Tiger Roll team cautious on Aintree swansong
Connections of dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll have warned that he may be retired following next month’s Cross County Chase at the Cheltenham Festival if things do not go his way there.
Winner of the previous two Randox Health Grand Nationals, Tiger Roll featured as one of 106 entries for the Aintree spectacular on April 10th when they were announced this week, but connectuins say he’s far from certain to line up on Merseyside.
Bid for history denied
Tiger Roll entered the history books at Aintree in 2019 when he became the first horse since Red Rum in the early 1970s to retain the Grand National crown.
Davy Russell’s mount was well positioned throughout that race, jumped almost impeccably and held off the Jessica Harrington-trained mare Magic Of Light for a deserved and historic second win in the great race.
He was hot favourite heading towards Aintree again in 2020 but lost his chance at the hat-trick when the race was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Tiger Roll has been defeated in both runs this season, on the Flat in Ireland and over the Cross Country course at Cheltenham in November. He’s got two dates in his diary for the spring – including an attempt to win a fifth Cheltenham Festival race of his career.
“Touch wood, he’ll go for the Boyne Hurdle at Navan (February 21st) next and then it will be the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham,” confirmed racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, Eddie O’Leary.
“I think the November run was just one of those days. We didn’t expect him to win or anything, but we didn’t think he’d run that bad. There was no reason for it, maybe he had a headache – I couldn’t tell you.”
‘He’s still got a crazy weight’ – Gigginstown
O’Leary and his brother, Ryanair boss Michael, have never been shy in voicing disapproval for the work of the British Horseracing Authority’s top handicappers when it comes to their horses and the Grand National.
Despite their own hard-held belief they get a raw deal, Gigginstown horses have won three of the last four Aintree Grand Nationals; the Mouse Morris-trained Rule The World scoring in 2016 prior to Tiger Roll’s double (2018-19).
Eddie O’Leary remains convinced the redoubtable Tiger Roll is overestimated by his current mark.
“With regards to the Grand National, he’s still got a crazy weight. For some unknown reason he has this crazy rating, but he didn’t even appear in the end-of-season classifications last year, yet he’s got this rating of 168,” he said.
“When I queried it, I was told that was because it was a cross-country rating. Tiger Roll was beaten 17-lengths by Easysland off level weights (last March).”
Cheltenham farewell is mooted
Tiger Roll’s legion of fans would relish seeing him attempt an unprecedented hat-trick of Grand National wins come April but, according to Eddie O’Leary, if the now 11-year-old fails to sparkle at Cheltenham in March – a place where he shone bright like a star in the past – it may be the final curtain call for him, regardless of the Aintree weights.
“I’ve always said 168 is crazy and there’s no point in running in the National unless he’s given a chance. We’d be absolutely thrilled if he could run to a mark of 168, but it makes no sense,” he added.
“Unless he’s given a chance he’ll probably be retired at Cheltenham if he runs badly, and maybe Cheltenham is the right place to retire him given his record there.”
Gigginstown meanwhile have also entered Grade 1 winner Delta Work as a possible Grand National contender, while last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini is a possible for Nicky Henderson in a race the Seven Barrows maestro has yet to win.
Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve has been entered by Evan Williams despite his novice status, while Willie Mullins has entered eight, including former Irish National scorer Burrows Saint.
The mare Magic Of Light is in the mix once more for Harrington, while the aforementioned Easysland could represent French hander David Cottin in the famous JP McManus silks.