Tiger Roll only 50/50 to head to the National

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The infamous Tiger Roll was handed a hefty mark of 170 ahead of his bid to create history at the Grand National when going for his third consecutive win in the most famous jumps race in the world.

But, it is very much up in the air and in his owners hands whether he will actually run in the Aintree feature after Gigginstown House Stud’s Eddie O’Leary expressed his disappointment following the publication of the weights.

Gordon Elliott's superstar became the first horse to land back to back renewals of the Grand National since Red Rum back in the 20th century and now he is the 6/1 favourite to emulate Ginger McCain's horse in taking a third Grand National.

However, it was revealed at the start of the season that the 10 year old would only head to Liverpool on two conditions.

The first being he would have to come out of the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham festival in good health and that is obviously waiting to be decided.

However, the other factor was that he would only bid for another National win if connections were satisfied with his given rating and the O'Leary's were left somewhat frustrated.

Tiger Roll has not been seen on a racetrack since his win at Aintree in April after picking up a slight injury in November and since being operated on.

He is said to be back in training and will have his first run of the season on Sunday at Navan in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle in which he landed last season before taking his fourth Cheltenham festival title.

(Credit At The Races) O’Leary said: “Hopefully he comes through Navan on Sunday OK, then go on to Cheltenham and hopefully that all goes OK and if he’s OK at Cheltenham then we’ll make a choice.

“It (the weight) is a massive factor – we’ve said the whole way through this horse is on a very unfair rating. He was raised 12lb last year for winning a cross-country race. He was rated the far superior horse in the cross-country race, so why a 12lb rise in the weights? It was a reaction to the way he won the Boyne Hurdle last year, which was a surprise to all of us.

“The last time this horse ran in a (regulation) chase was two and a half years ago and he pulled up off 150. He’s obviously improved for the Grand National discipline and cross-country, but to rate this horse as a winner of a Gold Cup is ridiculous.”

He continued: “Tiger Roll is a very, very special horse – but is he a Gold Cup horse? A genius like Gordon Elliott has never even considered entering him in the Gold Cup.

“We obviously would love to see Tiger Roll to go for three in a row, but we’re very vocal about the fact that it (handicap) has to be compressed. It’s only been compressed 1lb, which is a bit silly, so therefore we have a decision to make. The welfare of the horse we feel is far more important to us than the race.

“The Grand National is the biggest race in the world, it’s bigger than any one horse.

“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, the 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.”

There has been a thought that if he was not to go for the National because of the handicapping issues he would then still go to the Liverpool meeting but in the Betway Bowl.

“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,” O’Leary added.

“He was definitely going to be entered in the Betway Bowl and probably the Punchestown Gold Cup. Hopefully he comes through the Navan test, he’s coming back after a setback – he won’t win, obviously, but if just pulls up with a smile on his face that will do us and then go on to Cheltenham and hopefully show us more there.

“Then we’ll decide, but at the moment it’s 50-50. The Betway Bowl is definitely coming into calculations now.”

Gordon Elliott on the other hand has a slightly different verdict on the ratings and was far more understanding of the decision to only compress his weight by 1lb compared to last season.

He said: “A blind man would know he’s going to carry 11st 10lb. We were obviously hoping for a pound or two less, but Martin (Greenwood, BHA chase handicapper) and his team have a job to do.

“We’re 4lb worse off with Magic Of Light, who was second in the race last year, so it’s probably fair play – I’ll not be giving out.

“Everyone has got their own opinion. If it’s left to me he’ll run. He’s a household name and it’s the most famous race in the world.

“The plan is to run at the weekend and we’ll work back from there. Before Aintree he’s hopefully going to have the chance to win at five Cheltenham Festivals. He’s the horse of a lifetime, so if we can get him back to Cheltenham I’ll be happy.”

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