PAT HEALY: This week Pat shares his thoughts on Tiger Roll’s omission from the Grand National and picks out the horse he thinks could win at Aintree.
I’ll be at Gowran Park this Saturday for Red Mills Day, and you have to say, it’s a great initiative by the team to put on a free race day. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, you can just walk in and it won’t cost the racegoer anything to watch some superb racing, so I hope it’s well supported. They had a crowd of 8,500 people for Thyestes Day a couple of weeks ago, so you’d have to be hopeful that there’s another good showing this weekend for what is a great idea. You’d assume that other racetracks will have a keen eye on how well supported it is and we can be hopeful that they too could organise something of their own. It’s another Cheltenham trial day and there could be some fantastic horses on show, but above all let’s just hope the sun is shining and it’s well supported.
I was at Punchestown last Sunday and we had the National Trial with Death Duty getting in the winner’s enclosure for the first time since 2017 for Gordon Elliott. With the Grand National weights being released this week, it’s a marker for Gordon and his Aintree National hopefuls. The bumper on the day was won by James’s Gate who was mighty impressive, and I guess is another that goes into contention for the Champion Bumper.
I’m not going to slate Michael O’Leary for all that’s been said this week, that’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it, as is the handicapper Martin Greenwood. From a racing fan’s point of view, it’s a shame he’s not going to be in the line-up, records are made to be broken and Red Rum’s record is in Tiger Roll’s sights, but I think he will win the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. Gordon (Elliott) knows this horse inside out and he just comes alive at that time of year – he’s a completely different horse in March and April, and he always has been. Will it take away from the race if he doesn’t turn up? No, the race is bigger than one horse, the Aintree Grand National will always be bigger than any horse. It’s going to be a great race regardless and the horse I fancied last year, Burrows Saint, seems to have been trained for it again. Connections seem happy enough with what he was given at the weights this week, so I’ll be taking another look at him come April.