Three to Note in the Grand National

Three to Note in the Grand National
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The infamous Grand National at Aintree Racecourse is just six weeks away and Racing TV's expert Donn McClean has selected three horses to take note of for this year's renewal that may be good value with our Best Betting Sites in the current ante-post market.

Tiger Roll - 11yo Gelding, Gordon Elliott

You have to start any Grand National analysis with Tiger Roll. When the Gigginstown House horse won the Grand National in 2019, he became the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back renewals of the most famous horse race in the world.

The similarities between Tiger Roll and Red Rum do not end there either. Bred for the flat, Red Rum began his racing career on the flat, by dead-heating in a five-furlong juveniles’ contest, bizarrely, at Aintree. Tiger Roll is by the Derby winner Authorized, out of the Entrepreneur mare Swiss Roll, a half-sister to Irish Lincoln winner Pollen who won over a mile and a half and a mile and six furlongs. Also, his half-brothers Ahzeemah and Austrian School won their maidens over seven furlongs and a mile respectively. Tiger Roll was as likely to be a Derby horse as a Grand National horse.

And the Gordon Elliott-trained gelding is relatively small for a Grand National horse, like Red Rum was relatively small for a Grand National horse. But he has nous. Aintree nous. It is always fascinating to listen to Tommy Stack talk about Red Rum, about how he knew when he was back at Aintree, about how he took to the spruce fences, about how aware he was of everything happening around him during the race, fallers and refusers and loose horses.

Davy Russell speaks about Tiger Roll the same way. About how he figured out quickly that he could skim through the tops of the fences instead of having to jump out over them. About his intelligence. About how, at Becher’s Brook first time in 2018, he skipped to his left to avoid a faller in front of him, then skipped back to his right to make sure that his rider remained on board.

It is not going to be easy for Tiger Roll who is priced up at 20/1 with BetVictor to emulate Red Rum and win the Grand National again this year, for the third time. He was deprived of the opportunity last year as a 10-year-old by the pandemic, and it is not going to be any easier this year as an 11-year-old than it would have been last year.

But there is precedent. Neptune Collonges, Auroras Encore and Pineau De Re, the 2012, 2013 and 2014 winners, were all 11. And, more importantly, Tiger Roll is an extraordinary 11-year-old.

He was well beaten in the Boyne Hurdle the last time we saw him, he finished last of six, beaten a total of 65 lengths, but he ran way better than that. He travelled well for Keith Donoghue all the way to the third last flight, where he just got out-paced on the heavy ground. That ground is not his thing – when he won the Boyne Hurdle in 2019, the ground was yielding – and the two-mile-five-furlong trip is too sharp, and the sedate pace would not have helped. Also, that was his first run since last November. He should come on significantly for it, and he should be much happier on spring ground.

The handicapper has given Tiger Roll a mark of 166 for the Grand National. That’s 7lb higher than the mark off which he won the race in 2019, when he was actually 8lb well-in. It is 1lb higher than his Irish rating which, when you add the ‘Aintree factor’ – insofar as such a thing still exists – and compress the weights at the top of the handicap, is around about what you would have expected. It would be phenomenal if he could win it again.

Listen To Donn McClean's Cheltenham Festival Thoughts

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Burrows Saint - 8yo Gelding, Willie Mullins

It is 16 years since Hedgehunter won the Grand National and provided Willie Mullins with his first Grand National winner, and his only one to date. But the champion trainer went mighty close in 2018 with Pleasant Company, who went down by a fast-diminishing head to Tiger Roll, and he sent out Rathvinden to finish third behind the same Tiger Roll in 2019. Willie Mullins’ next Grand National may not be too far away.

It looks like Burrows Saint who is currently trading at 16/1 with Boylesports is going to spearhead the Mullins challenge this year, and he could be a big player. Susannah Ricci’s horse only won his beginners’ chase at Gowran Park in March 2019, and he won the Irish Grand National just a month and a half later.

There was a lot to like about the performance that he put up in winning the Irish National. Always travelling well not far off the pace, he jumped and travelled well and he moved up into third place as they raced down the back straight final time. He joined leaders Whisperinthebreeze and Acapella Bourgeois as they raced around the home turn, and he moved into the lead, still travelling well, on the run to the second last fence. Ruby Walsh didn’t go for him until the approach to the final fence and, while he didn’t pull right away on the run-in, he was always doing enough to hold off the challenge of his stable companion Iselofhopendreams. He left the impression that he had more left to give if more had been required.

The Saint Des Saints gelding only ran twice during last year’s truncated season, he finished third in the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in November and he won over hurdles at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, and he has run just twice this season to date. He was well beaten last time in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park, but that was on really heavy ground. He should do better with that run under his belt and as we move onto the better ground in the spring.

The handicapper has given him a rating of 156, which is 12lb higher than the mark off which he won the Irish Grand National. But he deserved a hike of that type of magnitude and, an eight-year-old who has raced just eight times over fences, he has the potential to progress beyond that mark as a staying chaser.

He stayed three miles and five furlongs well in the Irish Grand National as a six-year-old, so there is every chance that he will stay four and a quarter miles now as an eight-year-old, and eight-year-olds have a good recent record in the Grand National, since the modifications to the course were implemented. There was no eight-year-old winner between Bindaree in 2002 and Many Clouds in 2015, but three of the last five winners now were eight, and eight of the 20 places in the last five years were filled by eight-year-olds.

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Milan Native - 8yo Gelding, Gordon Elliott

Another eight-year-old, Milan Native was a progressive staying novice chaser last season. He didn’t win any of his first six chases, but he put up a few encouraging performances in defeat, including when he finished second to Spyglass Hill in a beginners’ chase at Gowran Park in February, when he had Ontheropes behind him in third.

He stepped forward from that next time at the Cheltenham Festival, when he ran out an impressive winner of the Kim Muir. He only got home by less than two lengths in the end that day, but he travelled like the most likely winner from a long way out, he hit he front on the run to the second last fence, and he left the impression that he had more in hand than the bare winning margin.

A winner at Galway on his debut this season, when he just got home by a short head from Discorama in a three-horse race, he has been well beaten in his last three runs, but he has reportedly had a wind operation since his last run.

The handicapper has given him a mark of 149 for the Grand National, which is fair and Bet365 are top price at 40/1 about him for this years renewal. It is just 8lb higher than the mark off which he won the Kim Muir last March. He is another young chaser, a second-season chaser, who has run just 10 times over hurdles, and who has the potential to be better than his handicap rating.

He stayed three and a quarter miles well in the Kim Muir and, out of a mare who won over two and a half miles over hurdles, there is every chance that he will stay the Grand National trip. He is due to run in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next and, if he happened to win or run well in that race, he could be well ahead of the handicapper going into the Grand National.

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