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Tiger returns to Aintree in Betway Bowl

Tiger Roll returns to Aintree on Thursday – two days earlier than many would initially have expected.

Much has been written and said about the decision of owners Gigginstown House Stud to miss Saturday’s Randox Grand National with their equine great – but he certainly adds a layer of intrigue to the Betway Bowl.

Gigginstown’s gripe with the handicapper was the fact that the dual Grand National winner had the rating of a Grade One horse – and he is about to get the chance to prove who is right.

Tiger Roll is in the care of Denise Foster, and the current incumbent at Cullentra House Stables said: “He’s 11 years old, and it will be a big ask for him. Really we’re just hoping for a nice run from him.

“We can’t be too confident – I am wary of the fact that he is 11. That’s really all you can say about him.

“He left here in good form, and we’ll just have to see what happens. It’s all a bit of a question mark.”

With Davy Russell still sidelined by injury, Jack Kennedy comes in for the mount.

Another popular 11-year-old is lining up in opposition, in the shape of Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup winner Native River.

He does so, though, without the aid of his old ally Richard Johnson – who retired on Saturday. The four-time champion jumps jockey has been replaced by Jonjo O’Neill jnr, who won the Denman Chase on Tizzard’s stable star last season.

Native River has a good record on the Mildmay course
Native River has a good record on the Mildmay course (David Davies/PA)

Native River finished fourth, best of the British, in the Gold Cup last month.

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“It’s strange going into a race without Richard – but Jonjo has won on him, so that helps a bit,” said owner Garth Broom.

“We had been dithering a bit about the ground – and while it won’t be ideal, hopefully it will be safe, and on Thursday’s it’s likely to be at its softest.

“It’s quite an open race. On faster ground we wouldn’t have run. He can handle good ground – he won the Denman on it a couple of years ago when unfortunately he picked up a suspensory problem. The thing about the soft ground is that it slows the others down, while he just goes the same speed.

“We’re hoping for a good run from him. He was a bit tired for a week after the Gold Cup – but he’s recovered now, and they say he’s as good as ever, so we’ll hope for the best.

“He’s never been over-raced. This will be just his fourth run of the season, and he’s got a good record at the Mildmay Course.

“He’s never been over-raced, this will be just his fourth run of the season and he’s got a good record at the Mildmay Course.”

It seemed hard work for Native River at Cheltenham. A habitual front-runner usually, he could never get to the front at any stage.

“At Cheltenham, the last twice he has run in the Gold Cup he hasn’t gone with his usual enthusiasm,” added Broome.

“I’m wondering if he’s remembering the hard race he had there when he won it.

“The main thing is that he comes back safe. I think we should get one more year out of him – but the first time he shows he’s not enjoying it, we’ll be thinking of retirement.”

Paul Nicholls skipped the Gold Cup with dual King George winner Clan Des Obeaux, in preference for this race, but he has been fitted with first-time cheekpieces after he surprisingly failed to beat stablemate Secret Investor at Newbury.

“He ran very well last time at Newbury when just failing to give 6lb to Secret Investor, who picked up an injury and may not run again until Christmas,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“We felt after Newbury that fitting cheekpieces might help Clan’s concentration, and they seemed to sharpen him up when he worked in them on Saturday.

“He’s in good shape, and if the cheekpieces do the trick then he has an obvious chance.”

Nicholls also runs Real Steel, not seen since pulling up in the King George.

“He hasn’t been the easiest to train but was showing something last time when he travelled well in the King George on Boxing Day until stopping quickly turning into the straight,” said Nicholls.

“It transpired he had bled, so this is a bit of a recovery mission, but we’ve freshened him up and are hoping for better from him.”

Clondaw Castle clears the last before winning well at Kempton
Clondaw Castle clears the last before winning well at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Clondaw Castle steps up in grade for Tom George, having won a Kempton handicap last time – which his trainer previously used as a springboard to success here for Nacarat.

“He steps up into Grade One company for the first time. He’s had a good season – he’s up to a mark of 160,” said George.

“I think he’s ready for the next step. He’s improved again for the step up in distance.

“He won the old Racing Post Chase at Kempton off a big weight – the same we did with Nacarat 10 years ago. Let’s hope we can follow in his footsteps.”

Nicky Henderson also steps Mister Fisher up in trip. He was in the process of running a good race in the Ryanair, but two bad mistakes eventually meant he was pulled up.

“It is rather unfair that he comes here off the back of the formbook saying he was pulled up in the Ryanair – he ran a really good race,” said Henderson.

“Coming down the hill Allaho and Min were going flat to the boards, and Mister Fisher was literally on their tails and looked like finishing third, but he’d been flat out for a long way and did get tired. Nico (de Boinville) quite rightly looked after him.

“If he stays three miles, which I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t, it will tell us where we’re going next season.”

Tiger Roll faces eight in Betway Bowl

Tiger Roll is set to face eight rivals as he bids to add the Grade One Betway Bowl Chase to his remarkable list of high-profile victories.

