Despite a pretty mediocre couple of showings this autumn by his own very lofty standards, Eddie O’Leary has confirmed that the show will go on for Tiger Roll as he seeks a unique slice of history in 2021.
The ten-year-old will look to become the first horse in history to win three consecutive editions of the Grand National, but first he must come through a return to the Cheltenham Festival – and a possible tilt at the Boyne Hurdle – before dreams of Aintree success are realised.
But it’s good news emanating from the Irish horse’s camp after he was pulled up in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase last week, and there were fears over the nature of the withdrawal – the dreaded ‘r’ word, retirement, was mentioned.
That had certainly gathered momentum after a disappointing showing at Navan in his season’s opener in October, where he finished a full 30 lengths behind the unremarkable winner Ilmig.
However, O’Leary was defiant in the defence of his prized asset, and claimed that we won’t see the best of Tiger Roll until next year.
“He’s a spring horse, it’s as simple as that,” he told the Racing Post.
“Look through his whole career, that tells you everything you need to know.
“I’ll admit he ran far worse than any of us thought he would on Friday. I hoped he would get around safely and finish the race with a smile on his face, but he didn’t do that.”
The Irish owner was quick to dispel any concerns that the ten-year-old could be retired after his energy-less return.
“Tiger Roll will be retired when Tiger Roll tells us he wants to retire. He wasn’t standing still with his back to the ditch when he was let out into the field on Saturday morning, he was bucking and kicking and full of himself.
“He’s still loving life. Once he starts telling us he’s sick of it, that will be it.”
Handicap Mark Makes for an Uphill Task
One party pooper that could stand in the way of Tiger Roll’s tilt at Grand National immortality is the handicapper, who continues to give maximum respect to the major winner.
A mark of 171 – which has subsequently been dropped to 169 – has created fury in the Gigginstown camp, with O’Leary claiming ‘his handicap mark is ludicrous. It’s absolutely crazy. It needs to be readjusted and readjusted fast.’
“When you have a rating of 171 you should have a Gold Cup horse. Why has Tiger Roll never run in a Gold Cup? Because he’s not good enough.”
It’s likely that Tiger Roll will give away significant weight to Easysland, a highly rated stayer, and others in the National field, and that could scupper the hopes of racing fans in seeing history made at Aintree.
Martin Greenwood is the man responsible for the handicap marks given to the staying division, and he claimed that Tiger Roll’s below-par effort at Cheltenham was so out of character that an adjustment would not be the right thing to do.
However, the horse has now been downgraded to 169 for potential future outings, and that may just be enough to pique the interest of O’Leary and his team ahead of a possible spring return.