Tiger Roll is yet to see the racecourse this season and already he has been talked about more than in any other season. In September, we had trainer Gordon Elliott telling us that the horse’s number one aim for the new season would be to win the Grand National for the third time next Spring.
Now we have his trainer Michael O’Leary telling us that as things stand, the chances of Tiger Roll going to Aintree to try and win a third Grand National are ‘slim to none’. There is either a big disagreement going on behind the scenes or someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes and also over the race handicapper’s eyes.
The comments made by O’Leary are in line with what he said after his horse won the Grand National for a second time back in April. He said then that a third tilt at the race was unlikely, and if things we according to plan he would love to take the horse to the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and retire him thereafter winning the Cross Country Chase.
This is pretty much the same as what O’Leary has recently said to back up those words. On top, he has added that the reasoning behind his decision is based around the weight that the horse would have to carry in the big one. He said he doesn’t want his horse carrying a huge weight around Aintree and trying to give horses that have run in the Gold Cup six or even eight pounds at the weights.
Back in September, trainer Gordon Elliott said that the horse would be aiming towards Aintree for the third time. At that time Michael O’Leary countered by saying that he was happy to have the horse aimed for the race, but in February when the weights were revealed, he would then make the decision about running the horse himself, taking it out of Elliott’s hands.
O’Leary has also reiterated that his wife and children all love the horse, and he would not want to risk anything happening to him for their sake. Back in 2009, one of his horses, Hear The Echo, died from a heart attack in the race and he has said that he doesn’t want this to happen again.
There is undoubtedly going to be a lot asked of Tiger Roll from the handicapper this coming season as he bids to prevent him from winning a third race. From the comments that Michael O’Leary is making, we can gain one of two things.
The first is that he genuinely won’t risk the horse, and it is unlikely he will run in the race. The second is that the horse will run, that has always been the plan, and these comments are purely to play in the mind of the handicapper when he is allocating the weights, to try and give Tiger Roll a weight that his owner will let him run off.
In O’Leary’s defense, he clearly stated before this year’s race that had Anibale Fly been withdrawn, giving Tiger Roll near top weight (11-09) by default, he would have taken him out of the race. Will he keep his word? O’Leary knows Tiger Roll has nothing to prove, the horse is a legend so maybe he will retire him after all.
One thing is for sure, the bookies certainly haven’t taken heed. They have installed him as the clear favourite at ante-post odds of 6/1.