River to roll over Tiger in 2020 Grand National
Of course the 2020 Grand National ante-post market is dominated by Tiger Roll. Gordon Elliott’s superstar became the first back-to-back winner of the world’s most famous handicap since 1974 a year ago, emulating Red Rum who three years on became the only three-time winner of the race.
A Tiger Roll win in 2020 would be a nightmare for the layers and indeed it would be foolish to think he isn’t the one to beat in April, but off a handicap mark of 172 at present it will take a horse of Gold Cup ability to win a National.
His connections have said any talk of him being a Gold Cup horse is ludicrous despite many thinking he would be competitive in the Steeplechasing Blue Riband.
Of course one horse who definitely is Gold Cup calibre is the 2018 winner of that race, Native River. His make all tour-de-force in the ultimate steeplechase saw him gallop his rivals into submission in large thanks to his incredible round of jumping and staying power.
He failed to win last season but his Gold Cup fourth and King George third still represented high class form, and his win at the home of the Grand National to start the 2019/20 campaign showed that Colin Tizzard’s now nine-year-old remains a force to be reckoned with in top level staying chases.
Although the National fences are of course a law to themselves, Native River is 2-2 at Aintree which is obviously a feather in his cap. Also very persuasive is the fact that he lugged 11st 12lbs through soft ground over 3m5½f when winning the 2016 Welsh National.
His capabilities in big handicaps was further evidenced that season when he won the then Hennessy (now Ladbrokes Trophy) which is always among the most competitive handicaps of the season.
As things stand, Native River would receive 4lb from Tiger Roll in the National and owner Michael O’Leary has even said that the handicap mark his star is currently burdened with puts Tiger Roll’s participation in jeopardy.
It is hard to imagine Tiger Roll not running if fit, but his assertion that the defending champion’s current mark is ludicrously high is probably a fair one.
It is hard to believe that he is a superior chaser to Native River for example, which makes the 25/1* odds for the soon to be ten-year-old all the more appealing.
Ten-year-olds have a good record in the race overall and 24 of the last 28 winners were aged between 9 and 12. The National is first and foremost about jumping and stamina. Native River is one of the best jumpers of a fence in training and the way he stood off the open ditches in his Gold Cup win will live long in the memory.
With Might Bite poised and delivered to come and win the race at the last, Native River’s other trump card came to the fore as he outlasted Nicky Henderson’s mercurial chaser up the Cheltenham hill.
Of course Native River isn’t a guaranteed runner in the National but barring him becoming only the second horse in history to regain the Gold Cup after the great Kauto Star did so in 2009, one would imagine that the allure of the National (and its £1m purse) would be too attractive to turn down.
With 25/1* odds currently available for a horse that ticks so many boxes, he is surely worth a speculative each-way bet; if he does line up as predicted in April he is highly likely to go off second-favourite.
*Odds subject to change.