Exclusive: Tiger Roll hoping to compete for historic hat-trick at next year's Grand National

·3-min read
Tiger Roll with trainer Gordon Elliott (left), and owner Michael O'Leary. - PA
Tiger Roll with trainer Gordon Elliott (left), and owner Michael O'Leary. - PA

Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll will aim to emulate Red Rum by completing a historic hat-trick in next year’s Aintree showpiece, at the grand age of 12 - as long as he is not given too much weight to carry.

Tiger Roll was controversially omitted from this year’s Grand National after a dispute between the British handicapper and the horse’s owners, who took issue with the weight allocated to the five-time Cheltenham Festival winner.

Not seen since trailing in a distant fourth over an inadequate distance in April’s Betway Bowl, the Gordon Elliott-trained horse has now been entered into a comeback race at Cheltenham this Sunday, with Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owner and brother Michael’s Gigginstown House Stud, confirming the Grand National remains the focus next April.

Now in the twilight of his career, victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase would require Tiger Roll to become only the second 12-year-old winner this century. However, in an echo of the spat that saw the horse ruled out of the Aintree race earlier this year, O’Leary again pleaded for the handicapper to show mercy on the ageing great.

“I’m not saying he’ll definitely run this weekend and I haven’t talked to Gordon yet, but the plan is to run him shortly,” O’Leary told Telegraph Sport, after Tiger Roll’s entry into Sunday’s Winchcombe Handicap Chase.

“The longer term plan would be the cross country at the Cheltenham Festival, all being well, and if he’s given a chance, hopefully the [Grand] National. But he has to be given a chance.

“None of us want this bulls--- all year with the handicapper. The horse is rated 155 in Ireland and he’s stuck on 167 in England, which is ridiculous.

“The Irish handicapper has dropped him seven pounds since his win at Cheltenham [in March 2021], but the English handicapper will not drop this horse. Obviously he has something against us or the horse.

“At some point he’s going to have to drop him. Does he want to wait until the horse is 17?”

Victorious in the 2018 and 2019 Grand National, Tiger Roll was unable to bid for a third successive victory when the 2020 race was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.

Three lacklustre outings at the start of last season prompted talk of retirement, but he bounced back in spectacular fashion to win the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March - his fifth Festival success.

He took part in that race under the guidance of Denise Foster, who took charge of Elliott’s yard while he served a ban after a photograph surfaced of him sitting on a dead horse on his gallops.

Despite that fifth Cheltenham Festival triumph prompting calls for Tiger Roll to take his place in the 2021 Grand National, his owners insisted his handicap was too high and instead ran him over the Betway Bowl at the same meeting, where he finished 92 lengths behind the winner.

In Tiger Roll’s absence, Minella Times was triumphant in the Grand National, with Rachael Blackmore becoming the first female jockey to win the race.

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