It is still very much up in the air as to whether back-to-back Grand National winner, Tiger Roll will return to Aintree in 2020 to try and become the first horse ever to win a hat-trick of successive Grand Nationals.
In a recent interview with Tiger Roll’s owner, Michael O’Leary, it was revealed that O’Leary has his doubts as to whether his career will even last as long as April 2020. That’s because O’Leary plans to enter Tiger Roll into the Cross Country Chase at March’s Cheltenham Festival. Were he to go on and win that race, O’Leary admitted there is “every chance” that “he would be retired”.
Aside from the March Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National is always the most prominent talking point in the annual calendar among horse racing tipsters. Although daily horse racing tips at courses such as Ayr, Bangor and Exeter appeal to the hardcore horse racing fraternity, it’s the national hero, Tiger Roll who’s on the lips of casual fans. His heroics at Aintree in April saw him prevail at the finishing post, despite going off nine pounds higher in weight thanks to the handicappers. It’s the weight issue that O’Leary fears could force Tiger Roll out of contention in 2020.
O’Leary dismissed the notion that he would contemplate letting Tiger Roll go around Aintree carrying 11st 10lb. He said that although he wasn’t “trying to negotiate with the handicapper”, he warned that if it looked like Tiger Roll would be made to carry that kind of top weight, the chances of him featuring are “slim and none”.
Tiger Roll’s trainer, Gordon Elliott, has intimated in recent weeks that he still harbours aspirations to prepare him for the 2020 Grand National. However, O’Leary said that Elliott’s decision “will be taken out of his hands when they release the weights in February”, when Tiger Roll will also race in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan.
Reports out of O’Leary’s Gigginstown stable suggest that he and Tiger Roll’s jockey, Davy Russell have fallen out of late, with Gigginstown choosing to use different riders this year, despite an injury to stable jockey, Jack Kennedy.
When this was put to O’Leary, he said that he would be “mad” to consider any other jockey for Tiger Roll if he was to race in next year’s Grand National. O’Leary was full of praise for Russell’s ability around Aintree, stating that he rides around there “like a master”, suggesting that rumours of a bust-up are surely wide of the mark.
Red Rum is considered the greatest Grand National champion in the history of the race, with three Grand National victories to his name. However, those were achieved between 1973 and 1977. No horse has ever won three-in-a-row at Aintree. Therefore, the weight of history on the shoulders of Tiger Roll could not be greater.
Should Tiger Roll not get the chance to race for Grand National immortality in April, attentions will quickly turn to the other possible runners in 2020. Perhaps the most obvious selection would be Magic of Light, who finished runner-up to Tiger Roll earlier this year and is priced as high as 33/1 with some sportsbooks.
Anibale Fly is another consideration given that it has stayed the course on the last two occasions, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Anibale Fly is also at the right age for the Grand National winner’s enclosure, which is a big deal when it comes to pricing up the runners.
Those preferring to back at much bigger odds should look to Big River for a ‘big’ payday. He finished fifth in this year’s Scottish Grand National and also placed in Cheltenham’s Ultima Handicap Chase, which confirmed his pedigree. The Lucinda Russell-trained stayer is currently at a big price of 66/1, which could certainly be an attractive each-way punt. Nevertheless, all eyes will be on the handicappers in February to determine Tiger Roll’s destiny, first and foremost.