Tiger Roll ready to renew Cheltenham rivalry with Easysland

Marcus Armytage
·2-min read
Easysland beats Tiger Roll at the Cheltenham Festival this year  - GETTY IMAGES
Easysland beats Tiger Roll at the Cheltenham Festival this year - GETTY IMAGES

There are a few old Festival rivalries that will be renewed at Cheltenham over the next three days, but none more mouth-watering than that between Tiger Roll and Easysland in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase, the feature of what would normally be Countryside Day.

With two Grand Nationals already in the bag, Tiger Roll needs no introduction and although he’s regarded as a regular cross-country specialist - having won two Glenfarclas Cross-Countrys at the Festival - he has traditionally struggled in these races when, as it is on Friday, it has been a handicap rather than level weights.  

In March, a difficult preparation, heavy ground and a new kid on the cross-country scene - none other than Easysland - saw him finish tired and beaten by 17 lengths. Even his trainer Gordon Elliott conceded it would have been hard to get him back after that for the subsequently cancelled National.

But Friday is slightly different; the ground will be more suitable and he has had a run (on the flat, while Easysland has not. But he still has to concede 4lbs to a horse who beat him a street at the Festival at levels. It looks a hard task.  

As for Easysland, having been bought by JP McManus he went to Martinstown in Ireland for his summer. He has an unbeaten record stretching 22 months and while he will be fit, trainer David Cottin’s partner Amanda said that this is not his main objective this term -  defending his title in March and the Grand National are his aims.  

That may be so but he has so much class in this discipline he will, nevertheless, be hard to beat. A third horse with National aspirations is last year’s Welsh National winner Potters Corner. He is getting a lot of weight from both horses but horses rarely win round this course on their cross-country debut. It normally takes a go to get fully switched on to it.   If there is a surprise it might be Easysland’s stable companion and experienced cross-country horse Vino Royal despite being a long way out of the handicap.   

There was drama after Taunton’s first ever race televised by ITV on Thursday when Alexander Thorne, the winning conditional rider on Twin Star, failed to weigh in. He was given a 21-day ban, Twin Star was disqualified and Robinshill promoted to first. Usually a jockey has no choice but to walk back past the scale on the way back to the changing room but due to Covid regulations jockeys have been changing elsewhere at Taunton.