|Tiger Roll Form
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||3rd Place Runs
Tiger Roll has stormed into Grand National contention after a dominating win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Gordon Elliott's runner was third in the betting to win that idiosyncratic Cheltenham race, but some way behind the Irish trainer's favourite, Cause of Causes, which had been victorious in the race one year before.
Once they were off though it was clear that Tiger Roll was the horse to beat, jockey Keith Donoghue producing a fine ride, keeping the eight-year-old bay gelding prominent throughout before going clear and winning by two lengths from French raider Urgent De Gregaine.
Previous Aintree Form
With unusual obstacles - many racing aficionados sneer at the cheese wedges, banks and so on that horses and jockeys are confronted with - and run around the interior of the Cheltenham racecourse, the Cross Country Chase is not a standard race by any means and perhaps not an obvious Grand National trial but is emerging as a decent pointer to the Aintree showpiece. At three miles and six furlongs it's not far off the National's distance of four miles and two furlongs, however, so a horse must possess stamina to win either race.
Balthazar King is another horse that underlines the Cross Country Chase route to a strong showing in the National, Philip Hobbs' gelding finished second in the 2014 National having won the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham just a month before.
One negative with Tiger Roll is that Aintree form is thin on the ground with just one appearance at the Merseyside track. Elliott's runner finished 14th of 19 in the opening race of the card on National day, 2016, although that came over hurdles.
But that was 17 races ago and Tiger Roll unquestionably looks primed for better on his return to Aintree.
Gordon Elliott is now a legitimate contender for leading jumps trainer in the UK and Ireland having finished the last two Cheltenham Festivals as top trainer with six wins in 2017 and eight in 2018, and having picked up a series of notable big race victories over the last decade. You can of course read all about Elliott's runners every day of the Aintree Grand National meeting in his exclusive Betfair column.
And Elliott knows all about training an Aintree winner, too. The County Meath-based handler won the Grand National in 2007 with Silver Birch, a horse purchased from fellow Betfair Ambassador, Paul Nicholls. Astonishingly, Elliott's victory in the Aintree showpiece came before he had saddled a winner in Ireland - he has now enjoyed more than 1,000 in his home country, however!
Elliott came close to a second Grand National win with Cause of Causes in 2017, eventually settling for second place, four-and-a-half lengths back from Lucinda Russell's One For Arthur. Cause of Causes had gone to Aintree after winning the 2017 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase so Tiger Roll is taking a well-trodden and potentially successful path to National glory. Of course it can only be taking as a positive for Tiger Roll's backers that Cause of Causes was so well beaten at the Festival.
Odds & Verdict
With the Grand National weights set well before the Cheltenham Festival, Tiger Roll now looks attractively handicapped for a win over the famous Aintree fences, carrying just 10stone 12lbs.
Formerly way out in the betting - Tiger Roll has been backed into [13.5] to win the Grand National - Elliott's runner is now right up among the favourites for Aintree glory.