National Favourite ready to Roll after setback

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Tiger Roll Grand National 2018

Jockey Davy Russell jumps the last fence on Tiger Roll on his way to winning the Grand National horse race on the final day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, northern England on April 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS @SCANPIX

Tiger Roll’s trainer, Gordon Elliott, has given an upbeat update on the wellbeing of the defending champion who will hopefully bid to emulate the only three-time National winner Red Rum in April.

Of the star chaser, Elliott told reporters ‘”He’s in good form. If we can we might get a canter into him after racing at Punchestown tomorrow.” He continued “We’ll go to Navan next week. I don’t think he’ll be anything like as fit as he was for that race last year. He’ll come on for the run and it’s a nice stepping stone back to the National.”

Tiger Roll’s planned canter at Punchestown wasn’t to be with their Sunday meeting falling victim to Storm Ciara. Former National second Pleasant Company was due to head the weights in Punchestown’s Grand National Trial on the card so the cancellation had further ramifications regarding the Grand National.

Tiger Roll will though head to the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan all things being well next weekend. When winning the race at 25/1 last season Tiger Roll was slashed into favouritism for ‘The People’s Race’, and, after a demolition job in Cheltenham’s Cross Country Chase, he of course became the first back-to-back National winner since Red Rum.

The current National favourite’s campaign has been on the backburner this season after the star of National Hunt racing suffered a small chip to a joint in the autumn. A minor surgical procedure removed the problematic chip in November but such injuries require some rest.

The Gigginstown House Stud owned star has been back in light training since early January with that training gradually stepping up in intensity as the National and Cheltenham Festival both loom on the horizon. The Boyne Hurdle will be a really good guide as to where he is this time around having won the race in 2019. Currently around the 5/1* mark for Aintree, those odds would undoubtedly be cut if he wins the Boyne but that, based on Elliott’s assessment, would seem unlikely.
For those wanting to back Tiger Roll for Aintree glory the advice at this stage would be to wait until after the Boyne. Barring him winning his price shouldn’t change much and the race should prove informative as to where he stands after the injury and subsequent surgery. If he runs a pleasing race he will head to Cheltenham for the Cross Country again and it is probably wise to back him before that race which he is highly likely to win again; if he is at the same level as last year he will be almost unbeatable.

Perhaps the biggest quandary at this stage is his participation at Aintree with Gigginstown Supremo Michael O’Leary making clear that if he doesn’t get the handicap mark he wants or expects he won’t be running the ante-post favourite. That would be a great shame but hopefully a resolution can be found and fingers crossed after the Boyne it will be all systems go again for the diminutive in stature but enormous in heart Tiger Roll.

*Odds subject to change.

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