Legend in the making: Tiger Roll bids to emulate Red Rum with back-to-back wins
Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase | Grade 3 | 7yo+ | 4m2f74yds | ITV/RTV
It has been mission impossible for more than four decades but the long wait to find a successor to Red Rum could end when Tiger Roll bids to become the first horse since the Aintree legend to win more than one Grand National.
Like the marvellous Rummy, Tiger Roll is small in stature but huge in heart, as he showed when hanging on from Pleasant Company to land the 2018 Grand National.
He went into that race a three-time Cheltenham Festival hero. Now he is a four-time festival hero having destroyed the opposition in last month's Cross-Country.
It means Gigginstown House Stud's star returns to Liverpool as a much improved horse and potentially the hottest favourite for many a year.
For once-a-year punters wondering why we are faced with an unusually short-priced favourite, in a nutshell it is because he has looked simply superb in his two runs this year, winning over hurdles at Navan at 25-1, before justifying hot favouritism at Cheltenham.
Tiger Rollis potentially part of history in another way too, for he is just one of 11 runners for trainer Gordon Elliott– there would have been 13 had Don Poli and Outlander not been sold on Thursday night– whose mentor Martin Pipe holds the record for runners in a National with ten in 2001.
Elliott, who first sprang to fame when Silver Birch took the 2007 National, said: "Tiger Roll has been the horse of a lifetime. He's in great form and his form this year suggest he’s better than ever.
"But it will be tough as he’s higher in the weights this year and we could have done without the rain as he doesn’t want it too testing."
ProsTook to the fences with zest when winning a year ago and all recent evidence suggests he’s at the top of his game
ConsHigher in the weights this time although technically 8lb well-in on revised ratings and the prospect of testing ground presents a potential problem
Keith Donoghue, who has partnered Tiger Roll in all three starts this season, misses out on riding in the National. He would have ridden Tiger Roll last year had he been able to do the weight – he finished eighth on Valseur Lido instead – but while last year's winning jockey Davy Russell was always going to retain the mount on Tiger Roll at Aintree, Donoghue had been due to ride Outlander, only for the horse to be sold on Thursday night, with new connections calling up James Bowen.
Making up the Elliott squad
Supporting Tiger Roll in Elliott's football team's worth of runners are a host of interesting candidates, including last year’s Irish Grand Nationalhero General Principle and Jury Duty, winner of the American Grand National Hurdle last year.
Elliott on . . .
Mala BeachHe’s had a light season because of the ground, and the rain this week will be a big help. He should love the trip.
DounikosHe’s well-in at the weights on his best novice form and came back to form last time when winning the National Trial at Punchestown.
A Toi PhilAt this stage of his career we’re trying him over longer trips. A couple of runs over hurdles have sweetened him up and he’s been working well. He could outrun his odds.
Jury DutyHe won nicely overa mile shorter at Down Royal last month, and although the trip will be unknown territory for him he’s in good order.
Noble EndeavorHe needed the run when he ran in the Becher Chase in December. He took to the fences well that day. The ground will suit and he won’t be disgraced.
Monbeg NotoriousA lot will depend on what mood he’s in as he certainly isn’t predictable. His first two runs this season were poor but he ran a bit better in the Leinster National last time. The trip should be right up his street.
Blow By BlowHe looks to have it all to do as he's been disappointing this season. He’s had a wind operation since he last ran and will need to step up a lot.
General PrincipleIrish National winners have done well in the race in the past. He ran well in the Thyestes Chase and in Punchestown’s National Trial, and, although disappointing at Cheltenham last time, there are plenty of positives, including a nice low weight.
Folsom BlueYou couldn’t find a race long enough for him, so stamina and the ground will suit. Hopefully he won’t find himself too far behind, but he should be finishing off the race better than most.
Bless The WingsHe ran a tremendous race when third last year and big-field handicaps seem to bring out the best in him. But he’s 14 now and hasn’t been in the same sort of form this year.
Having held off Pleasant Company for Aintree glory in 2018, Tiger Roll has come roaring back this season and took the latest of his many Cheltenham Festival honours with such ease that he brings improved form to this year’s National as well as the 9lb higher mark. The chief negative about him has been the odds in a 40-runner contest. One opponent who could relish his first crack at the race is the Scottish National winnerJoe Farrell (nap), who returned to action recently and has shaped very promisingly, as has Rathvinden who’s another to have registered an important win over 4m last term. Vintage Clouds and Lake View Lad shaped well with their strong finishes at Cheltenham, while Step Back should be primed for a bold show. Although Tiger Roll heads the Elliott/Gigginstown horde, Dounikos and General Principle could provide them with further powerful ammunition. All will have something to fear if Minella Rocco is still in contention after the first circuit.
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