Tiger Roll

Tiger Roll Racing Post Jumps Horse of the Year for 2017/18, Tiger Roll, stands 15.2 hands high and has been described – endearingly, one would hope – as a “little rat of a thing” by his owner Michael O’Leary. Nevertheless, the diminutive 8-year-old silenced his doubters by holding on to win the greatest steeplechase of them all, the Grand National, by a head under Davy Russell in April, 2018.

His owner had voiced his concern over his ability to handle the National fences, saying, “Tiger Roll either takes to it [Aintree] or he doesn’t. With him you’ll know after three fences if it’s a going day or not. If he can survive the first circuit, and gaps come in those big fences, then we’ll see. But you never know with him.” His trainer, Gordon Elliott, was also pessimistic about his chances, saying, “The ground was soft-to-heavy, so I thought the ground might be too soft for him.”

Even before his Aintree victory, though, Tiger Roll had become part of Cheltenham Festival folklore by winning in two different disciplines, over three different distances and under three different jockeys, in the space of five seasons.

In 2014, he won the JCB Triumph Hurdle, over 2 miles 1 furlong, under Davy Russell, in 2017, he won the National Hunt Chase, over 4 miles, under Lisa O’Neill and, in 2018, a month before his Grand National triumph, he won the Glenfarclas Chase, over 3 miles 6 furlongs – on a unique, twisting, turning course of banks, rails and ditches – under Keith Donoghue.

Looks Like Trouble

Looks Like Trouble Looks Like Trouble was a highly talented, if fragile, steeplechaser trained by Noel Chance, famous for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2000. In so doing, he provided Richard Johnson with his first winner of the Blue Riband event.

Although apparently well regarded at home, Looks Like Trouble had looked fairly ordinary in his first half a dozen races over hurdles and fences but, on his seventh start under Rules, belied odds of 20/1 by hacking up in an eventful, but decidedly ordinary, novices’ chase at Doncaster in January, 1999. He followed up in a similar race at Sandown a month later, but proved nothing short of a revelation when pushed clear to win Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival by 30 lengths, albeit aided by the departure of hot favourite Nick Dundee at the third last fence, when travelling ominously well.

Looks Like Trouble began the 1999/2000 season by finishing third, beaten 10 lengths, behind See More Business in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and was subsequently pulled up behind the same rival, on soft going, in the King George at Kempton. Nevertheless, he won his next start, the Pillar Property Chase at Cheltenham, by a distance and so lined up for the Gold Cup as 9/2 joint second favourite, alongside Florida Pearl and behind old rival, and 9/4 favourite, See More Business.

On good to firm going, with Richard Johnson in the saddle for the first time, he jumped ahead at the last fence and stayed on gamey to beat Florida Pearl by 5 lengths. Noel Chance reflected on the victory, saying, “He was a champion. Unfortunately he’d had a leg problem since before he’d won the SunAlliance and it was only a matter of time before it called a halt to his gallop.”

Albertas Run

Albertas Run Albertas Run may not be as revered as some of the other horses who have enjoyed repeated success at the Cheltenham Festival but is, nevertheless, the only horse to win the Ryanair Chase twice, in 2010 and 2011, and had previously won the Royal & SunAlliance Chase in 2008. He was ridden to all three Festival victories by A.P. McCoy.

Owned by Trevor Hemmings and trained by Jonjo O’Neill, Albertas Run made his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in 2006, finishing fifteenth of 23, beaten 17¾ lengths, behind Hairy Molly in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. After winning four of his five races over hurdles in 2006/07, he was sent over fences the following season and, again, after winning four of his first five starts over the larger obstacles, started 4/1 favourite for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase. Aided by the fall of his main market rival, Pomme Tiepy, before halfway, Albertas Run led approaching the final fence and went clear in the closing stages for a comfortable 4½-length win.

