Officials at Fairyhouse have not given up hope of Tiger Roll running in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.
The 11-year-old bounced back to winning ways with an incredible fifth victory at the Cheltenham Festival last week, putting behind him a winless run stretching back to the 2019 Grand National at Aintree.
As his owners Gigginstown House Stud have already withdrawn him from the Aintree spectacular this year – where he would have been trying to equal Red Rum’s achievement of winning the race three times – Tiger Roll’s options now include the Bowl at Aintree, the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Irish National.
Peter Roe, general manager at Fairyhouse, said: “If Tiger Roll shows up we’d love that. For the team at Cullentra to get him back to the form he was in – from flag-fall you could tell he was loving it.”
After a very wet winter, the ground at Fairyhouse has dried up considerably but the weather could turn again before Easter.
“January and February were the wettest two months on record since we began recording, but we’ve had a dry fortnight,” said Roe.
“It’s unsettled going forward, but we’re yielding at the moment. I’m very happy.
“The support we have got from HRI and BoyleSports to keep the money at €400,000 is amazing. To get in this year you’ll be looking at (a handicap mark of) 136/137 so the quality is rising all the time.”
On that theme Irish handicapper Andrew Shaw admitted he found it just as hard as his British Horseracing Authority counterpart Martin Greenwood to put a figure on Tiger Roll before coming up with 163.
“It was difficult (to give him a mark) as it has been mentioned by Mr (Eddie) O’Leary that he is not as good as the Al Boum Photos and Minella Indos of the world. They think he should be getting a lot more weight off them, but he hasn’t run in a chase over park fences since November 2017,” said Shaw.
“We don’t take the form over the cross-country fences quite as literally as they do in Britain, but at the same time he has won the Aintree Grand National twice. He was in at Aintree off 166, he’s 3lb lower here which is pretty much the same as last year, though I know neither race was run.
“He’s 11 now, time catches up with us all. He won his Grand National off 159, so he’s only 4lb higher here. It’s a fair drop from the 171 which he was after his second National. It was difficult for Martin to drop the horse because he hasn’t run against Grade One horses, so we don’t know how good he is.
“He certainly looked as good last week as he had before in that race. What will make it difficult for Tiger Roll is that we have progressive novices in it, you don’t get those at Aintree.
“I’d love to see him run. I know he could run in the Betway Bowl, but he’d be wrong in that race against a few.”
One trainer with multiple entries is Noel Meade, who won the race with The Bunny Boiler in 2002.
“It is still my favourite win, I have to say. Fairyhouse to me was the place I got started as we weren’t a racing family, but we used to take a picnic there for the National,” said Meade.
“When I was growing up I had a scrapbook of Tom Dreaper and he won the National so many times – to stand in the place he did when I’d won was very special.
“I owe Ross Geraghty, Barry’s brother, for staying on him, he did everything he could to fall. He was quite a good horse, but a terrible jumper. Norman Williamson was telling me the other day that he won the Midlands National on him and was asked to ride at Fairyhouse but he said there was no chance he’d get round!”
Among Meade’s team are School Boy Hours and Brace Yourself, but both need plenty of withdrawals to guarantee a run in the maximum field of 30.
“School Boy Hours might not get in, but I always thought the trip would suit,” said Meade.
“Brace Yourself will take his chance, but wouldn’t want the ground too quick. Tout Est Permis hasn’t been running well, but he could go over to Aintree and see if a trip over livens him up. Brace Yourself is a fresh horse, but he’s only a novice.”