It’s very simple lads. Can Tiger Roll become the first horses to go back-to-back in Saturday’s Aintree Grand National since the great Red Rum a million years ago – or 1973/74 at least?
The jockeys’ verdict
Ruby Walsh, top jock & two-time Grand National winner: Tiger Roll looks the obvious favourite and blinkers seem to have brought about even more improvement in him. He’s been there, done that and has looked better than ever this season, in winning the Boyne Hurdle and romping home in the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham again.
Is there a negative? Well, he has to carry an extra 6lb this year and that puts him on about 11 stone 5 lbs for Saturday, he’s only a small horse after all.
He’s the one to beat for sure – but he’s not unbeatable.
Mick Fitzgerald, Grand National winner, now broadcaster ITV & Sky Sports Racing: Yes, he can. If he was a 10/1 shot you’d say he was a great price, but because he is a relatively short-priced favourite, we’re looking for reasons to get him beaten. The only worry I have is whether he gets brought down by another faller or hampered by a loose horse. The National is less of a lottery than it used to be, but you can still be obstructed. Tiger Roll can make the odd howler, but he has never fallen! He looks better than ever this year and I really hope that he can go down in racing history by winning on Saturday again.
Matt Chapman, never ridden a horse, broadcaster ITV & Sky Sports Racing: He’s in the form of his life and was totally huge at Cheltenham last month.
Only an idiot would say Tiger Roll can’t win again.
My gut feeling and history says he will fail, but if he succeeds I will be delighted and like everyone else not at all surprised! A legend of the turf.
Paul Jacobs, racing journalist and broadcaster: Tiger Roll – horse of the people, heart of a lion, cliché, after cliché, after cliché. This little winning machine is the rightful favourite for the Grand National on Saturday. He jumps, stays and more than your average bear, seems to love the job in hand. So is Red Rum about to have a new member of the back-to-back Aintree club? Well, he’s a huge player, at the very least and could you imagine the roar in the winner’s enclosure were he to replicate his run of 12 months ago.
Paddy Power, well he’s Paddy Power: Tiger Roll will be hard to beat in the greatest race in the world on Saturday, but as a bookmaker we have to stand up to him – for a while at least! I always like an exit strategy, so the second favourite Rathvinden looks a player to me and JP McManus’s Minella Rocco can hit the first 6 places at a juicy 25/1.
Frank Hickey, PP Trader: Tiger Roll is only 9lbs higher than his win last year, but there is every reason to suggest that he is an even better horse this season. He easily beat the Ladbrokes Hurdle winner Off You Go over hurdles in Navan, which was supposed to only be a prep for Cheltenham. That effort suggested he could hold his own in a Stayers’ Hurdle! He then turned the Cross Country at Cheltenham last month into a procession and is officially 8lbs well in on Saturday. Granted normal luck-in-running, he looks sure to be a massive player again this year.
Brendan Duke, former PP Trader, now racing journalist: He’s the most likely winner, but for me, it’s all about price. The ability to act on the Aintree course is still a factor. He’s proven on that score. He looks an improved model this term. That seems counter-intuitive, in the sense that he’s had plenty of racing, but he’s only a nine-year-old, so he should be in his prime. He goes there fresh, and could easily post another career best. I just can’t see much in it between himself and Anibale Fly though. Tony Martin’s charge has 13 lengths to find and only gets a four-pound swing. However, he was hampered early last year and Barry Geraghty opted to take the safe, long way round after that. I fancy he will get a lot closer to Tiger Roll this time around. At three times the price, he would look the better value of the two.
Timeform, the boffins who put boffin in boffins: Tiger Roll has already achieved so much in his career to date – and defied so many doubters along the way – that it is difficult to oppose him with total confidence in his attempt to overcome the weight of history. Remarkably, he seems more enthusiastic (and consistent) now than he has been at any point in his career. Somehow, he’s been absolutely thriving in the season after his soft-ground Grand National win, which is a big testament to Gordon Elliott’s powers as a trainer. Whether any horse should be as short as 7/2 at the moment for the Aintree showpiece is debatable. He could easily be hampered through no fault of his own at the very first fence, and those looking to take him on at the prices, have plenty running for them, not least the likes of Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly and Bobbyjo Chase winner Rathvinden.
Both would be worthy favourites in an ordinary year.
Tiger Roll also has a bigger weight to contend with compared to 12 months ago (11-05 from 10-13), which is a concern given his slight stature. It’s also worth remembering how rapidly he tired up on the run-in on that occasion, to scramble home by a short-head from Pleasant Company.
OVERALL VERDICT: Yea 4 Neigh 4 – we’re glad these lads aren’t in charge of Brexit also.
* Prices, runners and opinions correct at time of publication