Red-hot Elliott roars again as Tiger Roll romps home
It was not quite turning water into wine, or lead into gold, but as transformations go turning a Flat-bred Triumph Hurdle winner into a horse with enough stamina to power up the hill and land the festival's longest race takes some doing.
But Gordon Elliott can do little wrong and Tiger Roll provided him with the last leg of a memorable opening-day 1,988-1 treble.
A Darley cast off, Tiger Roll won the Triumph Hurdle in 2014 and was also completing a fine day for owner Michael O'Leary, whose Gigginstown House Stud operation won the Mares' Hurdle with the Elliott-trained Apple's Jade.
And to complete a magical set, the son of Authorized was giving Lisa O'Neill, who helps Elliott in the office, a first festival winner from her first ride.
"She works in the office with Gordon and is a brilliant pilot; it was a great ride. He really enjoyed her and just rolled along."
The race was run in honour of ace amateur JT McNamara, paralysed after a festival fall in 2013 and who died last year, and Tiger Roll was victorious in October's Munster National, which also carried the late rider's name.
'JT bestrode this place'
"Everyone misses JT and he bestrode this place," added O'Leary. "It's an honour to win a race named after him."
Echoing that view, O'Neill said: "JT was an icon to all of us in the point-to-point world and it's a privilege to win this race."
She continued: "Tiger Roll is a brilliant horse to have at home and he loved it today. He was a bit free with me early on and I was wondering whether he'd finish it out, but he did. I think he was taking the mickey out of me because he was loving it so much.
"I'm a bit of a pessimist so I never count my eggs until they are hatched. Today is a great day, I'll really enjoy it."
While O'Neill, 30, was beaming from ear to ear and O'Leary, boss of airline Ryanair, was walking on cloud nine, so much so he threatened to fly home after racing – "it doesn't get any better than this" – Elliott was more grounded after capturing his third National Hunt Chase.
"I'm very lucky to have some brilliant staff and horses, and it's a great day," he said.
The trainer, whose treble was initiated by Supreme winner Labaik, said he would point Tiger Roll at the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on April 17, while Warren Greatrex, thrilled with the effort of 50-1 shot Missed Approach in second, could target the Coral Scottish Grand National.
Haymount was third, while the Scottish Grand National is also the aim for fourth home Arpege D'Alene.