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Handicapper insists it is owner’s prerogative not to run following Tiger Roll withdrawal

Martin Greenwood, the chase handicapper for the British Horseracing Authority, has reiterated it is the owners’ decision not to run a horse after Tiger Roll was taken out of the Randox Health Grand National at the latest scratchings stage.

Gigginstown House Stud, which is owned by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary with his brother Eddie as racing manager, stuck to their guns by removing the dual National hero from the world’s greatest steeplechase.

They said the Gordon Elliott-trained 11-year-old would not take his chance at Aintree next month unless Tiger Roll was rated in the 150s.

Tiger Roll was given a mark of 166, which is 2lb lower than his official mark of 168 when the weights were officially unveiled last month and on Tuesday, Gigginstown confirmed he will not be running due to what they feel is a “patently unfair” rating.

“Mr and Mr O’Leary did say if they didn’t get a mark in the 150s they weren’t going to run and they’ve stuck to their words, albeit two weeks later,” said Greenwood.

“It’s entirely their decision. Owners and trainers enter and withdraw horses all the time and this is just another instance.

“They have stuck to that particular hymn sheet for approximately two years now and obviously I’ve stuck to my particular hymn sheet for exactly the same time.

“They are entitled to their opinion and as I said at the weights’ launch, I’m entitled to just carry on as normal.”

Tiger Roll became the first horse since Red Rum in 1973 and 1974 to win back-to-back renewals of the world’s most famous steeplechase when striking gold in 2018 and 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic robbed connections of the chance to emulate Red Rum by claiming a third National success 12 months ago.

“Obviously potential history could have been made, or joint history I suppose, but that’s racing,” Greenwood added.

“These things happen and will always continue to happen.”

National handicapper concentrating on job in hand

British Horseracing Authority handicapper Martin Greenwood has reiterated he is never influenced by outside pressure when it comes to framing the Randox Grand National weights, after allotting Tiger Roll 11st 9lb in this year’s race.

Michael O’Leary, owner of the dual winner Tiger Roll, has been vocal in the weeks leading up to the announcement that he would not let the 11-year-old run if he was given a rating in “the 160s or 170s”.

He has been allotted a rating of 166, just 1lb lower than Easysland, who beat him by 17 lengths at Cheltenham last March.

Greenwood said: “It was a tricky one because his four runs since the weights were released last year have yielded almost next to nothing, bar his second at Cheltenham.

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“He was due to run off 170 last year and was around 5-1 favourite. It’s still difficult to know how much ability he’s got.

“Mr and Mr O’Leary (Michael and his brother and racing manager Eddie) are perfectly entitled to offer any opinion they wish, and I’m perfectly entitled not to listen. I’m not distracted by such things and go about my job as I would any other race to a degree – I know it’s the National.

“I’m not influenced any other way by connections questioning my ratings. It would be disrespectful to all the other horses should I give him special treatment, it would be perverse of me to do that. Unfortunately sentiment and emotion can’t come into it when you are a handicapper.”

When it came to assessing the quality of this year’s renewal, Greenwood said it should be one of the best ever run.

He explained: “Last year there were 48 horses above 150, which was a record. This year there are 38 which isn’t quite as good, but it’s still the second best ever, if you include last year. There are still lots of quality handicap winners, Scottish and Welsh National winners, Cloth Cap etc.

“I think there’s a good chance the top-weight Bristol De Mai will run this year and it looks a top-quality handicap.”

He added: “Easysland was tricky to rate because we’ve only got cross-country form to go on, even in France. He was 167 after trouncing Tiger Roll, but it’s important to remember that from Tiger Roll’s point of view, connections felt the ground was too soft and he’d had an interrupted prep, so maybe that result didn’t give a clear picture of Tiger Roll.

“Easysland then ran at Cheltenham in November and was odds-on off 167 and has been absent since. I just think we haven’t got to the bottom of this horse and we don’t know what he’s capable of. I didn’t feel it was right and proper at the minute to lower his rating. The one thing that might concern me is his jumping, as he can clout a few. Whether connections decide to run, we’ll know further down the line.”

While Greenwood stressed he is unable to bet in his position as a handicapper, he did suggest one horse he thinks may be a shorter price on the day.

“If he runs, Secret Reprieve will be popular. He’s unexposed, he jumped soundly at Chepstow winning the Welsh National and he’ll probably get in,” he said.