Gordon Elliott has established himself in a comparatively short time as one of the great National Hunt trainers.
“Take the Tiger double,” a punter pal advised last week, “you’ll get about 60/1.”
“What are you on about? Tiger Roll is no more than 4/1 to win again,” I replied.
“I know, but what I’m talking about is Tiger Roll to win the National and Tiger Woods to win the Masters.”
Needless to say I didn’t take the bet. I knew it all. Odds of 4/1 were far too short for the Grand National. Sure, wasn’t there a time when those bookie chappies used to give those odds about a horse getting around safely, never mind win the race?
But, then, Tiger Roll is no ordinary horse, not after the comprehensive manner in which he retained his Aintree crown on Saturday last, edging himself closer to Red Rum in the pantheon reserved for the great Grand National winners.
What’s that they say? There are good goods in small parcels?
Red Rum was only a handful, but he could jump like a stag and never knew when he was beaten. He won the big prize three times and finished runner-up on two other occasions.
And for another pocket-rocket, think back to Tommy Wade’s great showjumper, Dundrum. He could clear fences he couldn’t even see over. Ask any showjumping veteran and s/he’ll tell you all about the Tipperary titan’s achievements.
Now comes another with the physique and the battling qualities to elbow his way in with the others. Tiger Roll had done enough last year to earn himself a place at National Hunt’s top table - this time victory was achieved with greater ease.
His trainer, Gordon Elliott, has established himself in a comparatively short time as one of the great National Hunt trainers. He’s a Meathman, as is Gavin Cromwell, who, away from the hurly burly of Aintree last Friday, sent out Darver Star to win with a lot in hand at Wexford for a group of Dromiskin lads. (More about this hurdler some other time, hopefully after he comes in at one of the bigger meetings.)
I’m wondering had Pleasant Company stayed on his feet instead of falling close home, would he have reversed last year’s photo-finish defeat with Tiger Roll? I’m talking through my pocket here. The Willie Mullins-trained horse runs in the name of this paper’s owner, Malcolm Denmark, and having had a narrow miss last year not backing him, I was determined not to let him go this time.
Aintree was revisited, and for the third time it didn’t yield riches, that’s if you don’t regard great horses and exciting finishes as riches. Getting a few quid is a big part of what going racing is mostly about; when the bottom line continues to show a minus you ask yourself might the time be better spent mowing the lawn or going for a walk. But changing a habit of a lifetime might prove more difficult than picking a winner.
And the second part of our friend’s Tiger double? The first Major of the year, the Masters, is taking place this weekend, and the question - asked quite often in recent years - is: Can TW get back among the very biggest winners. His travails since his last big win have been well documented – nothing would please those who love to see adversity being trumped more than a Tiger triumph. Our friend has a good few quid riding on it.