RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary fought back tears as Delta Work showed why he was heir to stablemate Tiger Roll.
The nine-year-old triumphed over Gigginstown Chief’s ‘horse of his life’ in the final stages of the Cross Country Steeple Chase.
Businessman O’Leary has confirmed second-placed Tiger Roll will be retired following today’s narrow defeat as 64,431 punters watched as rain fell on Prestbury Park.
And the low-cost airline boss – who was visibly upset after the race – joked and said he was going to “shoot Jack Kennedy”, who was riding Delta Work.
Speaking immediately after 12-year-old Tiger Roll’s final race, he said: ‘It would have been just a magical fairy tale. He fell on his shield, he’s a warrior. He is phenomenal. He is the horse of a lifetime.
“We’re going to take him out now and he’ll come back to Gigginstown. I’m really upset. I would have loved to see him win.
” I do not know what to say. I’m going to shoot Jack Kennedy. They both did great races.
“I said before the race that Cheltenham don’t do fairy tales and they almost did. It would have been a wonderful finish if Tiger had won and Delta would have come second.
O’Leary, 60, continued: ‘You just think the dream is going to happen as he jumps the last one and he sadly gets mugged by one of our others.
“I’m just disappointed. The great thing is that he’s finished in one piece, he came back safe and sound.
“He will now have a very long and well-deserved retirement.”
O’Leary revealed he was ‘booing’ 22-year-old jockey Jack in the dying moments of the race Tiger Roll was trying to win for the fourth time.
He explained: “We are going to retire (Tiger Roll) now and everyone can celebrate because it will be the last time they see him racing on a circuit.
“What a warrior he is, he’s a legend. I was booing myself and saying ‘please Jack, don’t pass him, let him win, God help us’.
“It’s not often you want to give Cheltenham a win, but it really would have been a fairy tale if he could have won. He had a fantastic race and owes us nothing.
Punters may be sad to see Tiger Run its last run, but bookies were breathing a sigh of relief after it cost them an estimated €600m over the years.
Paddy Power has revealed that if the hero nag had won on his last outing, bookmakers would have had to pay punters €35m.
Spokeswoman Rachael Kane told The Irish Sun: “The irony of Tiger’s defeat is that the horse who has won punters in the region of half a billion pounds in his career has just rubbed extra salt in bookmakers’ wounds on his swan song.
“He was unlikely to come out on a winning note, and just when we manage to beat this brave warrior, it’s the favorite who wins the damn race and costs us even more money! Happy retirement, my dear.
THE weather was bad but today’s race map certainly wasn’t.
From early morning until late evening, Prestbury Park was battered by torrential rain, but that didn’t spoil the mood.
Punters were still out in force to cheer. I decided to try my luck again and placed a bet. I didn’t know which horse to support. I had one in mind but when queuing I changed at the last second and decided to put £5 on Sir Gerhard – as he queued.
Unlike Ballybrit, I passed. I never won a bet so it was a highlight. I eagerly waited in line to collect my winnings. Everything from my jacket to my socks got soaked while I waited and all I got was a paltry £8.75 – not even enough to cover the fare of a taxi to the city centre.
I’m hoping that because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, maybe I’ll have better luck and bigger payouts – maybe that’s wishful thinking. I’ll let you know.
Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes added: “I think it’s fair to say that Tiger Roll was one of the most prolific National Hunt horses of all time.
“He’s been a family hero over the years, costing the bookies millions. He’s brought so much joy to the whole industry and, despite all the payouts he’s cost us, he was the go-to horse. one life and he will be missed!
Triumphant driver Jack said he ‘didn’t care’ that he was now Cheltenham’s most hated man following his win at Delta Work.
After the race he said: “Everyone hates me now but I don’t care! I thought I was always going to really get there.
“A lot of people don’t like me now after that, but I don’t really mind to be honest.
“After schooling him the other day, I told my brother that I might be the most hated man in Cheltenham on Wednesday night, and I was right.”
“SEND OFF CONNECTION”
Tiger Roll, who has won the Grand National twice and triumphed at the Cheltenham Festival five times, has career earnings of just under €1.8m.
His rider, Davy Russell, said: “He’s a great horse and he’s had a proper send off, so that’s great.
“I always felt Jack breathing down my neck and I would say the rain and the ground surprised us because Delta Work is very effective on that ground and I would say Tiger is not as effective on it.
“He put down his sword as he deserved. You can see the audience is fantastic. No matter where they come from, they encourage both horses.
“It’s such a wonderful sport that we have and we’re so lucky. He’s just a wonderful horse.
“Tongue in cheek some people booed Delta Work and I didn’t think it was fair because he put in the same effort as Tiger so he deserved the applause.”
O’Leary also picked up a surprise victory in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle Race, when Commander of Fleets took the win, despite odds of 50/1.
Energumene and Paul Townend crossed the finish line first in the Queen Mother Champion Steeplechase.
The Irish Sun understands a staggering £150,000 (€175,000) was bet on the winner over the phone to the Star Sports office at odds of 10/3 around 1pm.
After two days of racing, the Irish coaches beat their British counterparts at Cheltenham with a score of 8-6.
Legendary trainer Willie Mullins has won the most Festival victories so far with four.
And the 65-year-old also holds the record for the most wins to date in the most popular jump race outing. The battle between bookmakers and punters had intensified after betting shops took a hammer blow on the first day of action on Tuesday.
Nicola of Ladbrokes said: “The punters got into a cracker with the first two favorites to arrive.
“However, the rain came down and washed away the smiles, with a 50/1 shot as the Fleet Commander won the Coral Cup. Getting Shishkin beat in the Champion Chase was the biggest result for us, as the multiple fell by the wayside.
“With wins for both sides, it will be fascinating to see how Matchday 3 plays out. One thing we do know is that there will be tough decisions to be made in the opener with Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger jousting for patronage.