When it comes to the Grand National, few winners endear themselves to the public as much as Tiger Roll has. In fact, I doubt any other horse has had the same amount of media coverage either. And it didn’t take owner, Michael O’Leary, to nip the prospect of ‘three-in-a-row’ in the bud, following his epic win in April 2019.
While it may have seemed premature to discount the chances of Tiger Roll returning for the 2020 Grand National, O’Leary was laying the ball firmly in the BHA Handicapper’s court. Unlike so many other hotly contested National Jumps races in the UK, the Handicapper does have discretion over the weights allocated to the National entries. Technically, he has the ability to reduce as well as increase weights based on past performances.
But the likelihood that BHA jumps handicapper Martin Greenwood will give Tiger Roll a pass is remote.
When the handicap ratings were announced in May, for the 2018/19 jumps season, Tiger Roll was rated at 172. That makes him the third highest staying chaser in training. Only the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo (175) and Punchestown Gold Cup winner Kemboy (177) rated higher. And neither of them looks set to take to the Aintree fences next April.
🌟 At 177, Kemboy is the highest rated horse in the 2018/19 season, with Topfothegame (164) heading the staying novice division.
— BHA Press Office (@BHAPressOffice) May 23, 2019
That clearly marks Tiger Roll as the best potential entrant for the 2020 Grand National. And that means top weight. Ultimately the race is designed to give all runners a level playing field, each with the opportunity to win. We all know that some runners won’t even make it around the course but it is still as fair as it can be.
Greenwood said: “I have never seen a horse in my memory travel so strongly on the Grand National. He was still on the bridle at the last fence. I thought he would struggle after the mistake he made at the fourth last fence but he just kept going. He is an unbelievable horse.
“Like he did the previous year, I think he was dossing when he got to the front and the winning margin did not reflect his superiority. If he had run in the Gold Cup, I think he would have been placed.
“Weights have been compressed in the Grand National before but not with horses who have won two Grand Nationals. The only reason to compress Tiger Roll’s weight is if the Grand National form does not work out.
“You would love to see Tiger Roll run in the Grand National but this is not the Tiger Roll fan club. We have to be fair to the other horses.’
Michael O’Leary epitomises the phrase ‘can’t do right for doing wrong’. He faces constant criticism for running too many horses in the big races, but equally, incurred wrath when he decided to wind down his Gigginstown Stud operation. So apparently, his money is good, just as long as he doesn’t try to win too much!
Not that bothers him one bit. Speaking to the Racing Post he said:
“I’m p***** off because I’m being criticised for running too many horses in races? I couldn’t care less.
“If I could have all 12 runners in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and all 40 runners in the Grand National, I would.
“I wouldn’t give a rat’s arse if I got criticism as long as I won it. I don’t think it bothers John Magnier and Aidan O’Brien that they have seven or eight horses running in the Derby – these are the great races.”
So will O’Leary take one more punt on the Grand National? It seems that is up to the BHA Handicapper Martin Greenwood!