One For Arthur missed the 2017/18 National Hunt season due to injury, missing out on the opportunity to defend his crown at the Grand National. Lucinda Russell’s charge won the illustrious event in 2017 courtesy of a brilliant performance at Aintree.
In his absence last season, Tiger Roll made the headlines to take the crown, continuing the run of a new champion in the race since Red Rum’s win back in 1974. No horse has been able to match the accomplishment of the all-time great to triumph on multiple occasions.
However, One For Arthur and Tiger Roll will be aiming to achieve the feat this time around. Hedgehunter was the last competitor to have come the closest to back-to-back victories in the event. Willie Mullins’ charge triumphed in 2005 after previously finishing in third place in 2004.
He was almost able to repeat his success in the 2006 race, only to be beaten out by Numbersixvalverde down the stretch by six lengths. Tiger Roll is the leading contender in the horse racing odds to win the event this year, although his predecessor One For Arthur is also highly thought of by the bookies.
Form will be crucial for both horses in their bid to secure a second crown. Russell’s horse slowly built a run of results in the 2016/17 season before his triumph at Aintree. It began with a dominant run at the EDF-ER Handicap Chase in Kelso, finishing comfortably ahead of his nearest rival. The dress rehearsal for the National in the Becher Handicap Chase proved to be a close contest, although it did not quite work out for One For Arthur. The bay gelding put forward a strong effort but was edged out down the final straight into fifth place in a talented field.
However, he was able to respond with one of the finest runs of his career, delivering a statement at the Betfred Classic in Warwick in a simple victory. As a result, One For Arthur had momentum heading into the National where he was considered one of the leading candidates among the bookies. With Derek Fox in the saddle, the bay gelding was able to overcome the rigours of the course with a smooth ride to pull away from the rest of the field to etch his place in history.
Russell’s charge suffered an injury to his right fore superficial flexor tendon, which ruled him out of the last campaign. The 10-year-old has competed only once since his return to fitness and failed to finish as he unseated jockey Tom Scudamore in the Many Clouds Chase. Russell has work ahead of her to get the Irish horse into gear for the National.
Tiger Roll has managed to remain healthy after his exploits last season. Gordon Elliott has opted to keep his workload light in the build-up towards a hectic end to the campaign. He returned to Cheltenham for the first time since winning the Cross Country Chase in the Cheltenham Festival in March to compete in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase. Although he improved on his 2017 performance by placing in fourth, there is also a challenge for Elliott to build his charge’s form over the course of the term, heading into Cheltenham Festival and the National for the defence of his title.