Welcome to our coverage of day one of the 2021 Grand National Festival at Aintree. There are some big names on show today, including dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air and 2018 Gold Cup champ Native River – but the star attraction is undoubtedly two-time Grand National hero Tiger Roll.
Unfortunately for racing fans he won’t be going for a tilt at an historic third National title on Saturday, instead taking on the Betway Bowl at 2.50pm today – but it is always a joy to see the living legend in action.
Tiger Roll comes into today’s race after an outstanding fifth Cheltenham Festival triumph, in the Cross Country Chase, which cemented his status as the most popular horse in training.
After that success, our chief sports writer Oliver Brown shared his disappointment at the news the Tiger won’t be given a chance to win his third National, writing “we cannot overstate the significance that Tiger Roll’s matching of Red Rum would have both within racing and beyond”.
He added: “The regret at Tiger Roll’s National omission is perfectly simple. It is that we have been denied the chance of watching an icon become an immortal.”
Gigginstown Stud race manager Eddie O’Leary has played down Tiger Roll’s chances of success in the Betway Bowl, saying he has “no chance whatsoever” of winning – making the decision to swerve the National seem even more difficult to understand.
Kevin Blake made his thoughts clear on ITV Racing’s Opening Show this morning, saying it was “a shame” the horse is running today rather than Saturday – and there’s no doubt most racing fans will feel the same.