To Run Or Not To Run? That’s The Tiger Roll Question

The wonder horse, Tiger Roll, was all set to break another record and make it three Grand National wins on the trot. Having already won two back-to-back Grand Nationals, he looked all ready to go for a hat trick this year at the illustrious Aintree track. Much anticipation was felt in the run-up to the release of the weight handicaps on February the 11th as this was to decide the champion’s fate – would he run or not?

Unfair Treatment

When talking about the weight handicap in the run-up to the announcement, Gigginstown Stud’s racing manager, Eddie O’Leary commented that he had “a figure” in mind, and that if Tiger Roll doesn’t get it “he won’t be running”.

O’Leary believes that Tiger Roll has already been treated unfairly, referring back to the Cross Country Weight at the Cheltenham Festival last year, where a win there the year before resulted in the handicap being increased by 12lb.

Making History

Fans will be heartbroken if they won’t get to see Tiger Roll become the first horse in history to win the Grand National three times on the trot. Last year, he equalled the famous Red Rum’s back-to-back record, the first horse to do so since 1974. A feat that’s taken 45 years to recreate.

A win on April 4th this year would see this impressive horse cement himself in history as possibly the greatest Grand National runner ever. However, a 11st 10lb weight handicap handed to the horse last Tuesday by Martin Greenwood could see his owners pull him from the race completely.

The Decision Is A 50:50 One

This year’s weight allocation has also seen Tiger Roll’s stablemate Delta Work being handed the top weight of 11st 10lb. Racing manager Eddie O’Leary previously showed his disappointment at being handed the same rating as a Gold cup winner, saying “ To rate this horse as a winner of a Gold Cup is ridiculous.”

But the decision has been made and, acknowledging that handicapper Martin Greenwood has a job to do, O’Leary told Sky Sports, “At the moment it’s 50-50… The decision is now in our hands whether we run or not. Tiger is invaluable to us and we have to look after him,”.

Will they risk damaging the horse to attain this previously unattainable record or will they instead run less intense races? O’Leary went on to talk about potential upcoming races such as the Betway Bowl, Punchestown Gold Cup, and Cheltenham to be the deciding factor on whether he will run for glory or not.

The manager has seemingly begun to play down the possibility of Tiger Roll running for the Aintree hat trick (after the weight only being compressed by 1lb) stating that the welfare of the horse is much more important to them than winning the ultimate Grand National. However, the previously mentioned upcoming races will no doubt shed more light on whether the two-time champion will be able to cope with the huge weight on his shoulders, both mentally and physically.

Predicting a winner

It’s not just the handicap that could affect how the race unfolds, there are many aspects that need to be considered when attempting to predict a winner, such as the number of runners and adjusting your strategy during the event. So much so, that it’s even been compared to games such as poker, where specific aspects can influence the run of play. For example, the process called bankroll management, whereby a player accepts it is impossible to win every game and wagers accordingly.

If Tiger Roll is out of contention for the Grand National, which horses are likely to reach the finishing line first? Could it be Burrows Saint, who odds show is second favourite (after Tiger Roll)? Burrows Saint is a seven-year-old who won the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse last year. However, he’s considered by some as a little young for the intense Aintree race.

Alternatively, there’s Native River, a Gold Cup winner who has won 15 out of 16 chase starts. Could this be his year? Only time will tell.