Seriously, is there any chance we could have a little break, after today, from two horses, Tiger Roll and Altior?
Let’s start with Tiger Roll. We know that come Saturday, April 4 he will attempt to make history and become the first to win the Aintree Grand National three years in-a-row.
We also know he has won four times at the Cheltenham festival and is a remarkably popular and durable character.
He is a credit to trainer Gordon Elliott, and to his owners, the O’Learys. The fact the plan is to keep him in training again next season, recently announced, is good news.
It was also revealed of late that Tiger Roll is now very much on track, assuming all goes well at Cheltenham next month, for the National.
For many months the O’Learys expended enough hot air to drive a steam engine, you know the line, Tiger Roll won’t go to Aintree if the handicapper doesn’t play ball.
Well the handicapper, rightly so, didn’t come out to play, but the Gigginstown boys “rolled over’’, get it, and now Tiger has a date with destiny!
At Navan last Sunday he made a promising return when fifth of eight behind stable companion, Cracking Smart, in a Grade 2 Hurdle.
It was an excellent seasonal debut and the perfect preparation for the tests that lie ahead. But listening to some of the commentary afterwards, it was almost as if he had just answered all 15 questions on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!
The hype is in overdrive and likely to crank up. Tiger Roll is living proof you can have too much of a good thing.
The notion, for instance, evident in some quarters, that should a third National come his way he might be mentioned in the same breath, or even regarded as better, as Arkle or Red Rum is just fanciful.
Arkle has been the finest and the most famous National Hunt horse of all time since he won his third Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1966 and that will never change.
And if Tiger Roll was to win even two more Nationals you could not put him in the same league as Red Rum.
The reasons are crystal clear: the Nationals Tiger Roll won, compared to Red Rum, were nowhere near as demanding.
Tiger Roll has taken two utterly watered-down challenges that bore little relation to what Red Rum faced.
When Red Rum won in ’73, ’74 and ’77, and when second in ’75 and ’76, the obstacles were ferocious and allowed little room for error. There is no comparison between what he took on and what Tiger Roll has achieved.
I have heard it said the National is just an ordinary handicap chase now, but that’s also well removed from the truth.
It still asks plenty of questions of horse and rider and remains a truly iconic race to win. But perspective is important and admirable and all as Tiger Roll undoubtedly is, an Arkle or a Red Rum he’s not, nor will he be, even if heroically managing to hump top weight to another success.
And then there’s Altior and the headache his affable trainer, Nicky Henderson, must have from constant waffling about him, not to mention the headache he is giving the rest of us.
Henderson has gone on and on about the “crazy’’ decision to run Altior against Cyrname on bad ground at Ascot in November.
Yes, Nicky, we are aware you believe it was “the wrong place, on the wrong ground, over the wrong trip.’’ We are aware of it because you have told us again and again, and again.
I’d imagine Henderson would struggle to say no to any request from the press. But enough is enough and the odd “go and have a run against the wind’’ mightn’t be entirely out of order!
WHEN the 14-year-old Seskinane, under the most admirable Philip Enright drive, landed a competitive handicap hurdle at Navan last Sunday it brought to mind a holiday I took in the south of Spain in May of 2013.
Holidays are all very well, but should never get in the way of business and that May 22 evening I backed a horse in a conditions hurdle at Sligo called On His Own.
The even-money shot was trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, so what could possibly go wrong?
Well plenty, actually. The wi-fi wasn’t great in the room and I went down to the lobby in the hotel to watch the contest on the computer.
On His Own ran disappointingly, proving no match for a then seven-year-old, the aforementioned Seskinane, and was beaten out the gate into second.
I immediately turned off the computer and the phone and headed for dinner with a puss on me that would stop a clock, muttering the words: “you know nothing about racing.’’
Following a right visit to the trough, and a few pints, decided to re-connect with the world and put the phone back on.
To my great surprise, I had missed about half a dozen calls and wondered what might have caused punter accomplices to have the audacity to impose on one’s much-needed break!
It didn’t take long to discover the delightful truth. Seskinane had been disqualified, after his pilot was found guilty of dangerous riding.
You would have to say that was some interesting Sligo contest. I got dosh I certainly didn’t deserve and Mullins and Walsh continued to be fairly good at what they did.
On His Own, amazingly, in the light of Sligo, was second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014, beaten a short head by Lord Windermere and should have got the race in the stewards’ room.
And Seskinane’s jockey? That was a 5lbs claimer at the time called Derek Fox. He only went on to win the Aintree Grand National on the Lucinda Russell-trained One For Arthur in 2017. Don’t you just love Sligo!
IV’E said it before and will say it again, I just don't understand punters that go in head down on horses at very short prices.
There were two good examples in the last few days of how costly that can be. Both races saw in excess of €500,000 matched on Betfair.
The first was the racecourse debut of the much-heralded point-to-point winner, Ballyadam, in the bumper at Navan on Sunday.
He was returned at 1-4 and near the off for every €1,000 you wanted to win it would cost a paltry €270. On ground that was almost unraceable, he pulled far too much for his own good and finished third.
At Punchestown on Tuesday, Zero Ten was a 1-3 chance to beat five rivals in a novice chase. Punters basically felt they were backing him to get around, but he crashed out at the fourth last.
How do these guys keep going?