Champion Tiger Roll withdrawn from Grand National due to 'unfair weight'

The Gordon Elliott-trained horse has been withdrawn due to being assigned "an unfair and unwarranted weight" by the handicapper
Champion Tiger Roll withdrawn from Grand National due to 'unfair weight'

Keith Donoghue on Tiger Roll finishing last in The Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Tiger Roll will not bid for a third victory in the Randox Grand National at Aintree next month, owners Gigginstown House Stud have announced.

The Gordon Elliott-trained 11-year-old became the first horse since Red Rum in the 1970s to win back-to-back renewals of the world’s most famous steeplechase when striking gold in 2018 and 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic robbed connections of the chance to emulate Red Rum by claiming a third National success 12 months ago – and owner Michael O’Leary and his brother Eddie have warned on several occasions since that he would not line up in this year’s renewal if they felt he was unfairly treated by the handicapper.

Tiger Roll was given a mark of 166 when the weights were officially unveiled last month and ahead of the latest scratchings stage on Tuesday, Gigginstown confirmed he will not be running at Aintree due to what they feel is a “patently unfair” rating.

A spokesperson for the owners said in a statement: “When Tiger Roll won his second Grand National in April 2019 he ran off a rating of 159. He won by just two and a half lengths at the age of nine, having previously won the Boyne Hurdle in Navan and then won the 2019 Cheltenham cross-country race by 22 lengths.

“Two years later, the horse is now 11 years old. He was beaten by 17 lengths in last year’s Cheltenham cross-country and by 75 lengths in last month’s Boyne Hurdle, so his form over an extended two-year period suggests that he is clearly not as good as he was when he won the National in April 2019.

“Despite this pretty obvious decline, the handicapper has given him a mark of 166, which is 7lb higher than when he won his second Grand National in April 2019. We believe this is patently unfair, unjustified and does not reflect the horse’s age or his form over the past two seasons.

“We made clear that if Tiger Roll was rated ‘in the 150s’ (i.e where he was two years ago), which is what his form and age now warrants, he would be allowed to run in this year’s National and go for a historic three in a row.

“However, the handicapper has decided to rate him on his reputation rather than his form – which we fully accept is his prerogative – but we have a duty of care to Tiger, and so we will not ask him to carry an unfair weight burden, especially as he gets older and his form declines.

“We therefore regret to announce that Tiger Roll will be removed from the Grand National entries at Tuesday’s forfeit stage.

“We hope he will run next as planned in the cross-country race at Cheltenham, where we hope he will enjoy himself and run well. After that, we will consider his future well-being, which may involve retirement if his handicap mark is not adjusted to more fairly reflect his age and form over the past two seasons.

“We all look forward to this year’s Aintree Grand National, which we hope can now proceed without any further speculation over Tiger Roll’s participation.

“We fully respect the handicapper’s right to determine the Grand National weights as he so chooses, but we respectfully believe that he is mistaken in allocating an unfair and unwarranted weight to Tiger Roll.

“In these circumstances, as we previously advised, Tiger Roll will not run.” 

Elliott is currently not be permitted to have runners in Britain until the conclusion of an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation into an image on social media that showed him sitting on a dead horse on his gallops.

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