Winning two consecutive Grand Nationals is a rare achievement, and before Tiger Roll won the great race in 2018 and 2019, you had to go all the way back to the 1970s when the famous Red Rum won it in 1973 and 1974. But last year Gordon Elliott’s horse did what so few have done in the history of the Grand National, as he defended the title, with jockey Davy Russell achieving what many riders can only dream of.
With the 2020 Grand National just around the corner, the question is whether or not Tiger Roll can become the first horse in the history of the race to win three years in a row. Those keeping an eye on horse racing odds will see that Tiger Roll is the current overwhelming favourite, indicating that there is a general feeling that Elliott’s horse has what it takes to make history at Aintree this year.
It would be a remarkable achievement, especially given the fierce competition Tiger Roll will be up against. Horses like Any Second Now, Burrows Saint and Magic of Light will all be hoping to have a say on April 4th, and the fact that Tiger Roll has won the race two years running makes him an even greater target for the chasing pack.
There are also doubts surrounding the defending champion’s fitness, and questions have been raised over whether he would even be in good enough shape to take part at all. He required surgery in November after it was discovered that he had a chip in one of his joints, an injury that ruled him out until just recently. He returned in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan a couple of weeks ago, and finished fifth, but the result was far from the most important thing on trainer Elliott’s mind.
"He finished fifth but for me that was as good as winning," he said afterwards. "I'm absolutely thrilled. Keith [Donoghue] said he just blew up. I couldn't be happier. I thought there were a lot of pluses to be taken out of it. Keith said he pulled the arms out of him the whole way around.”
There had been talk of Tiger Roll potentially going for a Gold Cup and Grand National double this year, but Elliott has confirmed that his prized horse will not be taking part in the Cheltenham Festival showpiece. That may be a disappointment for his fans, but it’s clear that the Grand National is the number one priority, and competing in both, in the space of just a few weeks may have been as step too far too soon.
“For me if he ran in a Gold Cup I don’t think he’d go out on the last circuit,” said Elliott. “I know his rating suggests he should be bang there and hopefully I’m wrong but I just think he loves doing different things and jumping different types of fences.”
It’s clear that the focus is on making history at Aintree. The magnitude of the potential achievement of winning three successive Grand Nationals cannot be understated, and Elliott, Russell and all around Tiger Roll would deserve huge acclaim if he were to pull off the feat. But given the setbacks the horse has endured in recent months, and the stiff competition he’ll face this year, it will take Tiger Roll’s best Grand National performance yet to seal a special Aintree hat-trick.