Owner Michael O’Leary has confirmed his double Grand National hero Tiger Roll will retire after bidding for a sixth Cheltenham Festival victory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, having already ruled out a third triumph at Aintree .
Connections has long been unhappy with his handicap mark in Britain, and O’Leary issued a statement just hours after the unveiling of the national weights on February 15 in which he described his mark of 161 as “absurd”.
Speaking during the Racing Debate on Sunday, O’Leary repeated that call, adding that the British handicapper had ‘ruined’ a huge opportunity for the Aintree show.
“I think that’s a silly, nonsensical handicap rating,” O’Leary said.
“This handicapper has now prevented the most popular horse in training from racing in the Grand National two years in a row. He has ruined a huge promotional opportunity for Aintree and the Grand National by causing Tiger Roll tries to imitate Red Rum.
“You can’t defy age. He won’t be in the Grand National when he races cross-country – he’ll be out the next stage by forfeit.”
Asked what he would have been happy to perform with Tiger Roll, O’Leary told Sky Sports Racing: “If he (British Horseracing Authority handicapper Martin Greenwood) rated him at around 150 and gave him a £5 bonus for his past performance at Aintree, he’d be 155, which is what the Irish handicapper rated him at this time last year.
“We would have raced him on that and it would have at least given him a fair chance.
“I have no intention of asking the horse, who is like a fifth child to me, to carry 11th 8lbs or 11th 10lbs around Aintree at his age.
“Fortunately the Tiger Roll controversy will not happen again as he will retire after the cross country race at Cheltenham this year.”
O’Leary also revealed he was in favor of running Conflated in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, instead of bidding for Boodles Gold Cup glory.
The eight-year-old trained by Gordon Elliott proved he has what it takes to make his mark at the top level by winning the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown earlier this month.
But with Elliott responsible for another top Gold Cup contender in Savills Chase winner Galvin, O’Leary would prefer his charge to run in a race he sponsors and first won with Balko Des Flos in 2018.
“I don’t think Conflated will win the Gold Cup because if Galvin goes to the Gold Cup for Gordon, I think we’ll pass Conflated to Ryanair,” he said.
“I don’t think Conflated would beat Galvin and I think it would make sense from Gordon’s perspective to split the two horses.
“We will go face Willie (Mullins) in the Ryanair.”