Donn McClean: "Potentially A Big Day For Elliot & Gigginstown"

8 min

Donn McClean Looks Ahead To Day 2 At Cheltenham.

At least the winds have relented and they will race on Wednesday, which is very good news. It will probably still be fairly windy though – just not blow-your-tented-village-down windy – so, if you are going racing, probably best to leave the hat at home.

It will be worth going racing too, if only just to see Tiger Roll again. He is a remarkable horse, one of the most extraordinary racehorses in training. He has been expertly prepared by Gordon Elliott to win three different races at three different Cheltenham Festivals: a Triumph Hurdle, a National Hunt Chase, a Cross Country Chase. He has also won a Munster National. Last April, of course, he went mainstream, Late Late Show and everything, when he and Davy Russell won the Grand National at Aintree. And yet, he put up one of the best performances of his life last time when he won the Boyne Hurdle.

That was the race that was supposed to set him up for Cheltenham and Aintree. The run that would bring him to the boil nicely. He travelled really well for Keith Donoghue through that race and you thought, he’s going to run a lovely race in defeat. But as, one by one, his rivals came off the bridle and you saw that Donoghue was still motionless, the realisation gradually dawned that he was going to win. And he did. He came clear of dual Ladbroke Hurdle winner Off You Go and recorded an extraordinary victory.

Tiger Roll is many pundits Banker for this year’s festival.

The Gigginstown House horse is back for more in the Cross Country Chase today, and it is correct that he is the clear favourite. Cross Country Chase, then Aintree. It’s a well-trodden route taken by the Gordon Elliott horses. Auvergnat could be the one who will give him most to do but, Tiger Roll is such a willing and likeable individual, it is impossible not to be a fan.

It could be a good day for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House because Delta Work has a favourite’s chance in the RSA Chase. The Network gelding was a high-class hurdler last season, he won the Pertemps Final and he was only beaten a neck by Next Destination in the Grade 1 three-mile novices’ hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. But he has taken another step forward this season as a chaser.

He was workmanlike, no better, in winning his beginners’ chase on his chasing bow at Down Royal in November, but he stepped forward significantly from that when he won the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse next time. He was racing over a distance that was shorter than ideal for him that day, and on ground that was faster than ideal, but he battled on well to get the better of a high-class rival, a dual Grade 1 winner subsequently, with the pair of them coming clear.

Then Delta Work went to Leopardstown at Christmas and ran out an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Chase over three miles.

A Pertemps Final winner, we know that he can thrive under Cheltenham Festival conditions. He will appreciate the stamina test that the RSA Chase invariably presents, and he will appreciate the easy ground. He has a big chance.

Day 2 could potentially be a big one for Gordon Elliot.

City Island could also go well in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Martin Brassil’s horse is unusual in that he has won two maiden hurdles. He had to go and win another one after the one that he won at Galway was taken off him. No bother to him though, he went to Leopardstown at Christmas and beat Dallas Des Pictons well, the pair of them coming nicely clear.

Dallas Des Pictons then won his own maiden by 10 lengths before going on to win a competitive handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival, and he is now favourite for Friday’s Martin Pipe Hurdle.

City Island has won again since too. He did no more than he was entitled to do in winning a winners’ race at Naas last month, but he won well. He picked up nicely when Mark Walsh asked him to, and he came clear.

And all the while, you feel that he has been building up to today’s race. Owned by Sean and Bernardine Mulryan, who sponsor the race, this was always going to be his Cheltenham Festival target, if he proved to be good enough to merit involvement in the Cheltenham Festival. He wasn’t even entered in the Supreme or in the Albert Bartlett.

It is a very good race. It is a fascinating renewal of the Ballymore Hurdle. Champ is the Challow Hurdle winner and Battleoverdoyen is a Grade 1 winner who is unbeaten in four runs under all codes, and Sams Profile did well to get as close as he got to Battleoverdoyen in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Hurdle race last time, when he didn’t enjoy the run of the race. But City Island could be the value.