Tiger Roll and the rare achievement of winning successive Grand Nationals

Tiger Roll made history in 2019, when he won the Grand National for a second consecutive year, for the first since Red Rum in the 1970s. However, there was to be no hat-trick bid, with the Gordon Elliott-trained horse looking to emulate that record feat of three wins in the iconic steeplechase.

After the 2020 renewal of the Aintree centrepiece was cancelled, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, last year, owner Michael O’Leary was embroiled in a handicap row, and withdrew his prized gelding from the Grand National. Tiger Roll still had a run-out at Aintree – instead, being entered into the Aintree Bowl, in which he was well-beaten by Clan Des Obeaux. And those that have already checked the Grand National betting market will be hard-pressed to find Tiger Roll’s name on there once more.

In a similar vein to last year, O’Leary is again unhappy with the decision and has blasted the BHA handicapper. The owner described the decision as “absurd” and “idiotic” – with Martin Greenwood handing Tiger Roll a rating of 161, and a weight of 11st 4lb. Last year’s winner Minella Times was given a similar rating – which saw the Henry de Bromhead-trained nine-year-old handed a weight disadvantage – with an increased weight of 15lb, in comparison to his weight last year.

Sadly, we will never know if the 12-year-old Tiger Roll could replicate the success of the legendary Red Rum and enter the record books for landing a trio of Grand National titles. However, let’s not forget that his feat is no less impressive. It’s rare a horse achieves multiple successes in the Aintree race, such is its nature.

The Aintree course is treacherous, and it’s well known that the fences take no prisoners – the number of horses that actually complete the two laps and 30 jumps of the circuit just proves what an achievement it is.

If we look back at recent previous races – in 2018, 12 horses completed the circuit, while the following year, 19 were triumphant – from a field of 40 entries.

However, it’s not just the course that can prove a peril to both horses and their jockeys alike, it’s the race’s handicap that can be detrimental to how well a horse performs. As mentioned, last year’s winner Minella Times is having to carry a larger weight this year, making it more difficult to win again – which is why the feat is so impressive and rarely happens.

The Grand National was inaugurated in 1839, and while there have been many changes over the years – did you even know that the race wasn’t originally a handicap? – one thing has remained fairly consistent, it’s very rare a horse wins the race more than once. In fact, in the history of the Aintree centrepiece, just nine horses have managed the feat, and six of those victors won the race in successive years.

  • Abd-El-Kader: 1850-51
  • The Colonel: 1869-70
  • Poethlyn: 1918-19
  • Reynoldstown: 1935-6
  • Red Rum: 1973-4 (and 1977!)
  • Tiger Roll: 2018-19

Possibly most impressive about Tiger Roll’s achievement was his preparation. Elliott stuck with a plan and executed it – always sending him out to the Cheltenham Festival prior to Aintree’s blue riband event. In 2019, he’d also started the year at Navan, in the Boyle Hurdle. The plan for 2020 was much the same – and Tiger Roll had two races under his belt prior to the Grand National’s cancellation.

His trainer refers to him as “the people’s horse” and while we will never know what might have been, one thing’s for sure – Tiger Roll will live long in the memory.

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