Will Tiger Roll run in the 2021 Grand National?

At the time of writing, the 2021 Grand National is still over twelve months away so, frankly, whether or not Tiger Roll will attempt to become the first horse to record a hat-trick in the Aintree marathon in 2021 is anybody’s guess. Of course, Tiger Roll was ante-post favourite, at 8/1 or thereabouts, for the 2020 Grand National prior to its cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic, but can be backed at 20/1 for the 2021 renewal.

Nevertheless, trainer Gordon Elliott has already said that there is ‘every chance’ of Tiger Roll running in the Grand National in 2021. He is, after all, still only a ten-year-old – which means that he will be the same age as recent National winners Pineau De Re, Auroras Encore and Neptune Collonges by the time next April rolls around – and, granted that he has been restricted to just eleven starts in the last three National Hunt seasons, has hardly been overraced.

Of course, owner Michael O’Leary announced, shortly after winning the Grand National for a second time with Tiger Roll, and the third time in all, in 2019, that he would be winding down his Gigginstown House Stud operation over the next four or five years. Even so, Tiger Roll has time on his side so, who knows, he may yet attempt to achieve racing immortality.

What was the largest field ever assembled for the Grand National?

Nowadays, the safety limit for the Grand National is 40 runners, but the largest field ever assembled was 66 in 1929. A photograph of the start shows the record number of starters stretched out, in one long line, across the entire width of the Aintree track.

The 1929 Grand National was also notable as the first renewal after the filling in of the ditch that had previously preceded the Canal Turn, which had been the site of the biggest pile-up in National history the previous year. Indeed, one of the horses that contributed to the melee, Easter Hero, was sent off clear favourite at 9/2 in 1929, despite carrying the welter burden of 12st 7lb. In any event, Easter Hero finished second, beaten 6 lengths, by Gregalach, who became the second 100/1 winner in the history of the Grand National and, remarkably, the second consecutive 100/1 winner after Tipperary Tim in 1929.

Of the 66 starters, nine horses – including three 200/1 outsiders, Melleray’s Belle, Delarue and Kilbairn – completed the course. There was, however, one casualty; Stort, another 200/1 outsider, nearly unseated rider at the first fence, did so at the third fence, fell, when loose, at the Canal Turn on the first circuit and fell again, fatally, at the twelfth fence.

What, and where, is the Melling Road?

Ever since the Grand National was first broadcast on television, in 1960, the Melling Road, along with the ‘named’ fences, such as Becher’s Brook and the Canal Turn, has crept into the public psyche as part of the familiar Aintree infrastructure. The National Course crosses the Melling Road at two points.

The first is on the approach to the first, and seventeenth, fence, while the second is after the twelfth, and twenty-eighth, fence. The second, near the Anchor Bridge, marks the point where the runners rejoin the ‘racecourse proper’ and, on the second circuit, where the race really begins in earnest. Indeed, back in the days when the Grand National was televised on BBC, it was the point at which John Hanmer handed commentary ‘over to Peter O’Sullevan’, who traditionally called home the winner.

Obviously, the Melling Road is best known for its association with the Grand National, but is a bona fide, mile-long thoroughfare through the village of Aintree. On National Day, the road is covered with Fibresand to allow the horses to cross safely.

Has any horse ever won the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National?

The Cheltenham Gold Cup was inaugurated, in it current guise, in 1924 and the Champion Hurdle in 1927 but, in over nine decades, just one horse has won both races. That horse, or mare, was Dawn Run who, in 1984, won the Champion Hurdle – as part of a unique treble, which also included the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteil – and, in 1986, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Dawn Run never ran in the Grand National; sadly, she suffered a broken neck during a fall in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteil later in 1986.

However, two horses have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National. In fact, the first of them, Golden Miller won both races in 1934 – the year in he recorded the third of his five consecutive wins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and broke the course record at Aintree – and remains the only horse to do so in the same season. The second, L’Escargot, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup two years running, in 1970 and 1971, before denying Red Rum his third consecutive win in the Grand National, in 1975.

No horse may have ever won the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National, but one man who did was the late Fred Winter; in fact, he won all three races as a jockey and as a trainer.

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