Will Tiger Roll go for a third Grand National victory in a row?
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) February 12, 2020
The Grand National odds may still be very much in two-time winner Tiger Roll’s favour, but the recent announcement of the weight handicap has not gone down too well with his camp.
The Gordon Elliott-trained horse, who is looking to make it a hat-trick of successive wins in Europe’s most valuable jump race, has been handed the top weight of 11:10, alongside his stablemate Delta Work.
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager, revealed his disappointment on hearing the news and went on to say: “He really is not certain to line up.
“Delta Work is our Gold Cup horse and the handicapper thinks Tiger Roll is as good as him, that makes no sense to me at all.
“Tiger Roll is a brilliant, brilliant horse and he is completely invaluable to us, but we have to do our best by the horse.”
The weight handicap is allotted based on form, with Delta Work’s recent win at the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown the reasoning behind his high handicap. The next horse in weight is Bristol De Mai at 11:8, while former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River has been given 11:6 and JP McManus’ Anibale Fly, 11:2. A total of 10 horses have been given a weight of 11 stone or more.
Tiger Roll will be looking to emulate Red Rum’s three wins – the most by any horse in the race’s history – but look to go one better by making it three successive wins. Legendary Red Rum, trained by Ginger McCain (one of the Grand National’s leading trainers), famously won in 1973, ’74 and ’77, finishing as runner-up in the intervening years of the race. Interestingly, no top weight has won since Rummy’s victory in 1974, so there’s certainly added pressure on Tiger Roll and his team.
While the brothers O’Leary are understandably put out by the decision, trainer Elliott was a bit more understanding. The British Horseracing Authority chase handicapper Martin Greenwood, too, defended his decision: “This decision was made essentially on two factors – historical compression which was brought in by Phil Smith and has been used for the last 10 years or so. On the other hand, I have to give Tiger Roll this mark based on his efforts over the national fences at Aintree where he is of course unbeaten.”
He continued: “Tiger Roll has also not yet qualified for this year’s Grand National. Whilst he may run in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan, he still has to run in a chase to qualify.”
Tiger Roll may not have raced since last year’s win in the National, beating mare Magic of Light by two-and-three-quarter lengths, the bay is expected to prepare in exactly the same way as the previous season, beginning with the Boyne Hurdle at Navan this weekend. From there, it’s the Cheltenham Festival, where he hopes to win for a fifth time at the meeting. Tiger Roll will look to defend his crown in the Cross Country Chase, having beaten Josies Orders by 22 lengths last term.
It’s under two weeks until the first scratching deadline on February 26th, but there’s no doubt, the unveiling of the weights will continue to dominate headlines. There’s no reason why the Gigginstown House Stud won’t enter their prize horse when there’s history to be made at the most famous race in the world. But without a firm commitment, the build-up to the race could be left in total limbo.