Category: Grand National Legends
All eyes will be on the legendary Tiger Roll as he bids to make history by winning a third consecutive Grand National this year. He delivered a fine performance to win the famous race in 2018 and then he went off as the 4/1 favourite when successfully defending his crown last year. Many punters cashed in, and he is sure to be a popular pick at short odds this time around.
However, long shots have an excellent record in this race. Neptune Collonges defied odds of 33/1 to win it in 2012, then 66/1 shots Auroras Encore seized victory in 2013, before Pinaut De Re won with an SP of 25/1, Many Clouds won at 25/1 and then 33/1 hopeful Rule The World emerged victorious in 2016. The Grand National features an epic trip and 30 brutal fences, so many favourites fall and there is plenty of opportunity for long shots to prove their worth. These are five outsiders to consider for the big race in 2020:
Kimberlite Candy announced himself as a potential Grand National winner when he clinched a fine victory in the Grade 3 Classic Chase at Warwick in December. The race takes place over 3m 5f 54y, and Kimberlite Candy relished the trip. He appeared to have plenty left in the tank after finishing comfortably clear of Captain Chaos. That saw him bumped up 10lbs to a mark of 150, but he still sits neatly in the Grand National weights at 10st 4lb. One For Arthur landed the Classic Chase en route to his 2017 Grand National triumph, which code bode well for Kimberlite Candy’s chances.
“He’s in great nick,” said trainer Tom Lacey. “He’s fresh and well and will go straight to Aintree. I don’t think we’ll go for a racecourse gallop. We’ll prepare him at home.” In his previous race, Kimberlite Candy finished second in the Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree – another key prep race for the Grand National – so connections should feel confident about his chances of success. However, he is still priced at 20/1 to win the big race, which makes him a tempting each-way punt.
Magic of Light
The Jessica Harrington-trained nine-year-old put in a heroic effort to finish second in last year’s Grand National. She was always prominent throughout the race, despite a blunder at the 15th. She held a narrow lead five out and she was still neck-and-neck with Tiger Roll at the penultimate fence, before finishing strongly to hold off a rampaging Rathvinden. Magic of Light went off at 66/1 to win the National, so anyone that placed an each-way bet on her would have made a tidy profit.
Since then Magic of Light has done reasonably well. She was third over 2m 4f on her seasonal reappearance at Naas in November, before winning a Listed mares’ chase at Newbury the following month. She then won the Grade 2 mares’ hurdle at Ascot in January, which saw her shortened to 16/1 to win the National. However, she then finished eighth of eight runners in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan last time out, which tempered the excitement and saw her odds drift out on the Grand National. Yet she has already proven her ability to finish the big race at Aintree, which is no mean feat. She is set to carry 10st 12lb, which is only 1lb more than last year, whereas Tiger Roll – who beat her by fewer than three lengths – is lumbered with an extra 5lbs.
The valiant veteran will get another crack at glory when he lines up for the Grand National at Aintree this year. He finished eighth in the 2017 renewal, and then went one better when finish seventh last year. He is now 12 years old, but he is a gutsy horse, proven to last the trip. Regal Encore has had 41 runs throughout his long career, with eight wins and six runner-up finishes. Trainer Anthony Honeyball recently reported that Regal Encore is in great form.
“He has a crazy constitution,” said Honeyball. “You’d obviously want to own a Gold Cup class horse, but the next best thing must be him, because he has gone to all the biggest handicaps and won a few of them. Hopefully he goes back to Aintree. Last year three out he was right there at the business end and just got tired, then stayed on a little bit again. It’s a bit of a lottery really but I think he will go very well again.” Regal Encore is a massive outsider in the Grand National betting odds at Marathonbet, but he could spring a surprise.
Nicky Henderson’s 10-year-old returned to form with an eye-catching win in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster in January. The trainer was asked if he would now consider pointing OK Corral towards Aintree. “It would have to cross your mind,” said Henderson. “It certainly crossed mine. He hasn’t got a lot of experience but he didn’t go to chasing until he was eight. As a young horse he was very hard to keep sound, he was very big and raw… But he’s had a good run at it now for a couple of seasons and he’s a very trainable horse. I wouldn’t rule it out, personally, but that’s entirely down to JP [McManus, owner].”
Last March, OK Corral went for the National Hunt Chase over a marathon trip at Cheltenham, but he struggled and was eventually pulled up. He was uninspiring on his return to action in November, but that win at Doncaster was encouraging. He is an inexperienced chaser for a 10-year-old, but he jumps well and he has good stamina, so OK Corral looks like an interesting long shot at 40/1 for the Grand National.
One For Arthur
It is now three years since One For Arthur’s famous Grand National triumph. He raced towards the rear of the field and only started to make progress at the start of the second circuit. One For Arthur only moved into contention three out. Favourite Blacklion had opened up a healthy lead by that point, but One For Arthur reeled him in and eventually won by to win by four and a half lengths from Cause of Causes, with Saint Are taking third ahead of a fading Blaklion. It was a really brave performance. Derek Fox, who had just returned to action following a nasty injury, gave him a beautiful ride and Scotland had just its second Grand National winner.
One For Arthur has never hit those heights again. Injury kept him out for 20 months, and he unseated his rider on his comeback in December 2018. He then unseated Fox in his next race, so he was not given much chance of success when he went straight into last year’s Grand National. However, One For Arthur relished the trip once again and ended up sixth. He was pulled up with a fibrillating heart at Haydock last month, sparking serious fears for his health. However, trainer Lucinda Russell has reported that he is now fighting fit.
“He’s fine and his heart is back to its normal rhythm, which is great,” she said. “Everything is absolutely perfect with his heart. All the valves are tight and everything is great. He’s had a resting ECG and that was perfect, there were no drop beats. He’s had an exercise ECG and we’re going to do another one about three weeks before Aintree and we’ll continue to keep testing him but it’s so far so good.” One For Arthur is now on course for the National, he looks in great shape and he is priced at 33/1 to triumph once again.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.