The 2019 Grand National takes centre stage at Aintree on Saturday (17:15) and Tiger Roll has bookmakers terrified.
Gordon Elliott’s plucky nine-year-old is in the form of his life and the fear is he’ll do what no horse has done since Red Rum – and become a multiple winner of the world’s most famous steeplechase.
The 9/2 with betway available is the best price for Tiger Roll at the time of writing and, while that isn’t value for the 40-runner handicap over 4m 2f, there is some justification in it.
This Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding outran odds of 25/1 when landing the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan following a winter break.
Tiger Roll then recorded a fourth Cheltenham Festival victory of his illustrious career when bolting up in the defence of his Cross Country Chase crown.
He left his rivals over the three-and-three-quarter miles for dead turning for home and cruised clear up the hill for a wide-margin romp.
It was arguably a career best and bear in mind Tiger Roll won the Grand National, just lasting in the Aintree marathon when holding Pleasant Company a head, 12 months ago. His form over extreme distances is second to none in this line-up.
As well as his success on Merseyside last year, Tiger Roll has won the Cheltenham Cross Country twice and landed the 4m National Hunt Chase as a novice.
His abundant stamina and proven course form, coupled with the fact he’s clearly thriving, mean a 9lb higher rating than last year might not be enough to stop him going in again.
Value lies elsewhere though, so for all Tiger Roll is hugely respected, it may pay to look at the each-way angle and that’s what this 2019 Grand National preview focuses on.
Rathvinden and Pleasant Company the pick of Mullins runners
Elliott is mob-handed, but more on Tiger Roll’s many stable companions engaged below. Fellow Irish trainer Willie Mullins has four entries and, of those, Rathvinden looks his best chance of a second winner in the Aintree showpiece.
This 11-year-old followed in the hoofprints of Tiger Roll by winning the National Hunt Chase despite a lengthy novice campaign last season.
Rathvinden really toughed it out when just holding the gutsy mare Ms Parfois by half-a-length at Cheltenham, and it’s that 4m form which makes him of interest at 10/1 with William Hill.
He is very lightly-raced for his age and has had just two starts since that Festival triumph.
Although only fourth to The Storyteller when down in trip to 3m for the Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown, Rathvinden resumed winning ways in comfortable fashion when landing the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse in February.
Mullins has clearly laid him out for a serious tilt at this and he’s 5lb well-in. Of the yard’s other mounts, last year’s runner-up Pleasant Company is looking to make it third time lucky and is 2lb better off for that agonising head defeat by Tiger Roll.
Now also aged 11, this veteran improved from ninth in 2017 and has again been trained very much with the Grand National in mind.
Pleasant Company cannot be discounted at 20/1 with 888Sport, given he’s twice completed the course and better treated than last year at the weights.
Thyestes Chase third Up For Review ran well in that valuable Gowran Park handicap, but took a backwards step at Cheltenham last time out.
Livelovelaugh also gets in here and carries the least weight, but just hasn’t got the same level of form in the book as his stable companions.
Lake View Lad preferred of Hemmings trio
Trevor Hemmings is the joint most successful owner in Grand National history, and looks to hold the record outright with a three-pronged attack on this year’s race.
While Scottish Grand National third Vintage Clouds has obvious claims off a nice racing weight and Warriors Tale landed the Grand Sefton over the fences in December, the greater improvement has come from Lake View Lad.
Trained in Scotland by Nick Alexander, the nine-year-old grey gelding landed the Listed 3m Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle and followed-up when pitched in at Grade 3 level for the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby.
Although then third and a place behind Vintage Clouds in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival, Lake View Lad really caught the eye with the way in which he finished off that race.
It suggests the step up in trip could suit him and, if taking to Aintree, he’s a 14/1 chance with Unibet for the National.
There’s little difference in price between him and Vintage Clouds who, off his dangerous mark, has to be respected from a handicapping perspective.
If there is one concern about this horse who hails from the yard of 2013 Grand National winning trainer Sue Smith, then it may be his jumping.
A blunder in the back straight during the Welsh National at Chepstow at Christmastime seemed to knock the wind completely out of Vintage Clouds’ sails, who was soon pulled up.
Should he make similar errors at Aintree, that could also be a race-ending mistake. It’s for that reason that Lake View Lad is preferred, even though the pair re-oppose from the Ultima on the same terms.
