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.
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.
The revered Red Rum, of course, made five appearances in Grand National, winning in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and finishing second in 1975 and 1976. However, much earlier in the annals of the Grand National – in fact, in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century – Manifesto made eight appearances in the space of ten years.
Bred and originally owned by Irish solicitor Harry Dyas – who also rode him, albeit no further than the first fence, in the 1896 renewal of the National – Manifesto won twice, in 1897 and 1899, and finished in the first four on another four occasions, including on his debut, as a seven-year-old, in 1895. His second victory, in 1899 – by which time he had been sold to stockbroker John Bulteel and transferred to trainer Willie Moore – was notable for the fact that he carried 12st 7lb. So, too, was his highly creditable third, under an eye-watering 12st 13lb, behind Ambush II in 1900. Manifesto made his final appearance in the National, as a sixteen-year-old, in 1904, finishing eighth and last.
In recent years, in the interests of safety, the race conditions for the Grand National – particularly those relating to the eligibility of horses and jockeys – have been modified more than once. Nowadays, to be eligible to run in the National, horses must be at least seven years old and have an official handicap rating of 125 or more, according to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). Furthermore, horses must have competed in three or more steeplechases during their careers, including at least one during the current season, and have finished first, second, third or fourth in a steeplechase over an official distance of 2 miles 7½ furlongs or beyond. To be eligible to ride in the National, jockeys, whether amateur or professional, must have ridden at least 15 winners – of which at least ten must have been in steeplechases – under the Rules of Racing in Britain or Ireland. Other changes to the race conditions for the Grand National since the turn of the century include lowering the maximum weight to be carried from 12st to 11st 12lb in 2002 and from 11st 12lb to 11st 10lb in 2009; as previously, no penalties are applied once the weights have been published.