Tiger Roll lived up to his mark of 166 with his scintillating Cross Country Chase performance at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, according to Paddy Power ambassador Ruby Walsh.
The dual Grand National winner has been withdrawn from this year’s Aintree renewal because of concerns from connections over his handicap, which was due to be 7lb higher than when he won the race for a second time in 2019.
The weights for the 2021 Grand National were released amid the backdrop of a challenging campaign for Tiger Roll, having finished sixth in two runs and being pulled up in another before heading to Cheltenham.
Tiger Roll suffered a 17l defeat to Easysland in last year’s Cross Country Chase but turned the tables in incredible style by dishing out an 18l defeat to his rival – a performance that Ruby believes vindicates the BHA handicapper’s decision.
Speaking on the latest episode of From The Horse’s Mouth, our resident jockey-turned-pundit said: “It was an incredible performance, it was wonderful to watch. It was a role reversal from 12 months ago – Tiger Roll and Keith Donoghue on the front end dragging Easysland, this year under Felix de Giles, who could never catch up.
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“It was like watching the same race a year on only the two horses were in different places. The energy, the enthusiasm, the way he went about it. I thought he was fabulous.”
Ruby added: “It’s just proved the handicapper was right. The enthusiasm he was showing at Cheltenham the other day that’s how he came past me in the last Grand National he ran in. Between four out and three out, Davy Russell could barely hold him on my inside so to be fair to the handicapper, it’s a handicap and his job is to try and get them all to finish somewhere together, not to let one horse in to rout the others.”
Despite Tiger Roll’s enduring popularity with the general public, Paddy Power trader Frank Hickey revealed the Cross Country Chase “wasn’t a bad result for us at all”.
Frank added: “Easysland was quite weak perhaps because of the fact he hadn’t run since November. I do think better ground inconvenienced Easysland and played to Tiger Roll’s strengths.
“Your initial reaction after the race was you’d love to see him go for another National but at the same time I did enjoy [connections] saying he would go for the Melling Chase.”
Who is the favourite for the 2021 Grand National?
Any Second Now, trained by Ruby’s dad Ted, is second in the betting after an impressive win at Navan earlier this month. Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Times has climbed to 12/1 although the progressive chaser could instead run in the Irish Grand National on April 5.
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