Tiger Roll to run at Aintree instead of Irish Grand National

Latest Exhibition will now carry top weight in Easter Monday’s feature at Fairyhouse

There is no 'National' of any sort for Tiger Roll this season so racing's most popular four-legged star will instead next week tackle a Grade 1 for the first time in almost six years.

Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team have opted to skip Easter Monday’s Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in favour of targeting Thursday’s Betway Bowl in Aintree.

It will be the first time the dual-Aintree Grand National winner - and five-time Cheltenham festival hero - has run in a top-flight race since finishing last behind Faugheen at Punchestown in 2015.

The Gigginstown team insist there are no regrets about ruling out Tiger Roll from a shot at Aintree history and a potential third National in a row despite his return to form at Cheltenham last month.


Having previously labelled the British handicapper’s treatment of the horse as “unfair,” the Gigginstown spokesman, Eddie O’Leary, was adamant on Friday: “Our thinking is let’s run him in the Bowl and let the handicapper see.”

Tiger Roll’s likely opposition over the Mildmay course next week includes the 2018 Gold Cup winner Native River and the dual-King George hero, Clan des Obeaux.

Hopes that Liverpool’s misfortune could be Fairyhouse’s opportunity were dashed on Friday with Tiger Roll taken out of Monday’s €400,000 feature.

Instead it is the high-class novice Latest Exhibition who will carry top-weight in a maximum field of 30 runners.

Immediate reaction from the big-race sponsors was to make Paul Nolan’s runner, runner-up to the star Monkfish on his last two outings, a 7-1 co-favourite with The Big Dog and Sempo.

Jack Kennedy’s mount Run Wild Fred tops four Gigginstown entries as the Ryanair boss chases a fifth win in Irish jump racing’s most valuable prize.

Willie Mullins broke his Irish National duck with Burrows Saint in 2019 and has a handful of contenders this time.

Champion jockey Paul Townend has opted to ride Agusta Gold on her first start for Mullins. Rachael Blackmore is on the Mullins outsider Robin De Carlow who hasn’t run in almost 18 months.

There is a single cross-channel hopeful in Jerrysback, one of five JP McManus owned runners.

Easter Festival

Fairyhouse’s three-day Easter festival kicks off on Saturday on forecast yielding ground that is being watered.

Already without Envoi Allen, Sunday’s featured Underwriting Exchange Gold Cup lost another star novice with Energuemene not appearing in a final field of nine.

Franco De Port is the sole Grade 1 winner this season lining up for a race formerly known as the Powers Gold Cup although his stable companion Asterion Forlonge appears to be the Mullins No 1.

The grey didn’t repeat his habit of jumping to the right when third to Chantry House at Cheltenham but nevertheless should be ideally suited by two and a half miles around Fairyhouse.

Sunday’s other Grade 1, the Irish Stallion Farms Mares Novice Hurdle, includes Skyace who ran a fine fourth to Telmesomethingirl at Cheltenham just over a fortnight ago.

Hook Up was well behind on that occasion but quicker ground and a first-time hood could help her be a major player this time.

Saturday’s Fairyhouse feature is the €80,000 Rybo Handicap Hurdle which looks a good opportunity for Denise Foster’s Eclair de Beaufeu.

Foster’s Kim Muir winner Mount Ida drops in trip for an earlier Listed mares chase. Lying in wait is Elimay who will try to bounce back from a towering effort when runner up to her stable companion Colreevy in an epic Cheltenham finish.

Cork’s flat action on Saturday sees the return of one of the few horses able to push Tiger Roll in the popularity stakes.

Princess Zoe’s rise from ordinary handicapper to Group 1 winner was one of the stories of 2020 and she takes the first step towards a possible tilt at this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the Listed Noblesse Stakes.

“The plan is to get two runs into her in April while there’s a cut in the ground and then we’ll plan the rest of the season after that,” her trainer Tony Mullins said.

“I’m keen to go back over a mile and a half with her. People have it in their heads that she’s a dour stayer but from the work I’m seeing I think she’ll be as effective, if not more, over that trip,” he added.

Princess Zoe has to concede weight all round and giving 7lbs to the 100 rated Moll might be a tough proposition.

Jessica Harrington runs Discordantly in Monday’s National and can get a boost ahead of that on the flat with the well bred Aesop in a Cork handicap.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column