Vintage Clouds is a 12/1 shot with Ladbrokes if you want to back them both.
Dounikos, General Principle, Jury Duty alternatives for Elliott
As noted above, dual Grand National winning trainer Elliott has a record 11 entries in the field. Sifting through those who could challenge Tiger Roll from within his own stable, three in particular stand out in the betting.
Jury Duty is one horse the County Meath handler has always held in high regard and he won the American Grand National over hurdles before a winter break.
The eight-year-old then stepped up in distance and on that by winning a competitive minor chase event at Down Royal last month. Jury Duty, who is again partnered by Robbie Power, is unexposed as a stayer and 22/1 with William Hill here.
The same can be said of Dounikos, who landed the official Irish Grand National Trial at Punchestown last time out.
It has taken time for him to shape like a stayer, but if progressing again Dounikos could deliver a big performance at Aintree and is overpriced at 40/1 with William Hill.
He finished two places in front of Fairyhouse hero General Principle, who just prevailed by a head in the Irish Grand National last Easter.
Elliott looked to have been building to something with the 10-year-old throughout this season until he pulled-up in the Ultima at Cheltenham.
General Principle was improving his place with each run and has proven form over three-and-a-half miles plus. That marks him out as big each-way value at 40/1 with BetVictor</em and another to consider.
Last year’s Grand National third Bless The Wings is also back for one last hurrah and, although lurking at the bottom of the weights, age could finally have caught up with this 14-year-old.
Joe Farrell gamble could have payoff
A big gamble has developed over the course of the week on Scottish Grand National hero Joe Farrell, who gets a run and is last in the 40-runner field.
Trained in Wales by Rebecca Curtis, the 10-year-old has been lightly-raced since just prevailing by a nose in the 4m Ayr marathon.
Joe Farrell looked a little rusty in his first of two runs at Newbury where he was only seventh, but stripped much fitter for that reappearance run when second at the same venue a fortnight ago. T
hat is a tight turnaround time for Aintree and connections may not have thought he would make the cut. As it has looked more and likely that Joe Farrell would get a run, savvy punters have piled into him.
While odds of 50/1 are no longer still available, the vast amounts gambled on this horse have resulted in that price tumbling to 20/1 with Coral and cannot be ignored.
The last English winner of the Grand National was the lion-hearted and late Many Clouds in 2015. Three horses outside of Hemmings’ ownership in particular have claims of ending the subsequent Celtic dominance, and Step Back looks one that has been laid out for this.
Trained by Mark Bradstock, who saddled Coneygree to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory as a novice back in 2015, this nine-year-old put in a career best just under a year ago at Sandown.
The bet365 Gold Cup, best known as the Whitbread, is another tough spring handicap chase over 3m 5f and Step Back absolutely bolted up in it.
He’s raced just twice since very much with this in mind. A repeat of his Sandown exploits gives Step Back every chance of making the frame minimum and he’s 25/1 with Betfair for the Grand National.
Rock The Kasbah and Ramses De Teillee can’t be discounted
Rock The Kasbah chased Step Back home last season and has advertised that form this term when landing a Grade 3 staying handicap at Cheltenham in November.
The often potent combination of trainer Philip Hobbs and champion jockey Richard Johnson have never won the Grand National, but do have claims here.
In Rock The Kasbah, they have a nine-year-old who like Step Back has this as a seasonal target. The only question hanging over him is whether or not his jumping will pass muster over the Aintree fences; but, at 20/1 with Boylesports, he can’t be ruled out either.
David Pipe saddles two in the race this year and, although Vieux Lion Rouge has the most course experience (completing six times out of six), preference is for Ramses De Teillee.
While it’s true that seven-year-old horses have a poor Grand National record, this one has run some massive races in defeat in staying handicap chases.
Ramses De Teillee has gone down by an average of a length in both the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow and the official Grand National Trial at Haydock.
A repeat of either of those last two runs means he’s yet another with each-way potential at Aintree at 25/1 with BetVictor.
One last Irish horse closes our 2019 Grand National preview. Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly carries top weight, but is well-in anyway and, although it’s hard to see him winning the race after finishing fourth last year, he does have place prospects.
OpenOdds’ 2019 Grand National shortlist
Lake View Lad ✮✮✮✮✰
Joe Farrell ✮✮✮✰✰
Step Back ✮✮✮✰✰