O’Learys insist handicap will decide if Tiger Roll returns to National
Tout Est Permis set to lead Gigginstown’s Irish Grand National team on Easter Monday
Trainer Gordon Elliott and owner Michael O’Leary escort Tiger Roll through Summerhill village, Co Meath, after he retained the Aintree Grand National title. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Gigginstown Stud’s Eddie O’Leary: ‘If the National isn’t well condensed Tiger Roll won’t run. If they want him – it’s up to themselves.’ File photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team insists the formulation of next year’s Grand National handicap will determine whether or not Tiger Roll bids for an unprecedented Aintree hat-trick.
On Saturday, the Ryanair chief executive’s hugely popular star became the first horse since Red Rum 45 years previously to win the Aintree National back to back.
He said afterwards he considered it highly unlikely he would permit Tiger Roll to attempt a historic three-in-a-row.
He said he did not want his diminutive star to have to carry a huge weight and felt duty bound to mind the horse.
In contrast Tiger Roll’s trainer, Gordon Elliott, indicated his willingness to give the National’s supreme modern-day star a shot at history in 2020, something sure to generate huge public interest.
On Tuesday, O’Leary’s brother, Eddie, who oversees the Gigginstown operation, looked to fire the opening salvo in what may prove a long-running debate about Tiger Roll’s National participation next year.
Appearing to throw down a challenge to the British Horseracing Authority handicappers he said: “They say they condense the weights to encourage the good horses to run. If the National isn’t well condensed Tiger Roll won’t run. If they want him – it’s up to themselves.
Condensing the weights permits the top horses in the handicap to give away less weight to their lower-rated rivals.
“He will be 11-10. He will obviously be top weight. But if it’s not condensed down enough he won’t be running. We’ve seen horses condensed 7-9lbs before.
“He’s at a crazy rating now. He’s got the rating of a Gold Cup horse and we don’t consider him a Gold Cup horse. He’s wonderful but he is what he is.
“Hopefully all goes well and he’s around next year when the plan would be something similar to this year. But if he’s asked to carry too much weight in the National he’ll be retiring after Cheltenham.
“That’s not a threat or anything. But we won’t ask him to carry a welter burden in the National next year,” O’Leary added.
Tiger Roll is already a general 8-1 favourite for the 2020 Grand National with his nearest rivals in the betting at 33-1.
The little star captured the public imagination at the weekend after a resounding success under Davy Russell.
Tiger Roll is quoted in many ante-post lists for Easter Monday’s Boylesports Irish Grand National but O’Leary confirmed the best known horse in racing is “on his holidays”.
Instead it is the rising star Tout Est Permis that could head the Gigginstown team as they pursue a fourth win in five years in Fairyhouse’s €500,000 highlight.
“We weren’t far from running him in the Gold Cup. If we hadn’t Road To Respect we’d have run him. It looks like he’ll go for the Irish National instead,” O’Leary said.
General Principle won at Fairyhouse last year and could try to defend his title despite being taken away in a horse ambulance after suffering superficial injuries in Saturday’s Aintree National.
“He’s good, he’s perfect; we’ll just see how he comes out of it. Shattered Love is in the reckoning for the Irish National too and so is Mortal. We’d like to have enough runners to give us a chance. But that doesn’t guarantee anything,” O’Leary added.
He also reported Samcro a likely runner in a Fairyhouse Grade Two hurdle over Easter while Apple’s Jade is likely to revert to two miles at Punchestown next month.
Apple’s Jade was third at Aintree over three miles on Saturday and O’Leary said: “At least she ran her race. She didn’t at Cheltenham.
“Hopefully she’ll come back to two miles at Punchestown. At least that will be the right way around for her. It [jumping right] has been a factor all her life. She ran a fantastic race at Aintree but it’s very hard to give away all that [ground] at every hurdle and get beaten half a length.”