Like many second season steeplechasers, Albertas Run struggled to find his form in 2008/09 and failed to win in seven attempts, including trailing in ninth of 16, beaten 48 lengths, behind Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Nevertheless, he started the 2009/10 season by winning the 1965 Amlin Chase at Ascot, only to be beaten on his next three starts, which included another drubbing by Kauto Star in the King George VI at Kempton.

However, on his return to Cheltenham, despite starting only eighth choice of the punters, at 14/1, in a field of thirteen, on his first attempt at the Ryanair Chase, Albertas Run was driven to assert approaching two out by A.P. McCoy and stayed on strongly to beat 11/4 favourite Poquelin by 4½ lengths.

Albertas Run returned to Cheltenham to win the Ryanair Chase again in 2011, holding on well to beat Kalahari King by a length, and only gave best in the last 50 yards when going down by half a length to Riverside Theatre on his attempt at a hat-trick in the race in 2012. He tried again in 2013, but was pulled up shortly after halfway in the race won by Cue Card. Nevertheless, his lifetime form figures at the Festival read 010112P and he fully deserves his place on any list of Cheltenham stalwarts.

 

Willie Wumpkins

Willie Wumpkins Willie Wumpkins is one of a select band of horses to have won four times at the Cheltenham Festival, but his record is all the more remarkable for the fact that his first victory was fully eight years before his last. Originally trained in Ireland by Adrian Maxwell and ridden by Pat Colville, Willie Wumpkins opened his Festival account, as a five-year-old, in 1973, winning the Aldworth Hurdle (now the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle) at 11/1.

 

However, it wasn’t until much later in his career, now trained under permit by his owner Mrs. Jane Pilkington, that he returned to Prestbury Park to contest the Coral Golden Hurdle Final (now the Pertemps Network Final) in 1979. Ridden by Mrs. Pilkington’s son-in-law, Mr. Jim Wilson, arguably the best amateur jockey of his day, the 11-year-old revelled in the testing conditions and, despite carrying overweight, won easily at odds of 25/1. The partnership returned for the same race again in 1980 – the year in which Wilson became just the third amateur to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on Little Owl – and won again, at 10/1. Willie Wumpkins, now 13, and Wilson were back again in 1981, justifying odds of 13/2 to a tremendous reception.

 

Amazingly, Willie Wumpkins never won anything of consequence anywhere other than the Cheltenham Festival; he won just 7 of his 65 races over obstacles, but four of those wins were at the Festival. He enjoyed a happy retirement in the Cotswolds and died in 1995 at the ripe old age of 27.

One Man

One Man One Man was a hugely popular, but ultimately ill-fated, grey steeplechaser trained in Greystoke, near Penrith, Cumbria by the late Gordon W. Richards and owned by John Hales. All in all, One Man won 20 of his 35 races under National Hunt Rules, and 17 of his 26 steeplechases, but is probably best remembered for his emotional victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1998.

 

Having tried, and failed, to win the Sun Alliance Chase in 1994 and the Cheltenham Gold in 1996 and 1997, he was sent off 7/2 joint second favourite for the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase, despite dropping back to the minimum trip for the first time since his debut, in a novices’ hurdle at Hexham, in 1992. However, his high cruising speed and exceptional jumping ability served him well and, in the hands of Brian Harding, he went clear from the second last fence to beat Or Royal by 4 lengths.

 

Sixteen days later, though, One Man was dead. Stepped back up to 2 miles 4 furlongs for the Melling Chase at Aintree, One Man started 2/1 favourite to beat just four rivals, including Queen Mother Champion Chase runner-up Or Royal. However, having raced prominently, he failed to leave the ground for the ninth fence and suffered a fatal fall.

 

In his bright, but all-too-brief, career, One Man had also won the King George VI Chase at Kempton (twice), the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby (twice), the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase. His Timeform Annual Rating, of 179, leaves him just short of the truly “great” steeplechasers of the last fifty years or so, but is still only 3lb inferior to Best Mate, for example.