Tiger a great story for racing but first ladies could put National on the front pages
As we creep ever closer to the 2020 Randox Health Grand National, Gordon Elliott this week gave an upbeat bulletin on the health of Tiger Roll who will bid to join the legendary Red Rum as the only three-time winner of the National this April. “Tiger Roll is in great nick and he is back cantering away. I’ve been very happy with him and with the way he has progressed over the last few weeks,” Elliott said.
Tiger Roll return
Tiger Roll may make his seasonal reappearance at Navan in the Boyne hurdle in February but he is reportedly bang on course for the Cheltenham Cross Country Chase which he has won en route to National glory in the last two years.
Having won the most famous race in the calendar twice, Tiger Roll is already, if not a household name, then at least the most well-known steeplechaser in training.
Well fancied in 2018 and favourite in 2019 he has already rewarded many a punter and one can hazard a guess that he will be the ‘once a year’ punter’s horse of choice again come April.
As recognised as he is, Tiger Roll could take his renown to the next level if managing a feat which most thought would never be matched only a few years ago. The fact that he will almost certainly carry top weight will only add to the difficulty but also the credibility of what truly would be one of the greatest achievements in racing history.
Time right for outstanding ladies to win the big one
Unfortunately, however, racing is rarely able to crack the back pages and while a Tiger Roll win surely would manage that at least, one must wonder whether a win for either Rachael Blackmore or Bryony Frost could bridge the gap and place racing on the front pages.
Women’s sport has never been more popular than it is right now. Women’s football has grown massively in popularity with last year’s World Cup at the forefront. Women’s cricket is gaining popularity and even darts through the heroics of Fallon Sherrock got in on the action over Christmas. Sherrock playing against the men and competing on level terms hit the headlines nationwide.
One can easily imagine how a female jockey winning the National would catapult racing to similar if not even greater publicity, considering the more athletic role of a jockey compared to a darts player.
Katie Walsh’s third on Seabass in 2012 remains the best finish by a lady jockey in the National but few could argue that Frost and Blackmore are now riding at a higher level than Walsh was.
Bryony Frost didn’t have a ride last year but was fifth on Milansbar in 2018 while Rachael Blackmore gained her first completion when Alpha Des Obeaux was 10th last season.
Racing’s leading ladies both won Grade One’s at the Cheltenham Festival last season and they are supplied most of their rides by two of the most powerful yards in racing in Paul Nicholls (Frost) and Henry De Bromhead (Blackmore). What they will ride in 2020 is at this stage impossible to know but it will be certainly be something to watch as the National approaches and a win for either might just be the best thing to happen to racing in years.