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 is the virtual Grand National?

As the name suggests, the virtual Grand National is an animated version of the Grand National developed by Inspired Entertainment, Inc. The virtual Grand National was televised in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as a precursor to the National ‘proper’ but, in 2020, assumed greater significance after the actual race was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic; at the time of writing, the virtual race is due to be broadcast on ITV at 17.00 on Saturday, April 4.

The virtual Grand National apparently employs the latest computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology, and special sets of rules, a.k.a. algorithms, to determine the result, but is due to play out in real-time, with commentary from Stewart Machin. So far, the virtual Grand National results have been close to the actual Grand National results but, granted that the proof of the pudding is not in the eating, so to speak, the popularity of the virtual race in its own right remains to be seen.

To anyone desperate enough to have watched or, worse still, to have bet on, virtual horse racing, the virtual Grand National offers little or nothing new. In the absence of final declarations for the National, choosing the forty runners ‘most likely’ to participate may prove problematic. In any case, rendering data as an animation, or ‘cartoon’, based on complex algorithms has been done often enough before, with less-than-stellar results.

Update: The simulated 2020 Grand National race was won by Welsh trained 18-1 shot Potters Corner (with Tiger Roll fading into fourth place) and drew a peak television audience of 4.8m. Christian Williams, trainer of the real Potters Corner was said to be clearing on the victory with her family at home.

“There was great excitement in the house,” said Williams. “The children were on their toy horses and it was great watching the race and seeing our horse come through to win.”

The race raised a total of £2.6 million for NHS Charities Together.



What is the smallest number of finishers ever in the Grand National?

The smallest number of finishers ever in the Grand National was just two, in 1928, and just one of them, 100/1 outsider Tipperary Tim, completed the course unscathed. The only other finisher, Billy Barton, had been left ahead at the fence before Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, but had been joined by Tipperary Tim when falling at the final fence; he was subsequently remounted and completed the course to finish a distant second.

The 1928 Grand National was run in testing conditions, but the main reason just two of the 42 starters finished was a melee at the Canal Turn on the first circuit, which decimated the field. The Canal Turn was, at the time, an open ditch and Easter Hero, who fell, and Eagle’s Tail, who refused, were the main agents provocateur in reducing the field to nine heading out onto the second circuit. At the fourth last fence, just three horses, headed by Great Span, were left standing; hindered by a slipping saddle, Great Span unseated rider at the second last and, when Billy Barton came down at the last, Tipperary Tim was left, at least temporarily, alone to gallop home unopposed.

How many times did Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain win the Grand National?

Of course, the late Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain – who died in 2011, just two days shy of his eighty-first birthday – has his name writ large in the annals of Grand National history as the trainer of the incomparable Red Rum. Nevertheless, ‘Mr. Aintree’, as McCain was affectionately known in his heyday, remained in the training ranks until 2006, when he handed over his licence to his son, Donald Jnr., and, in 2004, won a record-equalling fourth Grand National.

That emotional victory came courtesy of the twelve-year-old Amberleigh House who, according to BBC commentator Jim McGrath, came ‘absolutely flying down the outside’ under jockey Graham Lee to beat joint-favourite Clan Royal by three lengths. Two years previously, Amberleigh House had been balloted out of the Grand National, despite winning the Becher Chase, over 3 miles 3 furlongs on the National Course, the previous November. Nevertheless, despite entering the ‘veteran’ stage of his career, Amberleigh House returned to Aintree to make Ginger McCain just the second trainer, after Fred Rimell, to saddle four Grand National winners.

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