Can the Tiger roll back the years to 1974 when the last horse to win the Grand National in consecutive years was Red Rum? The horse immortalised in Aintree History stands out as the target to which Gordon Elliott’s much endeared superstar takes aim. Tiger Roll himself lays claim to winning at the Cheltenham Festival on four different occasions a might achievement itself let alone being a Randox Health Grand National winner. He is 7-2 Favourite with BetVictor to defend his crown. To give you an idea of how favourites have perfomed five of the last 25 Grand National winners have been clear or joint-favourites, with the most recent to succeed Don’t Push It in 2010.
No favourite has started less than 5-1 since 1975. Golden Miller was the shortest-priced Grand National favourite ever in 1935 going off at 2-1 but unseated his rider at the 11th fence. How short will Tiger Roll go? Well the final entry stage is today with the final declarations on Thursday, keep an eye out on who defects later.
At this early stage I go for Walk The Mill at an attractive 25-1, he is already proven over the big fences having won the Becher Chase in December and he races up with the pace in a lovely rhythm which is always crucial. The Aintree three-day spectacular starts on Thursday and I’ll give you more insight into my fancies for the first two days in tomorrow’s piece.
A trainer with Grade 1 entries at Aintree on Friday is Olly Murphy, he has two big chances at Ludlow with Smackwater Jack in the first at 2.15 and It’s O Kay at 4.25, both partnered by Champion Jockey Richard Johnson. It only his second season training Olly Murphy has gone from 47 winners in year one to 76 and counting this season, his association with Richard Johnson has reaped a 20% strike rate. Smackwater Jack has just put in one bad run this season, that was in the Grade 3 at Sandown last time. He is back to a level now that can see him challenge Dr Sanderson. It’s O Kay has been experimenting over three miles, on the evidence of her last run at the course it might be too far for now. Sensible then she drops back down to 2m 5f a distance she ran over on her penultimate start. Together with the fact she drops down in the weights might be what does the trick.
Mark Johnston has had 29 winners already this year at an impressive 24% strike rate, he saddles Rock Up In Style, which is something I plan to do at Aintree on Thursday, in Chelmsford’s 4.45. He took a while to warm to the task, five races in total and was potentially otherwise distracted and thus was gelded after his run at Catterick in October last year. Given plenty of time to recover, 162 days to be precise and he proved a revelation at Wolverhampton over 9 ½ furlongs at Wolverhampton last time. He ran on through the line suggesting being upped in trip did the trick and ten furlongs at Chelmsford should be no inconvenience.
Apprentice Poppy Bridgwater did really well last season leaping from 2 winners in 2017 to 25 in 2018. She has notched up three already and could make it four with last time out victory Orobas. Connections are keen to run as they have also entered the 7-year-old gelding in Musselburgh’s 2.45 on Tuesday, so keep an eye where he goes. Anyway he popped up when least expected at Lingfield last time with only two days between his races. It will be a week this time and Poppy will utilise her claim. No doubt she will try and make all, so fingers crossed at 5.15
Not long after Chelmsford finishes, Newcastle starts and although Alkaamel may be short in the 6.45 it is as much a chance to nudge you all regarding Cieren Fallon. His seven pound claim will be a godsend and his a associtation with bigger stables such as William Haggas here, points him out as a jockey to follow all season, surely the claim is only lent.
James Doyle hardly had to move to land his first Lincoln handicap on Saturday aboard Auxerre, the horse was a Group winner in a handicap and made a mockery of his rivals. Royal Ascot is the right target and it will be intriguing where he pops up next. I digress, James Doyle is at Newcastle and aboard Martineo in the 7.45. The horse is on a hat-trick and showing no signs of his run stopping as yet. This will be his first start for trainer John Butler and what is encouraging is that he has raced at a mark higher than he sits on now, so there should be more to come.