Two-time winner of the Grand National Tiger Roll has been withdrawn from this year’s race by owner Michael O’Leary, over issues with the handicap allocation.
It means he won’t have a chance of winning a third title at Aintree, matching the legendary Red Rum.
But what are the handicaps, and why has O’Leary withdrawn Tiger Roll?
The Handicap System
The Handicap system works to create a level playing field, with the best horses given the most weight to carry, and the less talented horses given less.
This is calculated through a number of factors, including form, age of the horse, gender and their suitability for the course.
The handicapper, Martin Greenwood, determines the final handicaps. He is the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) Steeplechase team leader.
The National is unique in that Greenwood has discretion to tinker with the weights as he sees fit, away from the regular ratings.
As a result, Tiger Roll, who won the National in 2018 and 2019, has been given a higher weight despite missing last years race. The same rating has been given to last year’s winner, Minella Times.
Had Tiger Roll run, he would have been aiming to become just the second horse to win the National three times, after Red Rum achieved this in 1973, 1974 and 1977.
This has angered his owner, O’Leary, who has withdrawn his horse due to what he sees as an “absurd” handicap.
He sees the rating of Tiger Roll, which, at 161 is higher than his winning rating in 2019, as “unfair” as Tiger Roll is now 12 years old. But his trainer, Gordon Elliot, believes that Tiger Roll was given “a good weight”.
He also did not run at last years race, and had an injury at the end of 2019. However, he was dominant at the 2021 Cheltenham festival.
How does the Weight system work?
The allocated weight for Tiger Roll was 11st 4lb, but he would have had to carry 11st 9lb, as the top two rated horses will not be running.
The weight is calculated including the horse, the jockey and the saddle. There is a weigh in and weigh out before each race, to ensure they are within the correct race weight.
Horses and their ratings:
104 horses have currently been declared, but only 40 will run on the day. Two extra horses are declared as reserves. Conflated and Galvin are the top two rated horses, carrying a rating of 167.
Horses previous results determine their ratings. Horses must race a minimum of three times to get a handicap rating. Good performances will result in a rating rise, when poor results will cause it to fall.
In normal handicap races, the horse with the highest rating carries the most weight. However, at the National, the handicapper has discretion to add or remove weight, depending on their suitability for the course.
As such, Greenwood lowered Tiger Roll’s rating from 166 last year to 161 this year. Explaining his decision, he said that “you cannot ignore his result in the Cross Country at Cheltenham last season”. He sees it as fair rating, with Tiger Roll and Minella Times carrying the same weight.