Tiger Rolls on towards Aintree

Tiger Roll 2019

RACING-ENG-NATIONAL Jockey Davy Russell celebrates after riding Tiger Roll to victory in the Grand National Handicap Chase horse race on the final day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, north west England on April 6, 2019. Tiger Roll put his name alongside legend Red Rum on Saturday winning back to back Grand Nationals in stunning style. The 4-1 favourite, superbly ridden by Davy Russell, took up the running at the last fence and although 66-1 outsider Magic of Light came back at him the nine-year-old had enough to spare to emulate Red Rums feat in 1973-74. Oli Scarff/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

Are there really people out there who were disappointed in Tiger Roll’s fifth place yesterday in the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle at Navan? If there are, are they proper racing folk? Do they understand the game?

An excellent return to the fray

When he produced a 25/1 shock victory in the same race 12 months ago the Grand National winner was returning from an absence of 93 days having finished a close fourth at Cheltenham’s November fixture in the cross country chase on his seasonal bow. This time he was returning from a 316-day absence and connections had made it very clear he wasn’t 100 per cent wound up.

Of course he wasn’t. There’s only one race that really matters this season and that’s at Aintree on April 4 (with the greatest of respect to the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival which the great horse will bid to win for a third successive year).

Tiger purred along for most of the way

But anyone who’s been watching this sport for even a brief period will have seen for themselves just how well the dual Grand National hero shaped under Keith Donoghue as he moved up menacingly after the third last to give brief hope to his supporters that he may produce a repeat success in the 2m5f contest, a race run over a trip well short of his best and on heavy ground that is far from ideal for the gelded son of Derby winner Authorized.

That he ‘blew up’ soon after the penultimate flight was no surprise, but it was with plenty of pride that trainer Gordon Elliott received the eventual fifth back into the unsaddling enclosure where as big a crowd gathered around him as they did for his stable companion Cracking Smart, who carried the same Gigginstown House Stud colours to a shock 16/1 triumph and was partnered by Tiger Roll’s regular Grand National partner Davy Russell.

Elliott thrilled with stable star’s effort

“He finished fifth but for me that was as good as winning,” a delighted Elliott told reporters. “He just blew up. I couldn’t be happier. That’s not the ground he wants, but anyone could see how well he travelled, and you couldn’t be anything but happy with it.

“I thought there were a lot of pluses to be taken out of it. Keith [Donoghue] said he pulled the arms out of him the whole way around. We can really look forward to the cross country at Cheltenham with him now.”

Bookmakers still taking few chances

Having been given the green light a few days earlier to bid for an unprecedented Grand National hattrick in seven weeks’ time despite the steadier of joint top weight, the Elliott team could hardly have asked for more of their tough-as-teak stayer. This will have well and truly blown the cobwebs away and bookmakers have generally left Tiger Roll’s Aintree odds unchanged with the top price available still being 6/1* in a few places.

Personally, much as I’d love to see this tremendous warrior land a third National on the bounce, I just feel he may find one or two too good for him this time around, although I’d love to be proved wrong. His mark of 170 is about right, but is 11lb higher than last year when he bravely held Magic Of Light at bay, and 20lb higher than his 2018 last-gasp head success over Pleasant Company.

Light faded this time

And talking of Magic Of Light, trainer Jessica Harrington must have been very disappointed with the way the nine-year-old mare dropped tamely away once headed before two out in yesterday’s race. Granted she wouldn’t have been ideally suited by the very testing ground, but having won her last two events over fences in fine style and been solidly backed down to 3/1 to make a successful transition back to hurdles, Robbie Power’s mount surprisingly stopped to nothing.

Hopefully for her many fans, Magic Of Light just had an ‘off day’ and will be back to her best for the Grand National for which she has eased with some firms from 14/1* out to 20/1* in places.


*Odds subject to change.

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