Handicappers' blog

BHA handicapper, Martin Greenwood assesses the Grand National victory of Tiger Roll, putting forward the official case of why he is the best National winner in the race's recent history.

  • Thursday 11 April
  • Blog
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History was made at Aintree on Saturday when Tiger Roll became the first horse since the legendary Red Rum to win back to back Grand Nationals, writes Martin Greenwood. In doing so he has, in my view, put up the best winning performance in the last 46 years, since reliable handicapping figures became available.

 One of a host of runners representing Gordon Elliot, Tiger Roll was 9lb higher than when scoring off 150 in 2018 but was 8lb ‘well in’ following his runaway success in last month’s Glanfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham.

Sent off one of the shortest favourites in history of the race, there was hardly any moment in the race in which he didn’t look likely to justifying that support, maybe the stumble he made at the fourth last notwithstanding. Tanking throughout, he was still hard held jumping the last and only came under some sort of ride passing the elbow. His winning distance bore no relation to his superiority in my opinion and the extra 8lb he was due to carry would not have stopped him.

I personally can’t remember a horse going as well as that for so long after decades of watching the National. At the finish, five lengths covered the first three home and both Magic Of Light (a personal best) and Rathvinden (also due to be 8lb higher following his win in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse) ran magnificent races especially given they both made numerous bad mistakes.

This trio finished clear of the nearest GB challenger Walk in the Mill with last year’s fourth Anibale Fly (another 8lb well in following his excellent run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup) just behind in fifth.

Using what I knew about the form since the weights closed back in February then the logical way to look at this race would be to take a positive view of the front three. Despite not quite having Rathvinden running to his new mark of 162, Magic of Light is now 159 (from the 151 she ran off) and is clearly a very talented mare, while the mighty Tiger is now 172, which only allows 2lb for the ‘style’ of his victory given his bare form suggests 170.

Tiger Roll wins his second Grand National
Tiger Roll clears the last, still on the bridle under Davy Russell

This figure would have him second in this season’s Gold Cup and Betway Bowl.

I must stress, I think 172 could still underestimate him and ever since he reappeared in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February (a clear personal best in that discipline), Tiger Roll has looked a different horse which is remarkable given he has been on the go since 2013 and is great testament to his trainer.

After thorough research which has involved help from the Racing Post’s John Randall, my predecessor Phil Smith and my former Timeform colleagues Dave Cleary and Dave Yates (many thanks to all), I wanted to get some sort of order of the very best Grand National performances.

Given Timeform didn’t start keeping regular jump ratings until around Red Rum’s first National win in 1973, and official ratings didn’t exist as they do today, I feel 1973 onwards is an ideal date to start. Anything else prior to that is going to be very difficult to compare.

I am suggesting that Tiger Roll has put up the best winning performance in any National from 1973 to present, beating Many Clouds (167) in 2015 and Neptune Collonges (168) in 2012. It also trumps Suny Bay’s second (beaten 11 lengths by Earth Summit, conceding him 23lb) off an official 170 in 1998.

Using a Timeform-based assessment of the 1970’s it would suggest Red Rum was never higher than 166, L’Escargot 161 when winning his National, while Crisp was rated 173 when a gallant second in 1973.

None of this should detract from any of the excellent performances over the last 46 years and the legendary status of the likes of Red Rum, L’Escargot and others should quite rightly be kept, but simply on ability based on handicapping I suggest that Tiger Roll heads the pecking order and is also in the same ballpark as Crisp, who let’s not forget gave 23 lbs to Red Rum.

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