Tiger Roll’s date with history was canceled this week, when owners for the two-time Grand National champion pulled the 11-year-old out of this year’s April 10 event at Aintree.
Gigginstown House Stud, which owns Tiger Roll, announced the horse won’t get his chance for a three-peat in the world’s most famous steeplechase. The farm, owned by Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, took issue with Tiger Roll’s weight rating of 166. They believe, given the horse’s current subpar form, that rating is too high.
In his last race, February’s Boyne Hurdle, Tiger Roll finished last – by 75 lengths. Last October, Tiger Roll ran a flat race for the first time since 2016. He finished sixth out of nine in the turf race at Navan.
A spokesperson for O’Leary and his brother, Eddie, who serves as racing manager, issued a statement outlining the decision.
Tiger Roll’s owners live up to statement
“When Tiger Roll won his second Grand National in April 2019, he ran off a rating of 159. He won by just 2 ½ lengths at the age of nine, having previously won the Boyne Hurdle in Navan and then won the 2019 Cheltenham cross-country race by 22 lengths. Two years later, the horse is now 11 years old. He was beaten by 17 lengths in last year’s Cheltenham cross-country and by 75 lengths in last month’s Boyne Hurdle, so is for over an extended two-year period suggests that he is clearly not as good as he was when he won the National in April 2019.
The statement continues, saying that “despite this pretty obvious decline,” the handicapper gave Tiger Roll a mark of 166, which is seven pounds higher than when he won his second Grand National in April 2019. “We believe this is patently unfair, unjustified, and does not reflect the horse’s age or his form over the past two seasons.”
Tiger Roll will not bid for his third Grand National @AintreeRaces next month. A spokesperson for owners Gigginstown House Stud said of his handicap mark: 'We believe this is patently unfair, unjustified and does not reflect the horse’s age or his form over the past 2 seasons' pic.twitter.com/T7EvkNu6SA
— PA Racing (@PAracing) March 2, 2021
The 166 rating is one pound lighter than the top weights given Bristol de Mai, Easysland, and Santini.
Grand National handicapper unapologetic
Martin Greenwood, the chase handicapper for the British Horseracing Authority, gave Tiger Roll that rating when the Grand National weights were announced last month. At that time, Michael O’Leary said Tiger Roll would not run the Grand National unless his rating was in the 150s.
“They have stuck to that particular hymn sheet for approximately two years now and, obviously, I’ve stuck to my particular hymn sheet for exactly the same time,” Greenwood told RTE in Ireland. “They are entitled to their opinion and as I said at the weights’ launch, I’m entitled to just carry on as normal.”
Tiger Roll was the first horse since Red Rum (1973-74) to win back-to-back Grand Nationals. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring denied him his three-peat opportunity. This decision apparently denies him the opportunity to join Red Rum as the only horses to win three Grand Nationals. Red Rum added the 1977 Grand National to his earlier back-to-back victories.
Tiger Roll’s reputation outweighs form in bettor’s eyes
After the weight announcement, Betway made Tiger Roll the three-way favorite with Kimberlite Candy and Cloth Cap at 16/1. As of Tuesday morning, his odds were anywhere from 8/1 to 25/1.
The O’Learys insist their decision doesn’t have to do with the current controversy swirling around Tiger Roll’s trainer, Gordon Elliott. He was suspended from racing in Britain earlier this week after being photographed sitting on a dead horse.
Michael O’Leary issued a statement Monday supporting Elliott, who trains 16 entries in this year’s Grand National.
“We accept that this photograph was a grievous but momentary lapse of judgment by Gordon, and not in keeping with our 15-year experience of his concern for and attention to the welfare of our horses. We all make mistakes, and what is important is that we learn from them and ensure we do not repeat them. We accept Gordon’s sincere, profound and unreserved apology and we will continue to support him and his team at Cullentra, as they work to recover from this deeply regrettable incident.”