Tiger Roll would struggle in Gold Cup despite lofty rating, says Elliott

Chris Cook at Longwood
The Guardian
Tiger Roll would struggle in Gold Cup despite lofty rating, says Elliott
Tiger Roll would struggle in Gold Cup despite lofty rating, says Elliott

Tiger Roll is not a Gold Cup horse, despite the lofty rating he now has, according to the man who knows him best. Gordon Elliott, who has trained the enormously popular little horse to land a string of big races over the last six years, said on Tuesday that Tiger Roll’s liking for unusual race conditions helped make him hard to beat in races like the cross-country at Cheltenham and the Grand National, while still leaving him well short of Gold Cup standard.

“For me if he ran in a Gold Cup, I don’t think he’d go out on the last circuit,” said Elliott, apparently suggesting his stable star would be unable to keep tabs on top-class three-milers over normal steeplechase fences. “I know his rating suggests he should be bang there and hopefully I’m wrong but I just think he loves doing different things and jumping different types of fences.”

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While fans of Tiger Roll may bridle at this slight, we may all get the chance to find out for sure as Elliott suggested the horse could line up in the Punchestown Gold Cup on 29 April. “We might run him in Punchestown this year, we’ll see,” the trainer mused, though Tiger Roll has to get through Cheltenham and Aintree first and would surely have earned a summer’s rest if he managed to win a third consecutive Grand National.

At any rate, the horse is in rude health after running fifth over hurdles on Sunday. “He’s come out the race very well. He showed a lot of zest, he jumped very well, he looked the winner at the third-last and just got tired. It’s great to see him coming back.”

While Elliott might not take Tiger Roll’s high rating very seriously, he hopes it can help at Cheltenham, by scaring away potential opposition. If there was no cross-country race at Cheltenham, the trainer said he would be more inclined to skip Cheltenham altogether than let the horse try his luck in the Gold Cup.

For that job, he has Delta Work, the third-favourite at 6-1 and underrated, according to Elliott. “He probably is a bit of a forgotten horse. He’s won five Grade Ones!”

As the trainer noted, Delta Work’s only defeats since he went over fences were at Down Royal in November, when he was subsequently found to be lame, and at last year’s Festival, when he was a game third in the RSA.

Elliott blames himself for that reverse. “I didn’t run him from Christmas to Cheltenham and he seems to be a horse that runs better with a few runs. I think he’s made for the Gold Cup, the style of the race will suit him.” Mark Walsh has been booked to ride, replacing the injured Jack Kennedy.

With 17 winners over the last three Festivals, Elliott has become a dominant force at Cheltenham in March. He expects to enter a total of 80 horses, more than a third of his stable, with the likelihood that more than 50 will eventually make the journey.

They may include Samcro, who has had a wind operation since his Christmas defeat, and Apple’s Jade, though Elliott admits she is not showing her old enthusiasm and could well be retired at the end of this season.

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