep underestimating him but we've always had faith. He loved it out there, that's the Tiger we've been seeing at home. He's just a legend.”
Easysland was the hotly-fancied favourite at evens coming into this race given Tiger Roll’s recent form, but if there was ever a horse to rip up the form book it is the back-to-back Grand National winner. Having already won this race twice before he asserted himself as the class act in the race and thrived over the 3m 6f track, leaving the others with too much ground to make up as they entered the closing stages.
Easysland did his best but could not cope with the pace set by the champion, who was 9/2 to win this one at the off. Racing needed a big week to recover from the awful news stories we have seen over the past month and Cheltenham is certainly delivering on that front.
But it does seem a real shame that we will not get to see Tiger Roll attempt to win his third Grand National title in a row, as the 11-year-old was set to be forced to carry 7lbs more than his last appearance back in 2019. This handicap, his owners claimed, did not reflect the decline he has experienced over the past two years, so instead he is likely to enter the Irish Grand National later in the year.
The Grand National will not be the same without Tiger Roll, only Red Rum had won back-to-back titles before he showed up, but we must just revel in the fact that we get to see this special horse race. Cheltenham is the perfect place for big performances, and Tiger Roll always shows up on the big occasion. More importantly, he may just have made the nation fall in love with racing again.