The three-day Grand National meeting at Aintree opens on Thursday with Tiger Roll set to be the centre of attention as he faces eight rivals in a bid to add the Grade One Betway Bowl Chase to his remarkable list of high-profile victories.
The five-time Cheltenham Festival winner and dual Grand National hero has become a household name without taking on top staying chasers at level weights. But owners Gigginstown House Stud decided to make an exception this time, and Tiger Roll runs at Aintree on Thursday – rather than last Monday’s Irish Grand National or the Grand National at the weekend.
Eddie O’Leary, Gigginstown racing manager, said after the horse’s victory last month at the Cheltenham Festival: “We’ve absolutely no regrets about taking him out of the National as his rating is just too high. We’re probably going to have to run him at a park track, we’re even considering the Betway Bowl at Aintree.
“He’ll probably go for the Bowl and unfortunately he’ll prove he’s not that (a 166-rated horse), unless he is and then he’ll prove us all completely wrong.”
The 11-year-old, trained by Denise Foster, had been out of form since his second National triumph in 2019 before bouncing back with a convincing victory in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Heading the opposition to him this week is 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, who was fourth in the latest renewal of that great race. Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the King George VI Chase in 2018 and 2019, looks a formidable foe too – as does Waiting Patiently, runner-up in this season’s King George and winner of the Ascot Chase in 2018. Aso, Clondaw Castle, Militarian, Mister Fisher and Real Steel complete the list of contenders for the three-mile one-furlong feature. PA
Wednesday’s best bets
There are several interesting contests on the Flat card at Nottingham, with at least two or three horses in action that could be players at a higher level as the season progresses.
Sir Ron Priestley, the runner-up to Logician in the 2019 St Leger but unraced since, certainly falls into that category as he returns from 571 days on the sidelines. Mark Johnston’s colt started his three-year-old season in handicaps before progressing to within three lengths of a Classic success, but suffered an injury in August 2020 shortly after a deal that would have seen him switch to Australia fell through.
Instead, he will be staying in Yorkshire for a five-year-old campaign in Cup races, possibly starting with the Yorkshire Cup at the Dante meeting next month, but first he will need to get his seasonal debut out of the way and Ocean Wind (4.10) could prove a tough opponent.
Roger Teal’s five-year-old, who cost just £9,000 as a three-year-old, started out in bumpers in 2019 and then reeled off three wins on the Flat, including a Class Two handicap off 96, in 2020. He was narrowly beaten in a two-mile conditions race at Kempton in February but that turned into a sprint up the straight and the conditions should suit him much better.
Muker (3.40), third in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot last summer and narrowly beaten in a Group Three at Dundalk in October, is another interesting name on the Nottingham card as he kicks off his three-year-old season, while Straitouttacompton (2.40) is well-handicapped on his recent all-weather form and had no problem switching back to turf this time last year.
At Catterick, meanwhile, Sage Advice (4.20) can make a successful return to the Flat after finishing sixth in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham last time out. GW