Tiger Roll looks like being given the chance to make sporting history. The owners of the horse, who also own the budget airline Ryanair, have hinted that he won’t be running in the 2020 Grand National. However, the trainer, Gordon Elliott, believes the Grand National is the plan.
Tiger Roll has won the last two Nationals and no horse has won the race three years in a row. The racing world wants the owners to let the horse have a shot at history.
The horse comes under the banner of Gigginstown Stud, which is run by Ryanair founder Michael O’Leary. He described Tiger Roll’s chances of running at Aintree next April as “slim and none”. The sticking point is the weight his runner is allocated by the handicapper. Tiger Roll has run up to Gold Cup class according to his best official rating, which would equate to something like top weight with 11 stone 10lb. O’Leary would not run Tiger Roll with that burden.
The only three-time winner in the history of the National, which was first run in 1839, is Red Rum. The horse won the race in 1973 and 1974, finished second in the next two races and completed the unique treble in 1977. A minor injury kept Red Rum out of the race the following year. However, by then he was aged 13 and embarking on a lucrative second career opening fetes and making guest appearances for a fee. The horse had nothing to prove in another National.
Tiger Roll has emerged as one of the most adaptable horses in jumps racing. He has won the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a novice chase and the last two cross country chases at the National Hunt meeting that matters most. The horse is currently sidelined due to injury. The first target is the Boyne Hurdle at Navan next February. He won that race last season at +2500 and then won at Cheltenham and his second National at Aintree.
In ante-post betting for the festival cross country race, Tiger Roll can be backed at +200 at some online bookmakers. Other bookies quote the winner of the last two renewals at +125, so there is a significant difference of opinion. If the horse does not recover from injury and is withdrawn, all ante-post bets will be settled as losers. With Yanworth in the race, +125 looks a short price and the +200 is a more accurate measure of Tiger Roll’s chances of completing that treble. All roads should then lead to Aintree and Tiger Roll’s day of destiny.
O’Leary has been trying to manage anticipation and his default position is often to be cautious. Deep down surely he can’t resist the dream of owning the first horse to win three Nationals in three years. His main fly in the ointment is the horse’s weight and how much it is adjusted to tempt a run. The handicapper has to be fair to the other runners but give Tiger Roll a manageable weight. He carried 11st 5lb last year and can’t go much higher. A rise of 3lbs gives Tiger Roll a fighting chance but keeps the other runners in the equation.
Elliott believes he is preparing Tiger Roll for the Grand National. He said in the Racing Post this week: “The Grand National is the plan. Obviously Michael O’Leary owns the horse and will make the final decision but in my mind this is the plan we’ve been training for since last season. The dream is to get the horse back there, to run would be awesome.”
Reading between the lines, you could conclude that Tiger Roll will run in the National in the spring. He must be given the chance to improve on Red Rum’s record. You can back Tiger Roll at +800 to win a unique third Grand National in as many years in 2020.