Official handicapper Martin Greenwood is looking forward to what he described as arguably the “highest-quality” Grand National in years after making Tiger Roll and stablemate Delta Work joint top-weight on 11st 10lb for the Aintree spectacular.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll has claimed the world-famous race in each of the past two seasons and while he is only “50-50” to run according to his connections, who have expressed their disappointment at the compression of the handicap, he is favourite to emulate the legendary Red Rum by becoming a three-time winner on April 4.
The 10-year-old had an official rating of 150 when victorious in 2018 and defied a mark of 159 in last year’s renewal. This year he is set to line up from a rating of 170.
Delta Work has also been given a mark of 170 by British Horseracing Authority chase handicapper Greenwood, having established himself as a leading contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup by landing both the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown this season.
Greenwood, who framed the weights for the second time this year, said: “This decision was made essentially on two factors – historical compression, which was brought in by Phil Smith and has been used for the last 10 years or so. On the other hand, I have to give Tiger Roll this mark based on his efforts over the National fences at Aintree, where he is of course unbeaten.
“Tiger Roll was rated 172 at the end of last year and obviously there is no recent evidence to go on because of his fitness issues, so his handicap mark has been unquantifiable since. He is therefore coming down 2lb and carries the same weight as Suny Bay did when he was second in the 1998 Grand National. No other horse has carried that rating since. Many Clouds won off 11st 9lb, but he did not have as high a rating.”
Tiger Roll is set to make his first start since his Aintree heroics of last spring in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday, before bidding for a third straight win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Greenwood added: “It must be remembered that Tiger Roll ran in the Grand National off a rating of 159 (last year), but was actually rated 167 at the time due to his win in the cross-country at Cheltenham.
“Tiger Roll has also not yet qualified for this year’s Grand National. Whilst he may run in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan, he still has to run in a chase to qualify.
“There are about 15 horses overall who currently do not qualify because they have either not run over fences this season or not yet finished in the first four in a race over 23 and a half furlongs in their career. A high-profile example would be Cadmium, a Topham Chase winner.
“Delta Work is a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender and, in order to keep as many of the horses in the handicap, he is also off 170.”
With a total prize fund of £1million, the Grand National is the world’s richest jumps race and will take place for the 173rd time this year, at 5.15pm on the first Saturday of April.
Ten horses have been given 11st or more and Greenwood said: “This year, 73 per cent of the horses entered are in the handicap. Similarly, from a starting rating of 140, there are more horses than ever in the modern era entered for the race – 92 in total.
“The race is full of top-class individuals and boasts the winners of races such as the Grand National, Irish National, Welsh National, Rowland Meyrick Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup and much more. It is as good a staying handicap as would be run anywhere.
“You could argue it is the highest-quality Grand National in modern history.”