With the Cheltenham Festival literally days away, we are eagerly awaiting the performances of many potential Grand National runners. Not least of which is Tiger Roll. While the Glenfarclas Chase is undoubtedly a mammoth test of stamina for any runner, rarely have horse racing fans been so eager to watch it. Other than the Gold Cup, this is the race everybody is talking about.
Can the tiger roar all the way into first place again? What does that mean for his chances of winning the Grand National again? Simply put, if Tiger Roll, who is currently 10/1 in the National betting market, wins the Glenfarclas on Wednesday 16th March, then he will almost certainly plummet in the odds. But winning at Cheltenham doesn’t guarantee a win at Aintree on April 6th.
Winning back-to-back Grand Nationals is an almost impossible feat. We all know Red Rum was the last to achieve this back in 1973 and 1974 and racing has become even more challenging since then. The quality and calibre of Grand National entries this year is sky high. However, history tells us that many of the higher profile runners will get withdrawn over the next few weeks. This can only be to the benefit of the lesser known runners.
Tiger Roll has followed a similar path to last season. He is fit and healthy and jumping very, very well. If all goes well for him next week, it will be difficult not to back for the 2019 Grand National again.
Rathvinden is a very interesting prospect. Trained by Willie Mullins, he had a very mixed bag of results last season. He was brought down at Leopardstown in December (2017) and unseated his jockey in his next race race. But he quickly regained his form and went on to win the national Hunt Challenge at the Cheltenham Festival. That race was over 4m, further boosting his credentials for Aintree.
The only issue with him this year was the fact that he had such a long break. It was 305 days before he was seen back racing and that was February 23rd 2019 at Fairyhouse. Proving he has still got it, the 11-year-old romped home in style. In hindsight this was quite a savvy move by Mullins as it protected his mark for the Grand National weights.
He does have a Gold Cup entry but as yet the final line-up has not been declared.
Betting odds on Minella Rocco have dropped substantially over the last week. A general 25/1, he is now as short as 14/1 with Paddy Power bookmakers. So what has prompted this sudden flurry of activity? Trainer Jonjo O’Neill has made it quite clear that although his charge will run at Cheltenham, his main goal is the Grand National. Baring that in mind, he has opted for the Ultima at Cheltenham over the Gold Cup as it gives an additional three days to the recovery time.
And don’t forget that Minella Rocco is a very classy horse who finished second in the Gold Cup in 2017. That said, it has been three years since he won a race. But that hasn’t stopped punters lumping the cash on him for the Ultima. He was one the five most backed horses over the weekend for the festival, making him the second favourite for the race on odds as short as 8/1.
He may be fourth in the betting for the 2019 Grand National but Elegant Escape is the one I think most likely to swerve the race. Of course, that’s purely a personal opinion but at just 7-years-old and given his current rating, I imagine connections will want to hold off on the Aintree spectacular for another year.
He is the winner of the Coral Welsh National, runner-up in the Hennessy Gold Cup, was third to Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase last season and is entered into the Gold Cup. He has stamina in bucket loads. Is a beautiful jumper and from 11 chase starts has won or placed in ALL of them. He has never fallen, unseated or pulled-up – ever.
If you are with a bookmaker who is offering NRNB odds then go for him. Otherwise, hold off until the final declarations. Yes, I know seven year olds have a terrible record in the Grand National but if one horse can defy the odds it will be Elegant Escape.
Was 4th last year so we absolutely know that the JP McManus owned horse can go the distance. However, connections have opted to avoid the longer distance races this season in favour of a couple at just over 2m. That may simply be to give his legs a stretch and conserve his energy for the National.
One thing to note is that last year’s National was run on heavy ground. That means it rained A LOT. And that suited Anibale Fly who likes to run when the going is soft. If the sun is shining and the ground is springy, this may not bode as well for him in 2019. However, he still fifth in the betting on odds between 16/1 and 25/1 depending on the bookmaker.