Gordon Elliott expects Tiger Roll to take all the beating in the Glenfarclas Chase as his “horse of a lifetime” prepares to bow out after a bid for a fourth success in the race.
The gelding is a Cheltenham Festival regular having run at the meeting on seven occasions, winning five times including three victories around the cross-country track.
Now a 12-year-old and set for retirement after the race, the dual Grand National winner will bid for one last hurrah in front of a full Cheltenham grandstand that would love nothing more than to see him triumph.
Tiger Roll was last victorious in the same contest 12 months ago and has run three times since, coming home fourth in the Betway Bowl, pulling up in the Many Clouds Chase and finishing 14th in the Navan Handicap Hurdle in January.
Though age may mean the horse is not the force of old, Elliott is still expecting Tiger Roll to set the standard on the final outing of an exalted career.
“He hasn’t missed too many Cheltenham Festivals, has he?” he said.
“I think he’s only missed one. He’s a great horse, he’s part of the team here and he’s been the horse of a lifetime.
“We probably don’t realise how lucky we are to have a horse like him.
“He’s getting older and if he is what he was in his pomp is probably hard to say, but if he can turn up in 80 per cent of the form he has for the last couple of years, then he’ll take all the beating. There’s only one place I care about with him and that’s Cheltenham.
“To bring a horse like him back year after year, especially him – he’s a character, he’s a favourite and it was unbelievable (to see him win last year). If he can go back and win this year, it will be brilliant.”
Elliott feels soft ground would certainly hinder Tiger Roll’s bid for another victory in the race, but he does not consider his winless run a drawback and points to his last-placed performance in the Boyne Hurdle prior to last year’s Cheltenham triumph.
“The better the ground, the better the chance he has – he’s not the same horse on soft ground,” he said.
“I think his run the last day in the handicap hurdle was equally as good or bad, whichever way you want to look at it, as in the Boyne Hurdle last year when everyone said he had no chance (at Cheltenham).
“If the ground is good, he’s just different at that place.”
The trainer has another pair of chances in the race in the shape of Alpha Des Obeaux and Delta Work, the latter of whom who will make his debut around the cross country course on his way to the Grand National at Aintree in April.
“He schooled very well (over the cross-country course), I was delighted with him,” Elliott said of Delta Work.
“Saying that, it’s very hard to win over that course first time, but we thought it would be a nice place to go with him before the English National and it might just sweeten him up a bit.
“He got jarred up in Leopardstown last year and he just hasn’t been the same over park fences since.
“We said we’d school him and see how he went, we’ve had him schooling and he was awesome at Cheltenham.
“The plan is to run there and then on to the English National. He’s only nine and if he took to it, he would be a nice replacement for Tiger Roll.”
Elsewhere in the race are a quartet of JP McManus-owned runners, including prior winner Easysland, who is now with Jonjo O’Neill.
Previously trained in France by David Cottin, Easysland beat Tiger Roll by 17 lengths to take the race in 2020 before finishing 18 lengths behind the same horse last season.
Enda Bolger is responsible for the other three McManus entries, with Prengarde, Shady Operator and Midnight Maestro set to represent the race’s most successful trainer.
Richard Bandey runs Diesel D’Allier, another specialist around the track having previously won twice in the handicap version of the contest.
The grey was triumphant by just a nose in the December cross-country event at Prestbury Park, defeating Christian Williams’ Potters Corner on the line in a photo finish.
The latter horse is headed to the Festival also, with Martin Keighley’s Back On The Lash and Mark Bradstock’s Step Back the other British contenders.
The Irish contingent is completed by Willie Mullins’ Brahma Bull, Noel Meade’s Tout Est Permis, Jim Dreaper’s Mitchouka and Henry de Bromhead’s duo of Plan Of Attack and Poker Party.