Owner Michael O'Leary had 'run out of lucky places to stand' before Tiger Roll finally opened his Cheltenham 2019 account in devastating style on Wednesday.
Romping to a 22-length win in the Cross Country Chase, Tiger Roll was hard-held by jockey Keith Donoghue, barely breaking a sweat to land his fourth Cheltenham Festival race.
It was sweet relief for O'Leary having seen his usually prolific Gigginstown House Stud colours fail to make the frame numerous times already at this year's Festival.
"I was never so happy to win a cross country," he said. "He's a legend around here. It's a phenomenal training performance by Gordon [Elliott]. He's transformed him by changing his routine. I don't know what he's feeding him, but I'm trying to get some for myself!"
🏆 Tiger Roll wins the Cross Country 🏆#CheltenhamFestival wins: FOUR— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 13, 2019
(Joins select group including Arkle)
🏇 Reigning Grand National champion
💷 Prize-money won: £867,282#TheFestivalpic.twitter.com/6TuZB70hgJ
He added: "We were very nervous, very depressed. I've now had four favourites in the first two days beaten out the park, and then your man comes out - I've never seen an easier winner around here.
"I had run out of lucky places to stand, so I went back up to the box and watched it up there, because nobody wins this race twice."
Garde Champetre had achieved back-to-back wins in 2009 for JP McManus and trainer Enda Bolger, but since then, only Balthazar King had won the handicap twice in non-successive years.
Tiger Roll went on to win the Grand National after his Cheltenham win last year, and is entered to run in that Aintree spectacle again this April, but O'Leary was not convinced.
"We have to make a decision now whether he'll run at Aintree," he said. "I'd rather come back and win a third Cross Country here so we'll see."
Notoriously hard to please, he also said: "He's won a Grand National, yes, but my favourite horses are still War Of Attrition and Don Cossack - the horses that win the Grades 1 are still the best horses, but a horse like him that keeps turning up and confounding everyone, coming back to Cheltenham to win four times in three diffeent races, is phenomenal."
Tiger Roll beat the Enda Bolger-trained Josies Orders, with French raider Urgent De Gregaine three-quarters of a length back in third. He was trainer Gordon Elliott's first winner of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, and his 23rd overall.
Trainer Joseph O'Brien was quick to praise JJ Slevin as the rider gave him his first 'official' Cheltenham winner on Band Of Outlaws.
The well-backed 7/2 favourite is not an easy ride, but Slevin coolly brought him through to land the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle by two lengths over the Gordon Elliott-trained Coko Beach.
O'Brien, who rode two Epsom Derby winners as a jockey himself, said: "JJ gave the horse a fantastic ride. He's not an easy ride because you can't get there too soon on him.
"I saw JJ was slipping between horses and it got a bit tight, so he let them have the winning of it. He didn't panic, kept him balanced, then came back around them.
"That was the right thing to do because as soon as he gets in front he has a look. I don't think he gave the horse a belt either. It was fantastic."
O'Brien had been responsible for the Cheltenham Festival win of Ivanovich Gorbatov in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle, but the four-year-old ran in his father Aidan's name because he didn't yet have a training license. To win under his own name for the first time was a thrill.
"I am delighted for Justin [Carthy, owner] and everyone," he said. "We were fairly confident, obviously he hadn't done much wrong over hurdles. It's hard to know when they step up to a handicap, and he was carrying nearly top weight, but we thought he was a bit better than a handicapper."
The victory was a second at any Festival for Slevin, O'Brien's cousin, who landed the 2017 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle on Champagne Classic.
He said: "Joseph has given me loads of rides and helped me out so much. To do that for him means the world. He's a world-class trainer and nothing bothers him. It's unbelievable what he does, and he fills you with loads of confidence."
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