Teenage rider Sam Ewing gets the chance of a lifetime at Navan on Thursday when he partners dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll.
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 – and he makes his eagerly-awaited return – and Flat turf debut – in the hands of 16-year-old apprentice Ewing, who claims 7lb.
Ewing 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 (Warren Ewing) 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.”
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 ahead of the one-mile-six-furlong Flower Hill Maiden.
He said: “He’s absolutely in great form. Simon McGonagle, my head man, rides him out most days.
“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.”