Not since the days of Red Rum has a horse won the Grand National carrying top weight. And none has ever won the Aintree spectacular for three consecutive years. On the brink of making history, the Gordon Elliott trained Tiger Roll is looking to do both next month.
A clear favourite for last year’s race, viewing figures increased as fans tuned in from across the country to cheer on the diminutive chaser. With relative ease he cleared all 30 obstacles and from early on in the race his ability to win a second National was never in doubt.
Hailed as a hero, even winning Horse Of The Year in Ireland, this National Hunt season was all about whether or not connections would send him back to Aintree for a third time. Gigginstown owner, Michael O’Leary, cast doubt on his participation stating that the weight allocated by the BHA Handicapper would play a crucial role in determining his participation.
Despite this, there was never a doubt that Tiger Roll would get top weight as one of the two highest rated horses entered into the race. The second potential Grand National 2020 runner was Delta Work, also owned by Gigginstown. He has since been withdrawn and will run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup instead.
Glenfarclas Chase At Cheltenham
Even with top weight, it was then decided that he would indeed travel to Aintree but with a run at Cheltenham first. Attempting a fifth festival win and a third consecutive in the Glenfarclas Chase, Tiger Roll went off as favourite. Ridden by Keith Donoghue, and wearing the famous number thirteen, he looked a picture at the starting line.
The vast majority of the race went according to plan. Tiger Roll maintained his prominent position alongside race leader, Easysland. However, once the last fence was jumped it was clear that it was not going to be Tiger Roll’s race. Easysland romped home for jockey Jonathan Plouganou leaving Tiger Roll to finish in second place, some 17 lengths behind.
Almost immediately bookmakers across the country rushed to change his odds for the 2020 Grand National. He had been a very short 5/1 but within minutes that had moved out to 8/1, with some betting markets even offering 10/1. But does that fairly reflect his National chances?
Grand National 2020 Chance
Some have suggested that the ground at Cheltenham simply didn’t suit him. He still ran a great race, and has every chance of returning another victory at Aintree next month, provided it still goes ahead amidst all the Covid-19 chaos.
Even if it is run behind closed doors, Tiger Roll is still one of the best horses entered. Yes, he was beaten by Easysland at Cheltenham but he still outpaced, out ran and out jumped the rest of the field. And while there are certainly some great potential runners heading to Aintree, none are the quality of Easysland which, in theory, means that Tiger Roll could and should beat them all.
Of course nothing is ever that straightforward, and the race is one of the most unpredictable anywhere in the world, that’s part of the excitement. But with little to complain about in terms of his jumping ability or pace, it’s now all go for Aintree.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said he couldn’t be happier with him but he needs the ground much better. They’ll take their chances with him now but if he never wins another race he’ll owe them nothing. He will always be their horse of a lifetime and it’s all systems go for the Grand National.
Can he win it again? Only time will tell.