Trainer Gordon Elliott has admitted that Tiger Roll will be targeted for next year’s Grand National at Aintree where he will be eyeing a record third-straight win. But can the nine-year-old write his name in the history books by achieving what no horse has ever done?
History in the making
By winning in 2019, Tiger Roll equalled Red Rum’s feat of winning back-to-back renewals of the UK’s showpiece National Hunt race (achieved in 1973 and 1974). Red Rum went on to win another race but his third win came later in 1977. However, he did finish second in both the intervening years. As a result, there would a hot debate as to whether a third-consecutive win would put Tiger Roll ahead of Red Rum in the all-time standings.
Tiger Roll’s hopes of winning in 2020 will depend on a few factors. Firstly, the handicappers could limit his chances but the effect of that could be minimised by selecting the right programme in the build-up to the race. Secondly, that programme will have to be designed to ensure he maintains his form and fitness heading into the race. So there is a balancing act to be performed by Elliott and Co.
After enjoying a summer break, preparations are now underway to get the Irish runner in shape for the big event. Bookmakers have already started taking bets with prices of 6/1 available in the ante-post horse racing betting.
He is currently working on flat ground at Gigginstown and should return to the main yard in October to begin the next phase of preparation. Gordon Elliott is likely to target the Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February and the Cheltenham Festival Cross Country race in March, both of which they won last year. It is unlikely that he will race elsewhere. Davy Russell will be in the saddle once again should Tiger Roll get the all-clear for the National.
Celebrity status beckons
Just like Red Rum, Tiger Roll has proved to be a popular horse with the UK public and a third win could propel him to similar celebrity status. Red Rum was a guest on the BBC for the 1977 Sports Personality of the Year awards and had his own range of merchandise including mugs. He was even a guest at Blackpool Tower and helped turn on the town’s Christmas lights.
With Tiger Roll involved, the build-up to the 2020 race could be on a scale not witnessed for decades. The racing world has been waiting for a new Red Rum for 40 years and no other National Hunt horse has achieved the same level of prominence since.
Providing he can stay fit and his preparation goes to plan, he should stand a great chance. And there are not many other horses who stand out as contenders at this stage. Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint is currently priced at 20/1 but is still very young by Grand National standards. It is hard to imagine him competing with an in-form Tiger Roll of the Aintree fences.