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.”

Toby Balding

Toby Balding  The late Gerald Balding OBE, universally known as “Toby”, was the elder brother of the Ian Balding, who saddled Mill Reef to win the Derby in 1971, and a highly successful trainer in his own right. In fact, he had the rare distinction of saddling the winner of the three most important races in British National Hunt racing, the Grand National (twice), the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle.

 

Born in the United States, Balding first took out a training licence, while still a teenager, in 1956. His first major success came with Highland Wedding, ridden by Eddie Harty, who won the 1969 Grand National by 12 lengths. Two decades later, Balding repeated the feat with Little Polveir, who won the 1989 renewal of the Aintree marathon by 7 lengths under Jimmy Frost.

 

The previous month, Balding had saddled his first winner of the Champion Hurdle, Beech Road, ridden by Richard Guest, who sprang a major surprise by beating Celtic Shot by 2 lengths at 50/1, with 11/8 favourite Kribensis only seventh of the twelve finishers. His second winner, Morley Street, in 1991, was sent off 4/1 favourite and duly obliged, beating Nomadic Way by 1½ lengths under Jimmy Frost.

 

In 1992, Balding saddled outsider Cool Ground, ridden by his protégé Adrian Maguire, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 25/1. The result was controversial insofar that many observers believed Golden Freeze, the rank outsider at 150/1, was ridden with the deliberate intent of unsettling hot favourite Carvill’s Hill, who eventually finished well beaten.