Russell backs Tiger Roll to rebound
Davy Russell and Tiger Roll have added their names to Grand National folklore after back-to-back wins in the great race and the Irish rider is backing his partner to be a force again this spring at Aintree.
Tiger Roll was pulled up on his most recent start in a Cross Country contest at Cheltenham in November but Russell expects he’ll be a different proposition come the spring.
Tiger knows his time
Tiger Roll is already a racing legend with four Cheltenham Festival wins and two Aintree Grand National victories on his CV. He has little left to accomplish in the game, but his legion of fans will be desperate to see him at least bidding for a famous Grand National hat-trick on April 10th.
The Gordon Elliott-trained star won the Merseyside marathon by a head from Pleasant Company in 2018 and he defied the nay-sayers a year later when he justified 4/1 favouritism with a near-perfect run around Aintree before comfortably holding off the mare Magic Of Light to retain his crown.
All eyes were on him last season as his trainer prepared for an historic hat-trick bid but, like so many aspects of everyday life, Tiger Roll’s Aintree dreams were put on hold by Covid-19.
He’s now 11 years old and has looked laboured in both starts this season, on the Flat at Navan in October and a month later at Cheltenham.
It isn’t unprecedented. Tiger Roll was winless in four starts in the 2017/18 season before he took the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival and his first Grand National victory with the spring air in his lungs.
Russell knows him well and the rider suggests he can come good again late in the season.
“I saw him the day he returned from Cheltenham when he didn’t run that well, but he was actually in great spirits out in the field,” said the Corkman. “He seems to be a better horse later in the season. I wouldn’t be overly worried about him. He looks really, really well, I wouldn’t be overly worried about him yet.”
Russell recovering but still facing ‘toughest challenge’
Just like Tiger Roll, Russell is being challenged this season like never before. The 41-year-old pilot has been on the sidelines since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a horrible fall in the Munster National at Limerick aboard Doctor Duffy in October.
Russell damaged his C6 and C7 vertebrae, as well as dislocating his T1. It was a major setback and one that left him in a neck brace for a period of time.
He’s recovering well and on course to be back in the saddle in time to partner Tiger Roll come Aintree. Russell in fact hopes to be fit enough for Cheltenham in March but he admits that being ‘fit’ and being ‘jump jockey fit’ are poles apart.
“I think the toughest challenge is ahead of me yet,” he told the Nick Luck Daily Podcast.
“What I’ve done is fine and simple and I’m out walking and doing everything I need to do on the ground as normal people do but the next step is the difficult one, my fitness needs to increase an awful lot and I need to be hard fit before I can go back on a racecourse.
“That’s ahead of me and I’m looking forward to the challenge and then the decision will be made about what date a return can be made.”
Having confirmed that ‘all the scans have been very good and the movement is good’ in his body, Russell will be dreaming of donning those famous maroon and white silks of Gigginstown House Stud and making a bold attempt to take Tiger Roll where no horse has gone before in winning a third straight renewal of the Grand National at Aintree.
See the latest ante post favourites with Tiger Roll leading the market here.