Elliott in line to have record Aintree Grand National team
Tiger Roll hot favourite to emulate legendary Red Rum and win back-to-back races
Gordon Elliott: will have a formidable team assembled for the big race at Aintree. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA
Gordon Elliott has a potential record-sized team ready to line up in Saturday’s Randox Health Aintree Grand National although there’s no doubting Tiger Roll’s status as first name on the sheet.
The defending champion is set to start the shortest-priced National favourite in 44 years as he bids to become the first horse since Red Rum to win the world’s most famous steeplechase back-to-back.
Red Rum pulled off the feat in 1973-74 but had to settle for second in 1975 when sent off a 7-2 favourite.
Tiger Roll became the 26th ever Irish-trained winner of the famous Aintree marathon when scoring a famous victory a year ago.
He is a general 7-2 favourite to repeat the feat after 69 horses were left in the Aintree highlight at Monday’s acceptance stage.
One bookmaker spokesperson said: “Tiger Roll has been threatening to beat Golden Miller’s record by going off as the shortest priced favourite in Grand National history. It is certainly possible given how incredibly popular he has been. But we reckon he will stay around his current price of 7-2.”
The legendary Golden Miller started a 2-1 favourite in 1935 to follow up his National victory of a year previously. However he controversially unseated his rider at the 11th fence. It is a century since Poethlyn became the shortest priced National winner ever, scoring at 11-4 in 1919
A maximum field of 40 runners is allowed take part on Saturday and even before the race begins at 5.15 on Saturday, Tiger Roll’s trainer could have secured his own place in the National’s record book.
Martin Pipe saddled a record ten National runners in the 2001 race won by Red Marauder. However Elliott has 12 horses among the current top 40 entries with another four outside the cut-off point.
Final declarations for the big race will be made on Thursday with four nominated reserves hoping for a slot should any of the 40 declarations not be able to start.
The prospect of one trainer saddling almost a third of the field is a daunting one for Elliott’s opposition and echoes the Irishman’s dominance of some big handicap prizes here.
Elliott saddled 13 runners in last year’s Irish Grand National won by General Principle. That horse is one of nine among the current top 40 entries owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud. Two of them, Outlander and Don Poli, will be on offer at Thursday evening’s Aintree Sale however.
Elliott’s great rival, Willie Mullins, has half a dozen left in the race and has indicated he will have four runners.
Last year’s runner-up Pleasant Company will be joined by Rathvinden with Pairofbrowneyes and Up For Review also in contention.
Mullins and Ruby Walsh teamed up to land the National 14 years ago with Hedgehunter. Walsh is odds-on to team up this time with Rathvinden who is a 10-1 second favourite in many lists.
JP McManus’s Anibale Fly finished runner-up in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and is due to carry topweight of 11.10 after the defection of Bristol De Mai.
Anibale Fly was fourth in last year’s National completing an unprecedented Irish trained 1-2-3-4.
Some 23 of the 40 horses guaranteed a spot in Saturday’s race are Irish-trained and also include the Jessica Harrington pair, Magic Of Light and Sandymount Duke. The latter is owned by Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood.
The going on the National track at Aintree is currently good to soft and good in places. There is a mixed weather outlook for the week ahead with showers forecast on most days. A decision on whether or not to water is likely to be made on Tuesday.
The weather outlook is one of the reasons Ms Parfois isn’t among the 69 names left in the big race on Monday.
The Midlands National runner has been suffering from a foot problem and trainer Anthony Honeyball said the main consideration is the going.
“It’s a combination of factors. She’ snot quite right. She’s had a poisoned foot and isn’t sound today. We could probably get her right but she’s now where we want her to be at the minute,” he said on Monday.
“The main issue with her would be the ground. There’s no rain in sight. I’m sure it would be lovely safe ground. But with her we want to be running on soft, good to soft, or softer,” he added.