WHEN discussing the issue of Tiger Roll’s participation, or not as it now seems more likely, in the Randox Grand National, it would appear that the hardest thing to do is to take the personalities out of the debate.
By that I mean to talk about the merits of the handicapper’s assessment without making comments on the brashness of the gelding’s colourful owner, Michael O’Leary.
Mind you, the Ryanair and Gigginstown boss took the gloves off when he hit back and made claims about Martin Greenwood, suggesting the handicapper “doesn’t want Tiger Roll to run in this year’s Grand National”. That is simply absurd.
Greenwood has a job to do, and many owners and trainers will at times have reason to question his and his team’s assessment of a horse’s performance, ability and the ratings given. The handicappers are more often right than they are wrong. In the case of the Grand National they have extra leeway, making the job more difficult than usual.
The Grand National is unique – run over a set of fences that are not racing’s norm, over a distance that is not the norm, and in a field size that is not the norm. There are other variables at play for this race, and one of these is the fact that some horses come alive at Aintree, showing a level of form there that they don’t display elsewhere. This has to be factored in.
It can be argued that Tiger Roll is not the force he was, with his owner stressing the fact that he is now a 12-year-old, but that is the same age Red Rum was when he ran in his fifth Grand National, winning it for the third time. It was also Red Rum’s 99th career start – he turned up a fortnight later and ran in the Scottish equivalent – and we don’t have suggestion, even with hindsight, that there was any welfare issue about his handling. Tiger Roll has run 44 times.
O’Leary is quite correct to put the welfare of Tiger Roll to the forefront of his consideration, but surely those concerns would also lead him to reconsider even a Cheltenham attempt at the cross-country race. What happens if the Tiger Roll of old turns up next month and repeats his annihilation of the field, as he did in 2021? Could that lead to a change of heart on the part of O’Leary?
I am not holding my breath, but I do hope that the owner listens to what Gordon Elliott and Tiger Roll’s devoted team at Cullentra have to say. They love their star more than anyone and would only want the best for him, regardless of any public demands.