The five-time Cheltenham Festival winner and dual Grand National hero has become a household name without taking on top staying chasers at level weights.

But owners Gigginstown House Stud decided to make an exception this time, and Tiger Roll runs at Aintree on Thursday – rather than either Monday’s Irish Grand National or the Randox Grand National at the weekend.

The 11-year-old, trained by Denise Foster, had been out of form since his second National triumph in 2019 before bouncing back with a convincing victory in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham last month.

Heading the opposition to him this week is 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, who was fourth in the latest renewal of that great race.

Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the King George VI Chase in 2018 and 2019, looks a formidable foe too – as does Waiting Patiently, runner-up in this season’s King George and winner of the Ascot Chase in 2018.

Aso, Clondaw Castle, Militarian, Mister Fisher and Real Steel complete the list of contenders for the three-mile one-furlong feature.

Clan Des Obeaux heads Bowl contenders at Aintree

Clan Des Obeaux and Tiger Roll are among 13 entries in the Grade One Betway Bowl on day one of Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll is set to be back at Aintree, it was confirmed on Friday morning when he was not among the declarations for Easter Monday’s BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

The 11-year-old will not be taking on the famous National fences this time, however, instead facing a field of top-class chasers over just short of three miles and a furlong of the Mildmay course.

His high-profile possible rivals, as well as Paul Nicholls’ dual King George VI Chase hero Clan Des Obeaux, include Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup winner Native River.

Ruth Jefferson has also entered the lightly-raced Waiting Patiently – runner-up in this season’s King George and absent since finishing third in the Grade One Clarence House Chase over only an extended two miles at Ascot in January.

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Clondaw Castle, much improved in handicaps and graded chases for Tom George, may also move up in trip again slightly – while Venetia Williams has both Aso and Cepage in the reckoning.

Top Notch and Mister Fisher – another who would be going up in distance – may represent Nicky Henderson, and Nicholls has a potential second string in Real Steel.

Among the remaining entries, Joseph O’Brien’s dual Cheltenham Festival runner-up Fakir d’Oudairies has a prior Grade Two engagement at Fairyhouse on Monday.

The Betway Aintree Hurdle is one of three more Grade Ones on the card.

The 13 entries include dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air, also successful in this race in 2017 and one of two Henderson entries alongside Buzz.

Champion trainer Nicholls also has two possibles, in McFabulous and Pic D’Orhy – while Denise Foster’s Champion Hurdle faller Abacadabras, Noel Meade’s Stayers’ Hurdle fourth Beacon Edge and Henry de Bromhead’s Jason The Militant could all make the trip over from Ireland.

Olly Murphy’s Brewin’upastorm, who beat McFabulous at Fontwell last time, may try to do so again.

Christmas Hurdle winner Silver Streak and Song For Someone, Grade Two conqueror of the grey at Cheltenham in December, are two more in the mix – for Evan Williams and Tom Symonds respectively.

The meeting begins with the Sss Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase – which has attracted 14 entries.

Arkle winner Shishkin, unbeaten and highly impressive over fences so far, is the headline name but is more likely to wait two more days for his obvious Aintree target over a shorter trip.

Tizzard’s Eldorado Allen, runner-up to the Henderson star at Cheltenham and Doncaster, and his stablemate The Big Breakaway are in the reckoning.

Other possibles include Henderson’s Fusil Raffles, two for Nicholls – Hitman and Tamaroc Du Mathan – Emmet Mullins’ prolific winner The Shunter and in-form Umbrigado, for David Pipe.

The latter has a major contender too in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle – his Triumph runner-up Adagio.

Nicholls’ Monmiral and Fiveandtwenty, also unbeaten for Donald McCain, figure among the nine entries too.

Clondaw Castle will sidestep Festival en route to Aintree

Tom George has decided to skip the Ultima Handicap Chase next week with Clondaw Castle and instead target the Betway Bowl at Aintree.

The nine-year-old gave George a third win in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton last month on what was his first run over three miles.

With a new rating of 160, George has drawn comparisons with former stable star Nacarat – who won the Kempton race in 2009 before going on to finish a close third in the Melling Chase at Aintree the same season.

“We’re going to wait for Aintree,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“It (top weight) would be a very tough ask in a race like the Ultima, so we’ll go for the Bowl over three miles.

“He’s basically got the same sort of profile as Nacarat had at the same stage – that’s what we did with him, stepped him up in class, so we’ll keep him fresh for that.”

Clondaw Castle had continued to please his trainer since his victory last month.

“He’s amazing, because he seems to be improving again,” George added.

“Kempton hardly took anything out of him – he only lost three kilos.

“He seems to have really stepped his game up again and he came out of the race very well.

“We always thought he would improve for going up in trip, but you always like to see it happen when it does.

“He’s rated 160 now, so he’s ready for the next step up.”