Sixteen-year-old Sam Ewing gets ride on Tiger Roll as National hero returns on Flat

Wed 21 Oct 2020

Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll makes his eagerly-awaited seasonal reappearance – and first start on the Flat since 2016 – at Navan on Thursday.

Gordon Elliott’s 10-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since finding Easysland too strong when bidding for a remarkable fifth win at the Cheltenham Festival in the Glenfarclas Cross-country Chase in March.

The coronavirus pandemic denied Tiger Roll his bid for an unprecedented third straight win at Aintree in April, but Elliott feels the cancellation of the world’s most famous steeplechase may ultimately have been a blessing in disguise.

“It wasn’t that annoying at all (to miss the Grand National) because he’d had a very hard race in Cheltenham and came home a bit stiff and sore behind,” said the Cullentra trainer.

“The decision was made a week after Cheltenham that Aintree wasn’t going to go ahead, so we didn’t really get to think about it that much.

“It was going to be a tough couple of weeks to get there, anyway, because he hadn’t a brilliant preparation for Cheltenham.”

Despite Tiger Roll’s advancing years, Elliott reported his “horse of a lifetime” to be in rude health for his return to action in the one-mile-six-furlong Flower Hill Maiden – in which he is due to face nine rivals in the hands of 7lb claiming apprentice Sam Ewing.

“He’s absolutely in great form. Simon McGonagle, my head man, rides him out most days,” added Elliott.

“I think ground is the big key to him – the better the ground, the better he is.

“He’s just been the horse of a lifetime, and everyone who comes into the yard wants to see Tiger Roll – whether it’s a child from a local village or a Dublin footballer, whenever they come into the yard, he’s the first person they want to see.”

Ewing, 16, is understandably relishing his chance to partner Tiger Roll.

He said: “It’s a massive opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it. I really have to thank Gordon and Gigginstown House Stud for the leg-up. It’s amazing and I haven’t really got my head around it yet.

“Gordon let me ride out a good bit when I was 12 or 13 and Gigginstown were kind enough to let me ride in their silks at pony racing.

“Dad and Gordon would have ridden against each other in point-to-points and Gordon has been very good to me from a very young age. I’m very grateful.”

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