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'Tiger' will roll next year as British cancel racing

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Jockey Davy Russell with Tiger Roll as the winner of the 2019 Randox Health Aintree Grand National is led through the village of Summerhill in Co Meath. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Jockey Davy Russell with Tiger Roll as the winner of the 2019 Randox Health Aintree Grand National is led through the village of Summerhill in Co Meath. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Jockey Davy Russell with Tiger Roll as the winner of the 2019 Randox Health Aintree Grand National is led through the village of Summerhill in Co Meath. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The dream may have been put on hold for a year but it is still very much alive with Tiger Roll being aimed at the 2021 Aintree Grand National.

The people's horse was denied his date with destiny and the chance of an historic hat-trick in this year's Liverpool showpiece with Jockey Club officials aborting any plans to stage Aintree's three-day meeting behind closed doors due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) subsequently decided to cancel all racing in Britain from today until the end of April due to the outbreak and trainer Gordon Elliott has given his full support to the decision to cancel Aintree despite plans being scuppered for his loveable 10-year-old.

"It is disappointing but everyone has to do what's right to get everything back on track. We're all on the one team, you know. We'll be backing them up 100 per cent on this decision," Elliott said.

It is full steam ahead for Tiger Roll - second in last week's Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as his hat-trick bid came unstuck when foiled by French raider Easysland - to tackle next year's Aintree showpiece should all go to plan between now and then, although the Meath trainer is well aware of the dangers of looking too far ahead.

Confident

While he will be an 11-year-old when that time comes in April of 2021, Elliott is confident that the son of Authorized will still have what it takes to join the mighty Red Rum as a three-time Grand National winner.

"There is every chance of him competing," the Cullentra handler said. "He hasn't got that many miles on the clock, and we will be training him back for the Grand National again.

"You're training horses day by day, never mind year by year, so I'll be taking things day by day - and there's a lot of water to go under the bridge by then. He's in good form and he was all set for the National.

"But unfortunately we're only one of 40 horses - and so we've just got to keep going. This is the Grand National, how can you be confident of victory? But we like to have a few runners in the race, and we were really looking forward to it. All we can do is dream - so you never know what might happen."

Bookmakers are still confident that Tiger Roll will take some stopping having installed him as 10/1 favourite to go where no horse has gone before and win three Grand Nationals in succession.

Meanwhile, yesterday's jumps cards at Wetherby and Taunton will be the last to go ahead until May, at the earliest. The BHA took the hard line to cancel all racing over the next six weeks given the recent health warnings, although the decision will be kept under "constant review".

Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, admitted that the coronavirus is "a national emergency which most of us have never seen before" and that racing's "first duty is to the health of the public".

"Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other," Rust said.

"By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. There will be difficult months ahead for many of us.

"We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this £4 billion industry."

With no British racing until the end of April, high-profile cards like the Doncaster Lincoln meeting, Newmarket's Craven meeting, the Ayr Scottish Grand National and Sandown's jump season finale are in serious doubt.

US racing officials have acted swiftly to reschedule the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby by moving it from May 2 to September 5 and others may be forced to do likewise as the coronavirus causes chaos to the racing landscape.

Irish Independent