Sport Horse Racing

Friday 14 December 2018

Tiger can roar for Elliott as he goes back to where it all began

With speed, stamina in spades and Davy Russell on board, this pick ticks all the boxes in showpiece

Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Given what he has gone on to achieve, it's amazing that Gordon Elliott hadn't even trained a winner in Ireland when Silver Birch secured the Aintree Grand National 11 years ago.

On the back of that success, the all-conquering Meath handler (pictured) has gone on to assemble a powerful squad of horses on his way to claiming many of National Hunt racing's most cherished prizes, including his maiden Irish National on Easter Monday with General Principle.

Another success in one of the world's most famous races has eluded him, but the Cullentra trainer can put that right as Tiger Roll ticks all the boxes required to take the Liverpool showpiece.

When Silver Birch claimed this title in 2007, he came here on the back of a second-placed finish in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham and Tiger Roll comes here having gone one better when claiming his third Festival win.

With enough speed to win a Triumph Hurdle four years ago and unquestionable stamina after taking the National Hunt Chase four-miler last season, the eight-year-old has the perfect National profile and will relish the demanding conditions.

Davy Russell is another who has taken all before him this season, being crowned top jockey at the Festival for the first time, and a maiden success in the Aintree blockbuster would cap a magnificent campaign for the Irish champion jockey-elect.

With a lovely racing weight of 10st 13lbs, the Gigginstown House Stud can take the home the near €600,000 winners' prize and secure their second win in the race after Rule The World's victory two years ago.

While not the lottery many proclaim it, there are several waiting in the wings and victory for Baie Des Iles and the husband-wife combination of Ross O'Sullivan and Katie Walsh would bring the house down.

In the five times Walsh has competed in the National, she has completed on four occasions, with her third aboard Seabass - trained by her father Ted - the highest finish of any female rider in the race's rich history.

The seven-year-old mare has been the plunge horse over the past week as punters latch on to the family factor which saw the Walsh team (Ted and son Ruby) on Papillon (2000) and the Carberrys (Tommy and son Paul) with Bobbyjo (1999) prevail.

Baie Des Iles is progressive and stamina looks a certainty given her win in the Irish Grand National Trial last season, while she's in fine form having finished third behind Folsom Blue and Isleofhopendreams - subsequently fourth and second in the Fairyhouse feature. A bold bid is expected on ground that will play to her strengths.

Of some of the other market leaders, Willie Mullins' Total Recall and Tony Martin's Anibale Fly are both respected, but hovering towards the head of the weights this may come too soon after their efforts in a demanding Gold Cup on testing ground.

Gas Line Boy was fifth in the race 12 months ago despite being hampered at the last two fences and Ian Williams' 12-year-old looked as good as ever when taking the Grand Sefton over the National fences, so expect him to be in the mix again.

James Bowen has the opportunity to become the youngest Aintree Grand National winner with the 17-year-old partnering Shantou Flyer and Richard Hobson's charge can make the frame if building on a fine second at Cheltenham.

One For Arthur's success 12 months ago was Scotland's first in the race since 1979, but Seeyouatmidnight - recently bought by Cheveley Park Stud - holds a live chance of repeating the feat having placed in the Scottish National two years ago. With a mudbath in his favour, he is one to take seriously for trainer Sandy Thomson and Armagh jockey Brian Hughes.

The Grade One Ryanair Stayers Hurdle (4.20) is a nice warm-up event, but Irish raiders have had a dismal time, with Charles Byrnes' Solwhit (2013) the only Irish victor in the last 40 years, so Henry de Bromhead's Identity Thief faces a stiff task.

Having belied his odds to finish fourth in last month's Champion Hurdle, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary will hope that the sole Irish hope can win the race he sponsors, but it's unlikely.

A lot of focus will centre around Sam Spinner, with Jedd O'Keeffe's stable star going off favourite for the Cheltenham equivalent, but at bigger odds The Worlds End may offer value.

Tom George's seven-year-old took the Grade One Sefton Novices' Hurdle at last year's meeting and wasn't beaten far behind Penhill at the Festival, so Adrian Heskin's mount may be one to keep on the right side.

De Bromhead's Petit Mouchoir trades at prohibitive odds in the Novices' Chase (3.0) and may be worth opposing, with recent chase recruit Lady Buttons looking a smart prospect, while Nicky Henderson's On The Blind Side can gain compensation for missing Cheltenham in the Mersey Novices' Hurdle (2.25).

VERNEY'S VERDICT

1.45 Louis' Vac Pouch

2.25 On The Blind Side

3.0 Lady Buttons

3.40 Thomas Patrick

4.20 The Worlds End

6.20 Michael's Mount

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