Despite changes to the distance, fences, entry conditions and handicap over the years, the Grand…
Tiger Roll will bid to become the first horse since the legendary Red Rum to win back-to-back Grand Nationals at Aintree on Saturday. All eyes will be on Gordon Elliott’s star nine-year-old as the runners gather at the start line for the epic 4-mile 514-yard chase. Can he pull it off? Here we assess Tiger Roll’s strengths and weaknesses and analyse whether he can mount a successful defence of his Grand National crown.
The Case for Tiger Roll
Last year Tiger Roll cemented his status as a Cheltenham Festival legend by winning the Cross Country Chase and he headed to the Grand National in fine form. He was the joint second favourite to win the race, but many dismissed his chances of success. He was written off as too small and many thought he could not handle the step up in trip. Yet the smallest horse in the field, dubbed “a little rat of a thing” by owner Michael O’Leary, displayed a lion-sized heart and a great deal of courage as he romped to victory in the biggest race of the year.
This time he has all the momentum once more after he successfully defended the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham last month. He can never be counted out, as he is a supremely versatile performer and he has secured victories over all manner of distances and in various different conditions. If you check out the horse racing spread betting at Sporting Index you will see that he is the shortest priced Grand National favourite in years and deservedly so.
He was handed 10-11 by the handicapper, leaving him very much in the sweet spot, as nine of the last eleven Nationals have gone to horses carrying between 10-07 and 11-06. He is slightly heavier than he was a year ago, but he has not been lumbered with too much weight. He has bags-of-experience now, and you know he has the stamina and jumping ability to finish a race that sees many fallers. He is blessed with terrific pace, and he could well cruise to victory if he is able to run a clean race, so he can absolutely double up at Aintree this year.
The Case Against Tiger Roll
No horse has successfully defended the Grand National since Red Rum, who won it in 1973 and 1974. He finished second in 1975 and 1976, before winning a third National in 1977 to cement his status as one of the greatest chasers of all time. We have not seen anything like that since, as every defending champion has flopped. Tiger Roll was not exactly an emphatic winner last year, as Pleasant Company came within inches of reeling him in, and far more dominant winners have failed to defend the crown the following year.
It’s an utterly brutal race, featuring horrendous fences such as The Chair and Becher’s Brook. Tiger Roll has completed it before, but there is no guarantee that he will do so again. The hazardous nature of the race means that anything can happen to put him off. A stray horse could clatter into him, or he could fall over another runner in a pile-up. It is an extremely prestigious race and the prize money on offer is huge, so it always attracts a competitive field and Tiger Roll could simply be vanquished by a faster horse with better stamina on the day.
A colossal field of 40 runners will contest the Grand National and danger lurks at every turn for Tiger Roll. Rathvinden, Anibale Fly, Vintage Clouds and Lake View Lad are all vying to be the second favourite. Rathvinden is leading the charge for Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins after a strong win in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse. Anibale Fly is always there or thereabouts, having placed in last year’s National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018 and 2019. Vintage Clouds was third in the Scottish Grand National and looks to be steadily improving, while the lightly raced Lake View Lad is a strong stayer.
Pleasant Company is set to have another crack at glory after coming so close last year, giving Mullins another interesting shot at victory. An outright favourite has not won this race since Hedgehunter back in 2005, and punters have typically fared better when looking further down the field for each-way value. Joe Farrell and Jury Duty are beginning to attract a lot of attention, and Ramses De Teillee is also a big mover, while Ballyoptic also looks interesting.
Will Tiger Roll win the Grand National Again?
The shortest-priced winner in Grand National history was 11/4 shot Poethlyn in 1919, and Tiger Roll could match that exactly 100 years later. We have not seen such a heavy favourite in many years for this race, and he justifies the hype due to his pace, stamina and iron constitution. He could well coast to victory in this race, but at such short odds it is risky, as it is always a madcap, frenetic, congested contest and anything could happen to upset his rhythm. You could back him and hope he gets a clean run, but you might be better off choosing a couple of longer shots each-way.