Three days after being described as “50-50” to run at Aintree, the odds that Tiger Roll will attempt to win an historic third consecutive Grand National on 4 April shortened considerably on Friday when his connections confirmed he will take his chance assuming he comes through his next two races fit and well.
Tiger Roll’s handicap mark relative to horses such as Native River, the 2018 Gold Cup winner, was the cause of much irritation for Eddie O’Leary, the racing manager for his brother Michael, when the weights for this year’s race were unveiled on Tuesday. The lure of the world’s most famous and storied chase, however, has proved irresistible.
“We still feel he’s on a very unfair handicap mark,” O’Leary said on Friday, “but so be it. It’s unfair to deny him a chance to go for history. If he comes through Navan and Cheltenham and all’s well, then we’ll run.”
Tiger Roll suffered an injury earlier in the season and there is very little margin for error in his schedule in the buildup to the National. The 10-year-old needs to contest a chase beforehand to qualify to run, and Sunday’s Boyne Hurdle at Navan, a race he landed at 25-1 last season, will be Tiger Roll’s first outing for 316 days.
“He’s going well at home but he was only back cantering on 4 January so he will be short,” O’Leary said. “We know that and we’ve been very open about it. But hopefully he’ll be ridden on the back, he’ll be happy going around and if he passes a couple of horses, that’s great. It will be great to have him back.”
The field for Sunday’s race also includes Jessica Harrington’s Magic Of Light, the two-and-three-quarter length runner-up to Tiger Roll in last year’s National, and despite O’Leary’s suggestion that a repeat success is unlikely, Tiger Roll is the 3-1 joint-favourite with Darasso in the early betting with Magic Of Light available at 5-1.
All four meetings scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Britain will hold early inspections as Storm Dennis threatens to pick up where its predecessor Storm Ciara left off, in terms of disruption to the jumping programme at a crucial point in the season.
Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton are all due to stage important trials for next month’s Cheltenham Festival, while Cyrname, the top-rated chaser in training, is one of four declared runners for the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase.
Even if the meetings survive their early inspections, meanwhile, conditions are expected to deteriorate throughout the day.
“A precautionary inspection will be held at 8am on Saturday morning due to the strong winds forecast on Saturday,” a spokesperson for Ascot said in a statement on Friday.
“The forecast wind strength increases further from 11am, so it is possible the precautionary inspection will pass at 8am and then we will continue to monitor the conditions. A further inspection will be called if conditions deteriorate to the extent that the race meeting is at risk.”
Cheltenham Festival contenders will also be on trial at Gowran Park on Saturday afternoon, when Chris’s Dream and Real Steel will be among the runners in the feature event, the Grade Two Red Mills Chase. Both horses still hold entries in the Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase at next month’s Festival.
Chris’s Dream, who is a 33-1 chance for the Gold Cup, has not run since recording an easy win in the competitive Troytown Chase in November, though he was due to run in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival before being withdrawn because of unsuitably fast ground.
“We definitely won’t have any worries about the ground, anyway,” Henry de Bromhead, Chris’s Dream’s trainer, said on Friday. “I don’t think coming back to two-and-a-half [miles] is a big concern. We’d have preferred to run him a couple of weeks ago, but we’ll see how we go.”
Two leading contenders for the Festival will go straight to Cheltenham after being withdrawn from trials on Saturday at the overnight stage because of concerns about weather and likely heavy ground.
Goshen, the joint-favourite for the Triumph Hurdle, was taken out of the Victor Ludorum Hurdle at Haydock Park, while Colin Tizzard’s promising novice hurdler The Big Breakaway, an 8-1 shot for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle, had entries at both Haydock and Ascot but was not declared for either contest.