Tiger Roll not certain to bid for National hat-trick says disappointed O'Leary
Tiger Roll is not certain to take on his date with destiny in the Randox Health Grand National, with trainer Gordon Elliott first needing to convince the superstar's owners they are wrong to be "very disappointed" with the handicapper's treatment of the dual Aintree champion.
A place alongside the legendary Red Rum awaits the sport's most popular horse if Michael O'Leary's general 5-1 favourite can become only the second animal ever to capture horseracing's most iconic prize on three occasions.
To achieve that place in the record books Tiger Roll will have to defy joint-top weight of 11st 10lb but, more significantly, a rating of 170, which BHA handicapper Martin Greenwood has compressed by only 1lb, a figure far less than O'Leary's brother, Eddie, had lobbied for in recent weeks.
While Elliott – whose fellow Gigginstown House Stud-owned Delta Work shares top weight – backed Greenwood's assessment of Tiger Roll when speaking at the unveiling of the weights in Liverpool, the reaction of Eddie O'Leary was much less positive, to the extent he revealed the ten-year-old will also be entered in the Betway Bowl on the Thursday of the Grand National festival.
In brighter news, O'Leary announced the four-time Cheltenham Festival hero, who makes his seasonal reappearance at Navan on Sunday following a delayed start to his campaign, is set to stay in training next season.
"I'm obviously very disappointed that they have only compressed him by a single pound," said O'Leary. "We're not going to jump up and down about it as we have said all we wanted to say already, but we will have to have a serious think about whether he will run.
"I mean that. 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. We will be entering Tiger Roll in the Betway Bowl, so the Grand National will not be his only option at Aintree."
O'Leary added: "Tiger Roll is a brilliant, brilliant horse and he is completely invaluable to us, but we have to do our best by the horse. What is far more important at this present time is he gets through Sunday at Navan okay and then comes out of Cheltenham in one piece. That's at the front of our minds at the moment."
Advancing the case to seek more Grand National glory, Elliott said: "If it was down to me he would definitely run. He's a household name and this is the most famous race in the world. I'm very keen to run him.
"Martin has his job to do and I respect what he does. We're only 4lb worse off with last year's second horse, Magic Of Light, so I think he has done his job well. For me it's probably fair play.
"He will come on for his run at the weekend and after that Cheltenham is the plan before hopefully, with Michael O'Leary's blessing, the Randox Health Grand National."
A return to Merseyside on April 4 was supposed to be Tiger Roll's swansong but O'Leary has now said he will be remain in training next season provided he remains injury free and continues enjoying life.
He said: "If all goes well he will be kept in training next season. That's the way we're thinking at the moment. When you see a 12-year-old like Faugheen winning a Grade 1 at Leopardstown the other day, it makes you have a rethink. Why would you retire a horse who absolutely loves racing and loves his life? The minute Tiger says 'no', we will retire him but if he continues to say 'yes' all the time we will keep going."
O'Leary had pointed to previous topweights being compressed by as much as 8lb, yet Many Clouds was squeezed by only 1lb when seeking to follow up his 2015 Grand National victory 12 months later.
Tiger Roll has been given exactly the same treatment with his new British mark of 171 eased to 170. He had been rated 172 in Britain at the end of last season but Greenwood has subsequently downgraded the 2019 Aintree form.
Regardless of ratings and weights, Tiger Roll is currently not qualified to line up in the £1 million spectacular on April 4 as eligibility is dependent on participation in a race over fences during the current season prior to March 17. He is expected to seek a fifth Cheltenham Festival success in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase on March 11.
Aside from Tiger Roll and Delta Work, only two other horses have been compressed, with Bristol De Mai and former Gold Cup winner Native River both dropped by 2lb to 11st 8lb and 11st 6lb respectively.
Nominating some other likely starters from his 18 entries, Elliott added: "I imagine I’ll have half a dozen runners. We’ll be a bit more selective than last year. I’m looking forward to Alpha Des Obeaux and The Storyteller has got a nice weight. Jury Duty could run well with a bit of dry ground."
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