The Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 6th, is one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the jump season and history could be made this year with the Gordon Elliott-trained superstar Tiger Roll.
Gigginstown’s nine-year-old, who has won four times at the Cheltenham Festival, including two Cross-County Chase, is as short as 4-1 to repeat last season’s head success over Pleasant Company and he has looked as good - if not better - as ever this season.
The Flat-bred horse started off his campaign with a respectable fourth at Cheltenham in November and has not looked back since with eyecatching victories in a Grade 2 hurdle and in the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham. Partnered both times by Keith Donoghue, the rider reported his mount to be in as good a form as ever.
However, there are 39 opponents for Tiger Roll, and many have tried and failed to win back-to-back Grand Nationals since Red Rum managed the feat in the 1970s.
Anibale Fly’s connections must have every confidence coming into the £1 million race. Fourth in last year’s contest, the JP McManus-owned runner produced one of his best efforts so far when finishing second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and is well-treated on that evidence.
Willie Mullins won his first ever Cheltenham Gold Cup and looks set to saddle a battalion of runners, which could include last year’s runner-up Pleasant Company, 2018 National Hunt Chase winner Rathvinden, and Up For Review.
The north look set to be well represented too and Ultima Handicap Chase runner-up Vintage Clouds could be their best chance of victory for Sue Smith, who trained Auroras Encore to win in 2013. Lake View Lad, not far behind Vintage Clouds at Cheltenham in third, is also due to line up for the in-form Nick Alexander.
The 2017 National winner One For Arthur could attempt to wrestle back his crown after suffering an injury last term.
All in all, this year’s renewal has all the makings of a great race and there would not be a dry eye in the house if the diminutive Tiger Roll became the first horse since the legendary Red Rum to win back to back Grand Nationals.