Horse Talk with Simon Jackson:
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CLOTH Cap is clear favourite for the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday April 10 following news of the withdrawal of dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap enhanced his credentials for the National when winning the prestigious Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury in November and is set to continue his preparation for Aintree by running in a Listed contest at Kelso on Saturday.
Cloth Cap had previously been to the forefront of the betting alongside Tiger Roll, who won the National in 2018 and 2019 and was allotted 11st 9lbs for his attempt to become the second triple Grand National winner, alongside the legendary Red Rum (1973, 1974 and 1977).
However, Tiger Roll’s connections confirmed yesterday that the Gigginstown House Stud-owned 11-year-old would not run as they felt he had been given too much weight.
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.”
In other news, The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) had earlier said in a statement on Monday, that they will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott (Tiger Roll’s trainer) to race horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image of the trainer sitting on a dead horse, that appeared on social media last weekend.
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