Tiger Roll has 'no chance whatsoever' on Aintree return - Eddie O'Leary
Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) | 3m1f | 5yo+ | ITV/RTV
Grand National legend Tiger Roll has "no chance whatsoever" of winning on his return to Aintree in the Betway Bowl, according to Gigginstown House Stud's racing manager Eddie O'Leary.
Having been denied a shot at a third National win when withdrawn from the race last month due to an "unfair weight burden", the redoubtable 11-year-old is set to run in a Grade 1 chase for the very first time.
Owner Michael O'Leary and his brother Eddie have taken umbrage at the British handicapper's assessment of Tiger Roll after he was raised 7lb from his second National win in 2019.
Even though Tiger Roll has since stormed his way to a fifth Cheltenham Festival success in last month's Glenfarclas Chase, his owners believe he will be totally out of his depth in this line-up.
"Tiger Roll is not a Grade 1 horse and I think he's completely up against it," said Eddie O'Leary. "I hope he jumps well and comes home safe but, to be honest, if he finished within 20 lengths of them we’d be thrilled.
"This isn’t even a good Grade 1, let’s make no bones about that. In fact, it’s a terrible Grade 1 if truth be told. But we wouldn’t expect Tiger Roll to live with these horses because he’s not as good as them. It’s as simple as that. He’s 4-1? There should be a zero after that because he has no chance whatsoever. He has a crazy rating."
Change of scenery for Tiger
The last time Tiger Roll raced over regulation fences was in November 2017 when pulled up in the Clonmel Oil Chase. Since then he has won two Grand Nationals, competed over Cheltenham's cross-country course seven times, run three times over hurdles and once on the Flat.
Jack Kennedy will ride Tiger Roll for the fifth time – and first since 2017 – and O'Leary added: "If he wins, we will be very pleasantly surprised, but everyone knows why he's here. He’s doing his very best but I assume he will be reassessed by the handicapper afterwards."
Why is Tiger Roll running in the Bowl?
Tiger Roll runs in the Betway Bowl on Thursday rather than the Randox Grand National after owner Michael O'Leary deemed his star chaser was unfairly handicapped for Saturday's race.
Overwhelming disappointment has greeted the decision to deny Tiger Roll, winner of the National in 2018 and 2019, the chance to equal Red Rum's three victories.
He was taken out of the £750,000 handicap by connections last month due to an "unfair weight burden" after BHA handicapper Martin Greenwood raised him 7lb from the 2019 running to a mark of 166.
O'Leary warned that Tiger Roll would not take his chance in the National unless he was "fairly treated at the weights" and he stayed true to his word by withdrawing the chasing star, who subsequently won his fifth race at the Cheltenham Festival in last month's Cross Country Chase.
There will be further evidence to the handicapping debate when Tiger Roll tackles Grade 1 winners Native River, Clan Des Obeaux and Waiting Patiently off level weights in the Bowl.
The door has not been closed on the National dream either, as Tiger Roll could stay in training next season to target the world's most famous jumps race at the age of 12.
Clan Des Obeaux heads Nicholls attack on Aintree
Paul Nicholls might have suffered a rare blank at last month's Cheltenham Festival, but the 11-time champion trainer is ready to hit back with Clan Des Obeaux spearheading his powerful Aintree team.
Like many of the Ditcheat squad heading to Liverpool, Clan Des Obeaux was held back from Cheltenham to wait for the National meeting where he aims to improve on his second and third in the last two runnings of this race.
Things have not quite clicked for the nine-year-old this season, including when third in his bid for a third straight King George, and Nicholls has reached for the assistance of headgear.
"Obviously we missed Cheltenham with him this year and he ran well at Newbury last time, giving 6lb to Secret Investor, who is no mug," said the trainer. "He's in good shape and we're putting on cheekpieces to sharpen him a little bit and focus his mind. He's run some good races this season and should go well in this."
Nicholls has won the Bowl a record four times, including with What A Friend for Clan Des Obeaux's part-owners Sir Alex Ferguson and Ged Mason, and the trainer also saddles Real Steel, who was pulled up in the King George last time.
"He's been hard to get right this year," he said. "He was travelling really well in the King George turning into the straight and then stopped, and it transpired he bled. We've given him lots of time by not going to Cheltenham and this is more to his liking."
O'Neill Jr aiming for top-level breakthrough on Native River
Jonjo O'Neill Jr has been handed a golden opportunity for a first Grade 1 success on Native River, having picked up the ride on Britain's leading chaser following the retirement of regular jockey Richard Johnson last Saturday.
O'Neill deputised for an injured Johnson on Native River when winning last season's Denman Chase and renews his partnership with the 11-year-old, who fared best of the British in last month's Gold Cup.
The ever-reliable Colin Tizzard-trained star was a staying-on fourth in the Cheltenham showpiece, which he won in 2018, and has also shown high-class form at Aintree.
The Tizzard team had been hoping for the heavens to open for Native River's first crack at the Bowl, but still have high hopes he will have a major say.
"He was flat out most of the way in the Gold Cup on that quicker ground, but he still managed to beat a King George winner and he's still the highest-rated chaser in Britain," said Tizzard's son Joe.
"He's all heart and has some good form round Aintree. Dicky got on with him particularly well, but Jonjo has won on him and he's a pretty straightforward horse."
Waiting Patiently is ready to go – Jefferson
Another race, another different trip for Waiting Patiently, who has been mixing up distances on his most recent starts.
The talented but fragile Grade 1 winner was a close-up third in the 2019 Tingle Creek over 1m7½f, and a closing second to Frodon in this season's King George over 3m.
He failed to land a blow when third in the 2m1f Clarence House last time and trainer Ruth Jefferson is looking forward to going back up in trip.
"His schooling and work has been good since the Clarence House and he's ready to go," she said. "If they've done a good job of watering and the ground is nice, everything should be fine for him over that trip.
"It's further than the King George, but he got the trip well enough at Kempton and we thought we'd give it another go."
What the rest say
Venetia Williams, trainer of Aso
He's been in good order this season and hopefully he'll continue in the same vein. We've thrown him in at the deep end on his last couple of runs and he deserves to take his chance.
Tom George, trainer of Clondaw Castle
He's had a good season, has progressed well and is ready for the next step up the ladder. We've kept him fresh for this and good ground is perfect for him.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Mister Fisher
He ran a good race in the Ryanair. They went flat out so it looks like it's time to go up to three miles, I think he'll love it.
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