Michael O’Leary pours cold water on Tiger Roll going for Grand National hat-trick
Owner targets possible fifth Cheltenham success as perfect signing off for popular chaser
Jockey Davy Russell pours water over the head of Tiger Roll after winning the Grand National. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
Tiger Roll is 8-1 to secure an unprecedented Aintree Grand National hat-trick next year – but only if his owner Michael O’Leary changes his mind and lets him run.
The Ryanair boss startled racing on Sunday with his declaration that Tiger Roll is “very unlikely” to try and win the world’s most famous steeplechase for a third year in a row.
A day after Tiger Roll justified 4-1 favouritism at Aintree, becoming the first horse to win the National back-to-back since Red Rum 45 years ago, O’Leary appeared to indicate he’s not prepared to risk his hugely popular star over the famous fences again.
“It’s very unlikely that he’ll come back and run in it again next year. He will be carrying topweight and he’s a small horse.
“Every time he runs now, I’m getting nervous and would hate for anything unfortunate to happen while he’s racing. There’s huge public affection and we’re duty bound to mind him now.
“For his sake and the sake of the race I wouldn’t want to bring him back shouldering huge lumps of weight,” he told Racing TV.
“Tiger Roll isn’t Red Rum, he’s Tiger Roll, and I feel no pressure to go back and win it a third time. His main target this year was the Cross-Country at Cheltenham and I think that will probably be his main target next year.
“I would be strongly of the view if he was to win the Cross Country next year for the third time, which would be his fifth win at Cheltenham, I would see no reason not to retire him at that point in time and let him go out on a high,” O’Leary added.
Tiger Roll is just the sixth horse in the National’s 172-year history to win back-back.
Red Rum earned legendary status when bouncing back from two runner-up placings to land a third Grand National at the age of 12 in 1977.
Despite having captured the public imagination like few other horses in modern times, Tiger Roll will still be just ten next year and significantly his trainer Gordon Elliott appears more amenable to Tiger Roll returning to Aintree.
“You never know – we won’t rule it out. First and foremost is the horse and once he’s okay there’s no reason why not. He won a bit easier than he did last year,” he said on Sunday.
Tiger Roll led home an Irish 1-2-3 on Saturday with the 66-1 outsider Magic Of Light finishing runner-up ahead of Rathvinden.