At just under 16 hands high, Tiger Roll is small for a steeplechaser and was, in fact, originally bought by owner Michael O’Leary to win the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. However, Tiger Roll proved significantly better than anticipated, winning the Grade One Triumph Hurdle, on just his second start for his new connections, in 2014.
Subsequently, despite his diminutive size, fences have been the making of him. Of course, in April, 2019, he made history by becoming the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National two years running, but he also has three further successes at the Cheltenham Festival to his name. He won the National Hunt Chase in 2017 and the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase two years running, in 2018 and 2019, en route to victory in the Grand National.
Still only a nine-year-old, Tiger Roll takes the odd liberty with an obstacle but, although he did once unseat his rider in a novices’ chase at Galway, when bumped by a rival at the second-last fence, he has never fallen. So, while Michael O’Leary has said that Tiger Roll is ‘very unlikely’ to run in the Grand National in 2020, another win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – which would be his fifth at the Cheltenham Festival – looks within the realms of possibility.
Of course, the 2020 Grand National was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic but, three weeks before the event was due to take place, Burrows Saint was second-favourite, behind only Tiger Roll, and had been well touted as one of the more likely winners. However, Burrows Saint is still a young horse and, granted that the last seven-year-old to win the Grand National was Bogskar in 1940, the enforced delay in his Aintree challenge may not be altogether a bad thing.
Owned by Susannah Ricci and trained, in County Carlow, Ireland, by Willie Mullins, Burrows Saint first emerged as a bona fide Grand National contender when justifying favouritism in the Irish Grand National, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Fairyhouse in April, 2019. He subsequently ran creditably in defeat, in two Grade One events, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at Auteil and the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse, before reverting to hurdles in the Bet With Tote At Punchestown Hurdle on New Year’s Eve.
On the latter occasion, despite being disadvantaged by the race conditions, Burrows Saint was enterprising ridden by Rachael Blackmore and, having made all the running, only had to be pushed out on the run-in to win, easily, by three-and-a-quarter lengths. Bookmaker Paddy Power responded by cutting his odds for the Grand National from 20/1 to 14/1 so, while the 2021 Grand National is obviously some way off, the 25/1 available ante post, at the time of writing, could yet represent some value.
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.
In 2019, Tiger Roll made history by becoming the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National two years running. Of course, Red Rum went on to complete an unprecedented hat-trick in the world famous steeplechase in 1977 but, before ‘Rummy’, as he was affectionately known, the last horse to win two consecutive Grand Nationals was Reynoldstown in 1936. Before that, Poethlyn won two consecutive renewals of the Grand National, but the first of them, in 1918, came in the so-called ‘War National’, run at Gatwick Racecourse.
Three other horses – Abd-El-Kader in 1850 and 1851, The Colonel in 1869 and 1870 and Manifesto in 1897 and 1899 – have won the Grand National more than once so, including Poethlyn, a total of seven horses have done so. A horse called The Duke won the first two renewals of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase – the race which later became the Grand National – in 1836 and 1837, but the first ‘official’ running of the Grand National took place in 1839.