2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup

With their head-to-head score tied at one apiece, the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup was billed as the latest rematch between Kauto Star and Denman, who had won the last three renewals of the ‘Blue Riband’ event between them. Although in different ownership the two main protagonists were saddled by reigning champion trainer Paul Nicholls and, unsurprisingly, were sent off 8/11 favourite and 4/1 favourite, respectively. Third choice in the betting market, at 7/1, was Imperial Commander, who had been involved in a sustained duel with Kauto Star when beaten by the minimum margin in the Betfair Chase at Haydock the previous November, but had finished 64 lengths behind the same horse in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, after failing to recover from a mistake at the second fence.

By contrast, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it was the reigning champion, Kauto Star, who suffered from jumping frailties. What jockey Ruby Walsh described as ‘a bad mistake’ before halfway knocked Kauto Star out of position and thereafter he was always fighting a losing battle, finally parting company with Walsh at the infamous fourth-last fence on the New Course when struggling in fifth place. Stable companion Denman, ridden by A.P. McCoy, raced prominently throughout and was still in the lead on the approach to second-last fence. However, even ‘The Tank’, as Denman was affectionately known, had no answer when tackled by Imperial Commander at the penultimate obstacle.

Ridden by Paddy Brennan, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained nine-year-old was driven clear in the closing stages to win by 7 lengths, going away from his nearest pursuer, Denman, who finished tired, but remained well clear of the third horse. Mon Mome, winner of the Grand National in 2009, was tailed off at one stage, but made relentless progress from the second-last fence to snatch the minor placing in the dying strides at odds of 50/1.

Tiger Roll

Of course, Tiger Roll became a household name when, in April, 2019, he became the first horse since the legendary Red Rum, in 1974, to record back-to-back victories in the Grand National. However, even before his first attempt in the Aintree marathon in 2018, Tiger Roll had made a name for himself at the Cheltenham Festival. In 2014, he won the Grade One Triumph Hurdle over 2 miles and 79 yards on the New Course at Prestbury Park, in 2016, after being switched to steeplechasing, he won the National Hunt Challenge Cup over 3 miles 7 furlongs and 147 yards on the Old Course and, in 2018, he won the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase over 3 miles 6 furlongs on the Cross Country Course. In 2019, Tiger Roll confirmed himself as a true Cheltenham Festival ‘legend’ when making light of a 9lb rise in the weights to win the same race again, by 22 lengths from the 2016 winner, Josies Orders.

Interestingly, Tiger Roll was originally owned by Sheikh Mohammed, but has only ever contested one Flat race – a 2-mile maiden race at Dundalk, in which he finished second – and, even then, only as a six-year-old, in 2016, by which time he had long been in the care of his current trainer, Gordon Elliot. He was bought by Michael O’Leary, the owner of Gigginstown House Stud, after making a winning debut for his previous trainer, Nigel Hawke, and was sent to Elliott as a likely contender for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Tiger Roll exceeded expectations by not only contesting, but winning, the Triumph Hurdle on just his second start for his new connections.

The rest, as they say, is history. Despite being ‘a little rat of a thing’, according to his owner – Tiger Roll is diminutive, especially for a steeplechaser, at fewer than 16 hands – after a spell in the doldrums, the Authorized gelding found fame over the larger obstacles and, at least so far, has never fallen. Admirable though Tiger Roll is, O’Leary is on the record as saying that he is very unlikely to attempt to emulate Red Rum by running in the Grand National again in 2020. His ‘swansong’ may well be the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, once again, in which victory would be his fifth at the Cheltenham Festival.