Irish-bred horses have won the Grand National for the last two seasons in a row and there a number of quality competitors that will be vying to make it three in a row at Aintree in April.
Tiger Roll will be aiming to match the achievement of Red Rum, becoming the first horse since the legendary bay gelding in 1974 to win the race in back-to-back years.
Gordon Elliott’s charge is the ante-post favourite for the event among the leading bookmakers compared by Oddschecker given his outstanding, and notions that he along with his compatriots could be prevented from competing in Liverpool by Brexit as Article 50 could be extended beyond the end of March.
We’ll now break down Tiger Roll’s prospects for the race, and who could look to knock him out of the winners’ enclosure in April.
Tiger Roll – so good he can walk on air! pic.twitter.com/FxZqa1lPHQ
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) February 17, 2019
Elliott’s charge produced a brilliant run at the National, using the momentum of his triumph at Cheltenham Festival to enjoy an outstanding end to the last campaign. He was a 10/1 outsider despite his success at the Cross Country Chase.
Tiger Roll was fluent throughout the rest, clearing the obstacles around the daunting course with ease. His stamina pulled him away from the rest of the field before he made a surge for the line. Pleasant Company made a late attempt to steal the win, but Tiger Roll held on for the win.
Since his triumph, the nine-year-old has only been in action twice in the current term. Elliott’s charge competed at Cheltenham when he was off the pace in the Cross Country Handicap Chase, losing to his rival Josies Orders. Tiger Roll took a three-month break from the action before competing at the 21-furlong Boyne Hurdle.
The bay gelding was back to his best on the track at Navan, finding his rhythm with Keith Donoghue in the saddle, securing a comfortable victory by four lengths. He will compete at Cheltenham Festival before the event to defend his other crown, and that performance could dictate his fortunes at the National.
Another competitor flying the flag for Ireland will be Willie Mullins’ charge. He has pedigree at the highest level, although he will have to rise to the occasion to pull off the victory at Aintree.
The 11-year-old was a winner at Cheltenham last season in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase – putting forward arguably the best performance of his career.
Rathvinden was one of the leading contenders for the crown, but he still had to ensure that he was on his mettle whereas his rivals, including favourite Jury Duty, struggled in the contest. The Irish-bred horse battled it out down the stretch against Ms Parfois, but he had enough to take the crown.
He ended the last campaign with an underwhelming outing at Punchestown in the Growise Champion Novice Chase, placing fourth behind three Elliott horses. Rathvinden spent 10 months on the sideline before Mullins returned him to action in the Bobbyjo Chase.
He faced off against a talented field, but managed to find his rhythm on the track with relative ease.
The 11-year-old was composed down the stretch to close out a comfortable victory by three-and-a-half lengths ahead of Alpha Des Obeaux. He could be a Gold Cup horse and providing a challenge at the National, although Mullins will be wary of placing too much strain on his charge.
Elegant Escape has won the 2018 Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 27, 2018
Colin Tizzard’s charge has enjoyed an excellent campaign and could be the horse to watch at Cheltenham Festival and again in the National. The seven-year-old is a competitor on the rise and has been outstanding, displaying a strong level of consistency in the 2018/19 season.
He opened the term with a win at the Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown Park, finding a surge down the stretch to close out a victory by half-a-length ahead of Thomas Patrick. Elegant Escape was competitive in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase, but on this occasion he was blown away by the pace of Sizing Tennessee at the crux point in the race as his rival cantered to the win by 10 lengths.
Tizzard’s charge arrived at the Welsh Grand National as the favourite for the event and he did not disappoint. Tom O’Brien in the saddle timed his run to perfect, moving to the head of the field three fences out. The bay gelding had the stamina to see out the win by one-and-a-quarter lengths, claiming the first major crown of his career. Elegant Escape was narrowly off the pace in the Trial Cotswold Chase in his last outing, placing behind Frodon. The Irish-bred horse could be poised for a breakout to end the campaign adding to his Welsh Grand National title.
The grey gelding could contend for the Grand National crown, although he will have to raise the standard of his performances, having recorded only one victory over the last 18 months. It came at Haydock Park in November last year, claiming a narrow win by half-a-length in the Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase.
In major races his pace down the stretch has been an issue, finishing third in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham Festival last season, while he put forward a similar performance in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr Racecourse placing in third.
Vintage Clouds was in action at the Welsh Grand National where he faced off against Elegant Escape. After making a bright start to the contest, he began to labour around the track.
He struggled over the 15th fence before pulling up at the 17th fence. The Irish-bred horse has talent, but whether it will be enough to make a charge for the National is another matter.