Tiger Roll unlikely to make it three wins in a row

History could be made on Saturday, April 4, when Tiger Roll returns to Aintree. He’ll be chasing a third straight win in the Grand National. It’s a feat that has never been achieved in the long history of the race. Tiger Roll is certain to go off as favourite but there are several reasons why a third win is unlikely.

Too much weight

The weights for the 2020 Grand National are yet to be announced. The odds are though that Tiger Roll will be given a few more pounds than last year’s win to carry over this marathon trip. In 2018 the Gordon Elliott trained runner was given 10st 13lbs, but that went up to 11st 5lbs when winning last year.

When Red Rum won the third of his Grand Nationals (not achieved in successive years), he was given a weight of 11st 8lbs. He’d previously won the race with 12st on his back, and the fences were a lot tougher back in the 1970s. Since then, only twice has the winner of the race had more weight than 11st 5lbs.

Ground conditions

Tiger Roll unlikely to make it three wins in a row

A decent spell of weather might cause Tiger Roll some problems. Recent wins have come on soft, good to soft and heavy ground. His last defeat came on good ground, and if that was to be the conditions in April, perhaps that third win might not come about. Then again, if there are heavy conditions and he has more weight to carry, that’s not going to make it easy to secure a third win.

A tough set of contenders

The bookies currently say Tiger Roll is the clear favourite. For example, looking at the latest odds at SportNation, he’s at 11/2 – well ahead of next contender Kimberlite Candy at 16/1. There is a strong line-up this year, another factor that will make that third win unlikely. Last year saw Magic of Light finish second behind Tiger Roll. There were three lengths between the pair, but it could have been closer. What if the second hadn’t made a mistake at the last? It’ll be interesting what weight is given to Magic of Light (currently 20/1). He had eight pounds less than the dual National winner last year. Magic of Light has already shown good form this season. December saw him win a Class 1 race at Newbury.

Rathvinden (22/1) was third in last year’s race and had five lengths to find on Tiger Roll. With that 2019 experience behind him, another bold run is likely from the Willie Mullins contender. Walk in the Mill (20/1) is another that could prevent Tiger Roll from completing a historic hat-trick. This contender finished fourth in the 2018 Grand National and has won twice at Aintree with a couple of wins in the Becher Chase.

Tiger Roll unlikely to make it three wins in a row

Tiger Roll is likely to face stiff competition from another Gordon Elliott runner. Jury Duty is nine-years-old and if winning this year, would become the third horse of that age to win the National in five races. Jury Duty was the recent winner at Down Royal and is a solid jumper who should get around the Aintree course – but perhaps he’s an each-way fancy as he’s out at 50/1.

Injury setback

Tiger Roll hasn’t raced since his 2019 Grand National triumph. His hopes of a third win in this race received a setback when it was reported in November that he had a small chip in a joint. This ruled out any hope of him making a return to the racecourse until at least February.

However, it’s said he has made a good recovery, and there are tentative plans for Tiger Roll to race in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan next month. If that falls through, then the Cross-Country race at the Cheltenham Festival in March is a possibility. Last year, Tiger Roll ran twice before heading to Aintree. Trainer Gordon Elliott has commented that the injury “is obviously not ideal”. It remains to be seen just how much of a setback this will be for Tiger Roll, but it’s not helping his preparation.

Conclusion

Tiger Roll unlikely to make it three wins in a row

Will history be created at Aintree in April? Owner Michael O’Leary wasn’t initially keen on going for the hat-trick. The temptation of a third straight win has proved too much, however. It’s not clear how much the injury sustained towards the end of 2019 will affect his preparations. Tiger Roll isn’t getting any younger and he faces plenty of tough opposition in this year’s renewal of the Grand National. It’ll be interesting to see how much weight he has for the race, but a few more pounds aren’t going to help. Housewives up and down the country will back him but a third straight win might be just out of his reach.

Lady Jockeys in the Grand National Since 2010, at least one female jockey has ridden in every renewal of the Grand National. In fact, in 2018, Grand National ‘veteran’ Katie Walsh – who has ridden in the National half a dozen times – was joined by newcomers Rachael Blackmore and Bryony Frost, to make three female jockeys for the first time since 1988.

On the previous occasion that happened, Penny Ffitch-Heyes got no further than the first fence on Hettinger, Venetia Williams parted company with Marcolo at Becher’s Brook and was knocked unconscious in the fall and Gee Armytage, on Gee-A, was behind when pulling up at the fence after Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit.

However, the 2018 renewal had a much happier outcome, on the whole, for the female participants. Alpha Des Obeaux, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, took a heavy fall at The Chair when tracking the leaders, but both horse and jockey were none the worse for it, Baie Des Iles, ridden by Katie Walsh, completed the course in his own time to finish a tailed-off twelfth, and last, and Milansbar, ridden by Bryony Frost, stayed on to finish a never-dangerous fifth, beaten 32½ lengths, behind the winner, Tiger Roll.

Female participation in the Grand National began in 1977, following the Sex Discrimination Act two years earlier, and the pioneering jockey was 21-year-old amateur Charlotte Brew. She made front page news, at least before the race, but failed to complete the course, with her own horse, Barony Fort, eventually refusing at the open ditch four fences from home.

The first female jockey to complete the National Course was 26-year-old Geraldine Rees who, in 1982, rode Cheers into an exhausted eighth, and last, place. The next female jockey to complete the course was 51-year-old Rosemary Henderson on Fiddlers Pike, a 13-year-old former point-to-pointer whom she owned and trained, in 1994. Despite racing from 15lb out of the handicap, the 100/1 chance managed to finish fifth, albeit beaten 55¼ lengths.

After a hiatus of 11 years, Carrie Ford also finished fifth, on second favourite Forest Gunner, in 2005 and, thereafter, for over a decade, the Grand National was the preserve of just two female jockeys, Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh. Nina Carberry made her Grand National debut in 2006, finishing ninth on the aforementioned Forest Gunner, and has since completed the course on three of her five subsequent attempts. Her best placing, though, is still only seventh, on Character Building in 2010, and even he was never a factor in the race famously won by Don’t Push It, under Sir Anthony McCoy.

Katie Walsh, on the other hand, made an immediate impact on her Grand National debut in 2012, guiding Seabass, trained by her father, Ted, to an excellent third place, beaten just 5 lengths, after leading halfway up the famously long, stamina-sapping run-in. In so doing, she achieved the highest placing ever in the Grand National by a female jockey. So far, she has failed to match that performance, but has failed to complete the course just once in five subsequent attempts; in 2016, her mount Ballycasey was weakening out of contention when making a mistake and unseating her at the second last fence.