Tiger Roll has the pedigree but will need every ounce of fighting spirit to pull off the extraordinary and match Red Rum’s Grand National success
- Tiger Roll could become the first horse since Red Rum to retain Grand National
- The gelding has had an impeccable build up after fourth victory at Cheltenham
- He will be reunited with jockey Davy Russell for first time since last year’s race
- There are striking similarities with the legendary horse should he make history
His owner Michael O’Leary memorably labelled him a ‘little rat of a thing’ after he won last year’s Randox Health Grand National but when it comes to fighting spirit and competitive instinct Tiger Roll is definitely a predator at the top of the racing food chain.
On Saturday afternoon the nine-year-old gelding will need both those character traits in spades as he tries to become the first horse to win back-to-back Grand Nationals since the legendary Red Rum 45 years ago.
Bookmakers claim they are braced for the biggest gamble since Red Rum was sent off 7-2 favourite in 1975 – the year he finished second to L’Escargot.
Tiger Roll could become the first horse since Red Rum 45 years ago to retain Grand National
Red Rum went on to win three Grand Nationals and he has many similarities with Tiger Roll
After an impeccable build-up, including an impressive fourth victory at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, there have even been suggestions that Tiger Roll’s starting price could challenge the shortest ever for a Grand National winner, Poethlyn, 100 years ago.
In reality, that looks unlikely given more than expected rain this week means that the extra 6lb Tiger Roll has on his back compared to last year makes the weight more significant over the four-and-a-quarter mile trip.
But betting will only be part of a remarkable story if Tiger Roll can make history. There will also be some striking similarities with Red Rum too.
Physically, Tiger Roll, who is re-united with jockey Davy Russell for the first time since last year’s race, is not a big horse just like Red Rum.
Tiger Roll will be reunited with jockey Davy Russell for the first time since last year’s race
But both Rummy and the gelding trying to follow in his hoof prints have and had agility, a quickness on their feet which makes them adept at avoiding the unexpected situations.
When both horses were bred, the Grand National was also not a potential flicker on their agendas. Famously, as a two-year-old Red Rum dead-heated for victory on debut in five-furlong selling plate on the Flat at Aintree the day before Foinavon won the 1967 Grand National at 100-1.
Tiger Roll, a son of Derby winner Authorized, cost £70,000 when bought in 2010 to join Sheik Mohammed’s global Flat racing operation.
Nearly three years later, without ever run, he was picked up by jump trainer Nigel Hawke, the man who won the 1991 Grand National as a jockey on Seagram.
Following a winning debut over hurdles at Market Rasen, Tiger Roll was snapped up for £80,000 by bloodstock agent Mags O’Toole for Ryanair boss O’Leary and it seemed job done when two runs later he landed the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Both Red Rum and the nine-year-old gelding have and had agility and a quickness on their feet
O’Toole recalled: ‘Although he wasn’t huge he was a very good-looking horse with a great action but we never thought at the,”why don’t we buy him, he could be a National horse one day”!’
Three subsequent Cheltenham Festival wins have followed – one in the four mile National Hunt Chase and two in the Cross Country Chase.
His win this year was a stroll and, on the back of a comfortable win over hurdles, Tiger Roll has looked better than ever.
Elliott said: ‘He’s been a horse of a lifetime but he can also be a bit of a boyo. He is no child’s pony.
‘His form looks better than ever but this is his toughest task of the season. It’s the Grand National and I am under no illusions (it will be easy). If he wins it will be a great story and he definitely seems better horse this season.
‘But he is carrying more weight and trying to win it a second time is a massive ask. If he wins it will be a great story but I would not want to be backing him at the price.’
Tiger Roll is in impeccable form and picked up his fourth victory last month at Cheltenham
Elliott, who also won the 2007 National with Silver Birch, is already a record breaker before the race even starts. His 11 runners beats by one the previous record of 10 starters for trainer Martin Pipe in 2001, when his best finisher was third Blowing Wind.
Elliott definitely thinks he has strength in depth. He added: ‘To be honest there are seven or eight horses that I run that would not shock me if they won.
‘Dounikos won the Grand National Trial at Punchestown on his last run, General Principle won last year’s Irish National, the rain that has fallen will suit Folsom Blue and I think Jury Duty is in very good form.’
Elliott is on a roll. He could take some stopping.