The quotes from Eddie O’Leary following the Grand National weights-reveal will annoy, confuse and upset many national hunt fans.
“This horse loves the discipline – any horse competing around Aintree loves the discipline, they wouldn’t be there otherwise. These horses come alive at Aintree over the fences, they absolutely love the discipline. It’s not a welfare issue – he was always going to carry 11st 10lb, we understand that, but it’s how he’s compressed in regards to other horses.
“Native River – a Gold Cup winner – hacked up last Saturday. He’s been compressed 2lb and we have to give him 4lb. I see something very unfair there.
“The handicapper has his job to do and he’s done it. We wanted more (compression in the handicap). The decision is now in our hands whether we run or not. Tiger is invaluable to us and we have to look after him.”
Eddie is nobody’s fool, but he has almost sealed the case for running the Tiger next month. The comparison to Native River is foolish because Colin Tizzard’s horse has never raced over the National fences nor has he run over the extended four miles. The Tiger has won two Grand Nationals with consummate ease.
Tiger Roll was rated 167 post his Cross Country victory at Cheltenham, so after winning the National 11 months ago he has in real terms only gone up 3lbs. That is eminently fair and sensible.
I would have more sympathy with Jessie Harrington whose MAGIC OF LIGHT, a closing second last year, is only 4lbs better off for being beaten two and three quarter lengths, and that despite a huge mistake at the final obstacle.
Had she jumped the last fence cleanly I am firmly of the opinion that she would have prevailed as the Tiger was firmly at the end of his tether in the final 100 yards. The mare has looked as good as ever this season and although her jumping can be somewhat hit and miss at time she does always seem to find a leg and is the first of my selections at 16/1 where Paddy is non runner no bet on the Grand National.
If I could get a guarantee that the ground on National Day will be soft then Warwick Classic hero Kimberlite Candy would be my first selection, but that is highly unlikely so I will wait until the week of the big race to contemplate a big saver on the strong finishing Becher Chase runner-up.
With or without Tiger Roll, I am keen on two other Gordon Elliot runners. Since he was a novice I have always regarded ALPHA DES OBEAUX as a Grand National type and his two runs over the Liverpool fences have done nothing to dent my confidence.
The first came two years ago when the big horse jumped for fun until becoming slightly unsighted and taking a tumble at The Chair. Of course it was way too early to know if he would have been involved in the finish, but he seemed to be enjoying the experience.
Off a 4lbs higher mark, that assumption was cemented when he ran a brilliant third in the Becher Chase and that despite hitting the 14th hard. The 10-year-old will get to race from the same mark here and 33/1 will do me nicely.
THE STORYTELLER has long been campaigned with this race in mind with the Pertemps Hurdle Final at Cheltenham a perfect stepping stone.
In all of his racing to to date the son of Shantou has always looked as though he has been crying out for a test of stamina none more so than when third to Bellshill in the 2019 Irish Gold Cup off what was a stop-start pace.
His last two runs over hurdles have merely confirmed that the nine-year-old is all stamina and to my eyes a clear round will see him go very close off a mark of 158.
Of the bigger priced runners I am interested in FITZHENRY although he will struggle to get a run being 82 on the list, but VALTOR is guaranteed to line-up and is fully 10lbs lower and in much better form this season since finishing 18th in the 2019 renewal.
Oh and by the way if the owners don’t consent to run Tiger Roll it would be the biggest betrayal in the history of mankind since the kiss of Judas.