Can Tiger Roll Win The 2019 Grand National?
Prior to today, if you had asked anybody involved with racing, if Tiger Roll could win the 2019 Grand National, the answer would have been 'probably not'. Even his own trainer, Gordon Elliott, didn't think it was a real possibility.
That's because winning back-to-back Grand Nationals is so difficult that the last horse to have achieved it was Red Rum back in the 1970s. And there are a number of reasons for that. Firstly some horses don't even get a second entry. They have peaked and so connections decide to retire them.
Secondly, even if they race, different conditions, including their competition, the ground, their prep season etc...are not ideal and they simply can't rise to the challenge.
But thirdly, and most importantly, they are usually crucified in the weights by the BHA Handicapper. So if a horse wins running off 10-11 or 10-13, then almost certainly the following year you can expect the extra pounds to have been lumped on. And it's not out of spite. The horse's Official Rating will have increased substantially on the back of a Grand National win and so the weight he is handed will reflect this.
So taking all of that into consideration, and knowing how tricky it would be for Tiger Roll to win again, why would circumstances have changed so much that his odds have dropped in the betting markets? It's simple. The Grand National weights were revealed today and Tiger Roll got off lightly.
When he won in 2018 he was carrying 10-13. This year, and with a half decent season under his belt, he has only been given 11-01. That's just two pounds difference. He was always there or thereabouts in the betting but today he went straight into the top three in the market with most bookmakers.
Realising how much easier it would be for him to challenge for the win again, and knowing how popular he will be with the Grand National punters, bookmakers were quick to cut his odds.
But he will have some tough competition. Not least from other runners in his own yard. Gordon Elliott has 21 entries into this year's race. He officially makes up 19.09% of the entire list of entrants. Will they all make the cut? The answer is no. And on the back of the weights, at least six of them can be ruled out almost instantly.
But that still leaves Elliott with 15 potential runners from a field of just 40. That one trainer could ultimately be responsible for 37.5% of the 2019 Grand National runners! 10 of them, including Tiger Roll, are owned by Gigginstown House Stud. That's Michael O'Leary from Ryanair.
Last year he notched up his second Grand National win as an owner, after Rule The World won in 2016 for trainer Mouse Morris. And, as I said earlier, Rule The World ran once more at Punchestown but was retired at the end of that season. With 10 lively contenders this year, he could conceivably win his third National in four years.
So now that Tiger Roll is on a winnable weight, does he tick the rest of the boxes for a genuine shot at a 2019 win? Age is an important factor and Tiger Roll, at nine-years-old is ideal. In fact, probably more ideal than when he was 8! Prior to last year's win, he had raced four other times in the season. Unfortunately, he has only been seen once so far and that was at Cheltenham in November. He finished fourth but the good news is that he ran in the exact same race last year and finished 5th. So form is relatively the same.
He went to the Cheltenham Festival in 2018, winning the Glenfarclas Chase and, after the Ladbrokes Hurdle at Navan on February 17th, that looks like his next port of call. Another solid performance in that and the money will pile on him for Aintree.
Can Tiger Roll win the Grand National again? Of course, he can. He can also fall, unseat his rider, lag behind or get beaten on the day by a faster or luckier horse. Just because he ticks all the boxes doesn't mean it will go his way. Let's be honest, he won in a photo finish last year, so he didn't exactly leave the rest of the field trailing in his dust. If he comes up against a horse who is on good form on the day, then it might not go the way fans think it will. That said, it is still very hard to find a solid reason to bet against him!