Tiger Roll – a National treasure

Grand National 2018

Jockey Davy Russell on Tiger Roll (L) leads Jockey David Mullins on Pleasant Company over the last fence 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

2020 could prove a momentous year for British horse racing, and if one horse can be singled out as having a pivotal role in whether or not the year will go down in the annals of racing history, it surely has to be the remarkable dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll.

Those old enough to remember the fevered atmosphere that led to the legendary Red Rum’s third triumph in the Grand National at Aintree in 1977, will recognise a similar sense of anticipation already building in the sport ahead of the attempt by the pint-sized Gordon Elliott-trained star to become only the second horse in history to win “the world’s greatest steeplechase” three times.

History beckons for Elliott’s star

There’s plenty of water to flow under the bridge though before the gelded son of Derby winner Authorized will hopefully step out onto the hallowed Merseyside turf on April 4 to bid for a very special place in the hearts, not only of dyed-in-the-wool British and Irish racing fans, but of sports fans the world over.

The equine superstar, who will celebrate his 10th birthday on New Year’s Day, has not raced since his stunning second successive Grand National triumph in April when landing one of the biggest ever gambles in the race.

He returned the 4/1 favourite, staying-on powerfully to beat the classy mare Magic Of Light (who could re-oppose her old rival and is generally offered at 25/1 this time). The bookies took a caning.

Recovery from surgery going well

Tiger Roll underwent surgery in November to have a chip removed from his knee, but connections are optimistic that the star chaser will recover in time to begin the build-up to defending his Aintree crown in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan in his native in Ireland in mid-February, a race in which he surprised even his most devoted fans when springing a 25/1 shock on his reappearance last season.

He went on to land a stunning fourth Cheltenham Festival victory the following month when winning the marathon Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase for the second successive year, before proceeding to carry Davy Russell to his famous second Grand National win three weeks later.

Tiger clear Grand National favourite

Despite the odds being stacked against him, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned star quite rightly dominates the ante-post betting for the Randox Health Grand National at a best priced 15/2. He’s beaten the odds before. They bet 20/1 bar Tiger Roll at present.

The market will undergo many transformations between now and the first Saturday in April as major trials such as the Welsh National, some of the top Irish staying chases, and, of course, the Cheltenham Festival, will have a significant impact on the fluctuating odds.

But betting firms are taking few chances with Tiger Roll who has time and again proved his ability and his will to win since popping up at at 10/1 to land the 2014 Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle on only his third ever racecourse appearance.

Team Tiger ready to roll

Gordon Elliott, enjoying another fine season in Ireland, has a great Grand National record, not only winning the race for the last two years with Tiger Roll, but also having announced himself on the big stage when sending out 33/1 shot Silver Birch to win the 2007 renewal.

And with Davy Russell, one of the most senior and most respected jockeys in the Irish weighing room expected to maintain his partnership on his old pal, the dream remains very much alive that, finally, we could have a horse to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great Red Rum himself.

What a prospect!

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