Having started his career with two unsuccessful starts on the Flat for Charles O’Brien, Tumbling Dice was acquired by his current owners and sent for a National Hunt career with Tom Taaffe. His first start over hurdles came in October, 2003, when he was a well-beaten eighth. He then finished 11th in a race that saw subsequent totesport Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition finish second. Although only ninth next time out, he was only two lengths off Macs Joy in a race won by Lingo. His next two starts saw considerable improvement with a runner-up placing followed by a third to Mansony. Stepped up from two miles to two and a half miles, Tumbling Dice got off the mark at Cork on January 3, 2004 with a gutsy half-length victory. Three runs later he was back in the winner’s enclosure at Wexford on March 13 that season. His 2004/2005 campaign got off to a bad start when he took a fall two out in a handicap hurdle when making his challenge. However, he soon rattled off a couple of wins at Punchestown in November and December. He came close to completing a good double for his trainer at Kempton Park on Boxing Day when just failing by a neck on a day when Kicking King landed the featured King George VI Chase. After an unlucky penultimate hurdle fall, Tumbling Dice travelled to Cheltenham and was third in the Coral Cup. He filled the same spot a month later in the Grade Two John Smith’s Liverpool Hurdle, 11 lengths behind Monet’s Garden. Sent novice chasing the following season, Tumbling Dice got off to the perfect start, scoring at Cork in October before finish seventh at The Open meeting at Cheltenham the following month. Having finished third in a Grade One novices’ chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, he returned to winning ways at Clonmel in February, 2006, before again finishing third at the Cheltenham Festival, this time in the Jewson Novices’ Chase. In the 2006/07 season he landed Cork’s Grade Two Hilly Way Chase in good style in December, while he recorded some good efforts in Grade Two events. Last season began with a fifth placing in the same Cork Grade Two event and, while he has failed to make it into the winner’s enclosure, he ran a creditable second in the Grade Two Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on February 3. Unfortunately, his first effort at the John Smith’s Grand National did not get very far as he unseated Tom Ryan at the third fence. This season he has run five times without entering the winner’s enclosure. His best effort this season came when fourth Mansony in Grade Two company at Fairyhouse in January while last time out he was fifth in a handicap chase at Gowran Park on March 20.
Race Record: Jumps Starts: 43; Wins: 7; 2nd: 4; 3rd: 7; Win and Place Prize Money: £139,516
Tumbling Dice is owned by John and Lucy Donegan, a cousin of trainer Tom Taaffe. The couple acquired Tumbling Dice, the first horse to carry their black and red silks, off the Flat from Charles O’Brien and put him in training for a National Hunt career with Taaffe, an obvious choice of trainer for them. Keen golfers, the Donegans live on their farm in North County Dublin with their four daughters - Kate, Annie, Molly and Lu - all of whom have inherited the family passion for horses. Lucy attributes the selection of the black colours to her bad eyesight and inability to pick out brighter colours from a field of horses, while red is her favourite colour.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2008 Tumbling Dice (UR 3rd)
Tom Taaffe, who was born on June 15, 1963, is son of the peerless Arkle's legendary jockey Pat Taaffe, who rode two Grand National winners in Quare Times (1955) and Gay Trip (1970). Tom took a giant stride into the limelight in 2005 thanks to his impeccable handling of totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Kicking King. Taaffe spent his schoolboy summers working for Arthur Moore and forged an association with the trainer that lasted 15 years, first as an amateur rider and then as a professional jockey. He rode his first winner at Phoenix Park in 1981 and enjoyed a successful career in the saddle as a jump jockey, partnering 400 winners. He finished third in the 1988 Grand National aboard Monanore and began training from Portree Stables near Straffan in County Kildare in 1994. In 1998, he enjoyed his first Grade One triumph with Delphi Lodge in the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. Kicking King's Gold Cup success, combined with his earlier King George VI Chase victory, enabled Taaffe to emulate his father, who saddled Captain Christy to victory in the same two races. He had a Cheltenham Festival success this year with Ninetieth Minute in the Coral Cup.
John Smith's Grand National Record: 2007 Slim Pickings (3rd), 2008 Slim Pickings (4th), Tumbling Dice (UR 3rd)