Tiger Roll grounded by heavy track as Easysland produces another Cheltenham shock

The 56,943 people that attended day two of the Cheltenham Festival had hardly got over the shock of seeing hotpot Defi Du Seuil turned over in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase when they took their positions for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.

Jonathon Plouganou onboard Easysland comes home to win ahead of Keith Donoghue and Tiger Roll. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Jonathon Plouganou onboard Easysland comes home to win ahead of Keith Donoghue and Tiger Roll. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Surely normal service would be swiftly resumed. After all, the favourite was four-time Festival hero and a dual Grand National winner. Defeat was unthinkable.

Alas, sport in general, and racing, in particular, is a great, unscripted drama and French raider Easysland, owned by JP McManus, was in no mood to go along with a cosy narrative that would see Tiger Roll run out victorious at the Festival for a fifth time.

And though the 8-11 favourite was heroic in defeat, he was ultimately second best to his younger rival on ground he struggled to jump out of.

Reflecting on a defeat he surely didn’t see coming, Gordon Elliott was keen to stress the positives, insisting a tilt at a third Grand National remains firmly on the agenda.

“We were delighted (with the run),” Elliott insisted. “You’re always disappointed when you don’t win but we said before the race that the ground was a big worry and it killed us – no excuses.

“When you’re watching a race, you’re always hoping but you could see going out on the last circuit across the heavy ground, normally he’d have been running away at that stage but he’s come a long way. In January we were only back cantering so we’re happy with him. He’s still on course for the National, definitely.”

The dream is still alive but given how tired he looked at the finish and the threat posed by the coronavirus, just getting to the starting tapes at Aintree may be an achievement.

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