Tiger Roll was withdrawn from the 2021 Grand National due to an “unfair weight burden”, owners Gigginstown House Stud announced before the Cheltenham Festival. The 11-year-old landed the world’s greatest steeplechase in 2018 and 2019 – becoming the first runner to win consecutive renewals since Red Rum in the 1970s.
The much-loved horse was among the initial entries for this year’s Grand National after being denied the chance to make it three-in-a-row in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Owner Michael O’Leary threatened to pull Tiger Roll out of the £750,000 handicap if he was handed a hefty rating by the handicapper. The two-time winner was subsequently given a mark of 166 (11st 9lb) when the weights were released last month – 7lbs higher than two years ago.
A spokesperson for the owners said in a statement: “When Tiger Roll won his second Grand National in April 2019 he ran off a rating of 159. He won by just two and a half 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 his form 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.
“Despite this pretty obvious decline, the handicapper has given him a mark of 166, which is 7lb 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.
“We made clear that if Tiger Roll was rated ‘in the 150s’ (i.e where he was two years ago), which is what his form and age now warrants, he would be allowed to run in this year’s National and go for a historic three in a row.
“However, the handicapper has decided to rate him on his reputation rather than his form – which we fully accept is his prerogative – but we have a duty of care to Tiger, and so we will not ask him to carry an unfair weight burden, especially as he gets older and his form declines.
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“We therefore regret to announce that Tiger Roll will be removed from the Grand National entries at Tuesday’s forfeit stage.
“We hope he will run next as planned in the cross-country race at Cheltenham, where we hope he will enjoy himself and run well. After that, we will consider his future well-being, which may involve retirement if his handicap mark is not adjusted to more fairly reflect his age and form over the past two seasons.
“We all look forward to this year’s Aintree Grand National, which we hope can now proceed without any further speculation over Tiger Roll’s participation.
“We fully respect the handicapper’s right to determine the Grand National weights as he so chooses, but we respectfully believe that he is mistaken in allocating an unfair and unwarranted weight to Tiger Roll.
“In these circumstances, as we previously advised, Tiger Roll will not run.”
Tiger Roll rolled back the years with a masterclass in the Cross Country Chase at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival to demolish last year’s winner Easysland by 18l.
Speaking on The Cheltenham Review episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, our resident jockey-turned-pundit said: “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.”
Retirement was ruled out after the Cheltenham Festival triumph and Tiger Roll was soon entered for the Aintree Bowl – his maiden Grade 1 chase over regulation fences.
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