Can Tiger Roll still win a third Grand National?
The cancellation of the Grand National means that Tiger Roll won’t have the opportunity to complete an historic hat-trick – at least not this spring. But it was already the plan to keep him in training next season, and the chance to emulate Aintree legend Red Rum may only have been delayed until next year.
Tiger Roll will be eleven in 2021, and while the most recent winners of the race have been younger chasers, Neptune Collonges, Auroras Encore and Pineau de Re were all eleven-year-olds when winning three consecutive Grand Nationals from 2012 to 2014.
Like Tiger Roll, Red Rum won his first two Grand Nationals aged eight and nine, but finished runner-up in the next two years before finally entering the record books as a twelve-year-old. Age, therefore, shouldn’t be seen as a negative regarding Tiger Roll’s chances in 2021.
More important will be what sort of form he’s in next spring. While we can’t know that yet, it’s possible he could actually go into next year’s Grand National on the back of better performances than he put up in his two prep races this year. Before winning his second Grand National, he had been successful in his two previous starts, the Boyne Hurdle at Navan and then the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country course at the Cheltenham Festival.
Following a setback earlier this season, Tiger Roll was given the same preparation but was beaten at both Navan and Cheltenham. His weary finish in the cross-country when beaten 17 lengths into second by French rival Easysland was certainly in marked contrast to his 22-length victory the year before, with connections blaming the heavy ground for Tiger Roll’s odds-on defeat.
Tiger Roll had been due to carry top weight of 11-10 in this year’s Grand National and there’s unlikely to be much room for leniency on the handicapper’s part when it comes to framing the weights for next year’s race. Going back to Red Rum, his two defeats in the Grand National came under top weight when trying to concede 11 lb to former Gold Cup winner L’Escargot in 1975 and then 12 lb to that season’s Welsh National winner Rag Trade a year later. Red Rum had 12-0 and 11-10 on his back on those two occasions, and was top-weight again under 11-8 when successful for the third time in 1977.
It's possible that, like Red Rum, Tiger Roll could face a former Gold Cup winner in next year’s National. Native River had been entered for this year’s race (Tiger Roll would have had to concede him 4 lb) before injury ruled him out, but he could be among the biggest threats to Tiger Roll’s treble bid. Besides Easysland, other potential Aintree rivals next year who were successful at Cheltenham last week include the Ultima winner The Conditional and the Kim Muir winner Milan Native who also represents Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown. Last year’s Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint was second favourite for this year’s Grand National behind Tiger Roll, who had been as short as 5/1 prior to his defeat at Cheltenham and still headed the betting when its cancellation was announced.
This isn’t the first time that an Irish jumping icon has potentially been denied the chance to make history by the cancellation of a major meeting. Back in 2001, Istabraq looked odds-on to become the first horse to win four Champion Hurdles before an outbreak of foot and mouth disease resulted in the loss of the Cheltenham Festival. Istabraq did get his chance in the Champion Hurdle a year later but, with question marks over his well-being going into the race, he was pulled up after jumping just two flights. Let’s hope Tiger Roll at least gets the opportunity to bid for a third Grand National in 2021.
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