Two-time Grand National champion Tiger Roll’s hopes of creating history with a third triumph have been hit by an injury that could keep him out of action until February at the earliest.
And any hopes of a historic hat-trick have also been played down by the horse’s owner, Michael O’Leary of the Gigginstown Stud.
The nine-year-old horse has chipped a joint, which is to be looked at with minor surgery today, and the likelihood is that he won’t be seen again until the Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February – or, worst still, with no preparatory run prior to the Cheltenham Festival.
That would be a huge setback ahead of a date with destiny at Aintree in April, where Tiger Roll would be looking to become the first horse in history to win three editions of the Grand National consecutively, and only the second after Red Rum to win three at any time.
Earlier in the year trainer Gordon Elliott seemingly confirmed that Tiger Roll would be heading to the National in an attempt to create history, however the idea has recently had cold water poured on it by O’Leary himself.
Bemoaning the handicapper, the Irishman intimated that he wouldn’t send Tiger Roll to the starting line if he went off as the top weight.
“The chances of Tiger Roll going back to Aintree are slim and none,” O’Leary said. “Is he going to carry 11st 10lb in a Grand National, with Gold Cup seconds and thirds getting six or eight pounds off him? No, he is not.”
“He will go for the cross-country race at Cheltenham, and I would say there is every chance if he won that he would be retired.”
Davy’s Back on Board
Much of Tiger Roll’s success has come with Davy Russell in the saddle.
And any hopes his connections have of further glory would surely hinge on Russell’s availability; be it at the Grand National or the Cheltenham Festival.
The three-time Irish champion jockey has won most of the big races at the festival, including the Gold Cup aboard Lord Windermere, and he is also regarded as something of an Aintree specialist into the bargain.
However, it had seemed as though a fall-out between Russell and the Gigginstown team might scupper his chances of getting many big rides from the Irish firm this season.
He has only been booked twice by Gigginstown since the Galway Festival back in July, but Eddie O’Leary has now confirmed that Russell will be back in their trademark silks at Punchestown at the weekend.
Michael O’Leary played down any talks of a rift, and added:
“A lot of these horses don’t need Davy Russell on them. We do everything we can to give every horse the best chance of winning, and I wouldn’t be taking Davy off our horses if there wasn’t a good reason for it. I’m not wedded to him.”
That said, he did go on to say that Russell ‘rides Aintree like a master’, and if he can be persuaded to set Tiger Roll free once more at the National then there could be more glory to follow.