Wednesday 16 October 2019

Punters back on a roll

Elliott's star helps racegoers claw back ground but 'Tiger' may not be sent for National defence

Tiger Roll and Keith Donoghue sail over the last on their way to winning the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham yesterday. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Tiger Roll and Keith Donoghue sail over the last on their way to winning the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham yesterday. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

The misery of day one was a distant memory as the ever-reliable Tiger Roll led a fightback from punters at the Cheltenham Festival yesterday, but there's still some way to go before substantial losses are recouped.

Day one was a washout for backers but the Cross Country Chase success of Gordon Elliott's Tiger Roll (5/4) spearheaded a run of four winning favourites - including Joseph O'Brien's first Festival winner with Band Of Outlaws (7/2) and an historic success for Champion Chase King Altior for Nicky Henderson (4/11) - at the Cotswolds to leave punters heading away in good spirits.

Elliott also supplied the winner of the Champion Bumper in Envoi Allen (2/1) after a swell of market support behind Cheveley Park Stud's second Festival winner in as many days was totally justified under Jamie Codd.

Elliott had endured a horrible start to the Festival with nothing better than two third-place finishes in the first 11 races but old favourite Tiger Roll helped to get him back on track at the halfway stage.

"It has been a rough week, but it's Cheltenham, it's the Olympics of racing and that's where you come. Our horses haven't been running up to par this week," Elliott said.

"But we have got to keep our head up, keep smiling and going forward. I have a good bunch of horses, I haven't lost faith in them and hopefully my owners won't lose faith in me."

Tiger Roll is now as short as 5/1 with some firms to become the first horse since Red Rum (1973 and '74) to win back-to-back Aintree Grand Nationals but Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O'Leary cast doubts over his participation after finally breaking his duck for the week.

"I was never so happy to win a Cross Country. To hell with these championship races! I was very nervous, very depressed. We'd had four favourites beaten out the back, all running s***e. I've run out of lucky places to stand," O'Leary said.

"I'm not sure if I'll run him at Aintree. I don't want to abuse him. He's gone up nine pounds after barely scraping over the line last year. It's a very tough race. He's won it and owes us nothing. I'll see what Gordon thinks. I might try and go for a third win in the Cross Country next year."

Henderson heads the table in the race for the Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award with three winners but reigning champion Elliott and Willie Mullins are hot on his heels with two victories apiece.

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