Kerry Lee: Roll on in the Grand National, O'Leary!

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Michael O'Leary has cast doubt on whether Tiger Roll will bid for a hat-trick of Grand National wins next April.
Michael O'Leary has cast doubt on whether Tiger Roll will bid for a hat-trick of Grand National wins next April.

There’s only one place to start, and that’s with Tiger Roll...

His owner Michael O’Leary has again suggested he is unlikely to try and emulate Red Rum by winning three Grand Nationals on the trot, and although I understand the argument that there’s a sense of duty to the sport and it’s fans - it’s all about the welfare of the horse at the end of the day. 

It’s very hard to know which way to look at it. On one hand, it would be great to go for the hat-trick, but if Enable can’t win three Arcs, how on Earth is Tiger Roll going to win three Nationals? Negotiating a combined 90 fences around Aintree over three years is immensely more difficult than the combined four and a half miles of Longchamp - so if Enable can’t do it, how can we expect Tiger Roll to do so?

On the other hand, if you had him and he’s in great form - why wouldn’t you try? 

At the end of the day they’re racehorses and they’re bred for it. If he’s well, and Gordon Elliott - who’s an absolute genius - thinks he’s good to go, you’d be mad not to try. 

There’s a lot of showmanship involved, but personally I’d rather get on with the job!

Meanwhile, it’s a welcome sight to see anti-social behaviour at the racing being tackled, and the perpetrators rightly handed prison sentences for the awful scenes at Goodwood last year. 

That particular incident came on their opening night in May, but one particular source for anti-social behaviour seems to have come from the concert nights that have become so popular in summer.

They do a great job at bringing in both income and new people to the sport, but what you seem to see happening - even at smaller jumps tracks such as Uttoxeter for instance - is that you get the place rammed full of beer-guzzling party-goers, who wouldn’t care less if they saw a horse or not, and are there for the beer, essentially.

I think we need to be careful that we are selling racing for its strengths. At the end of the day we’re all trying to run a business, but we could quite easily end up in a vicious circle where it’s keeping racing going rather than selling the sport for everything that’s great about it.

Let’s switch to a positive note! It’s great to see Douvan making his return to action at Clonmel on Thursday.

This is the sort of news that gets the hair standing up on the back of your neck, and it’s very exciting to see him return to the racecourse after such a lengthy lay-off through injury. 

It’s going to be difficult to get him back to his supreme best, but I’m a huge fan of Willie Mullins and everything he does at Closutton, and if he says Douvan is ready then bring it on. 

I honestly think he was good enough to put it up to Altior in his pomp, it was incredibly sad when he couldn’t finish his race when travelling so well in the 2018 Champion Chase, and even if those days are behind him, Clonmel will be an absorbing watch. 

Speaking of Altior, his return to action is creeping closer…

It’s going to be very exciting to see him take his chance in the 1965 Chase at Ascot later this month, and the two mile five furlong trip is a great halfway house in terms of building up towards a tilt at the King George at Kempton. I know he has an entry in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, I’d imagine that’s only a contingency plan should anything go wrong at Ascot. 

It’s going to be fascinating to see if he can make up into a King George horse. My gut feeling is that he’s probably more of a two-miler, but Kempton is a very fast three miles, and he has to be ridden as if he is going to stay the trip. Getting the three and a quarter miles of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham is a whole different story, but I’m sure he’ll have been galloped and worked at home - and they will know how far he is likely to get. 

Finally, it’s very exciting to be going to the feature race at Cheltenham’s November Meeting with a horse with a live chance…

The horse in question is Happy Diva, who runs in Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup. She’s a fantastically consistent mare, and on her best form she’s well-matched alongside the likes of Guitar Pete and several other protagonists. 

She ran very free when chasing home that rival on reappearance at Wetherby earlier this month, and she’s bound to improve for her first run back - all of my horses have done so far. 

It’s of course going to be difficult, the likes of Knocknanuss and Saint Calvados (I hope he runs in the Shloer Chase on Sunday) both have excellent claims, but Richard Patrick has built up a fantastic relationship with her, and his 3 lb allowance is a big help.

She’s going to need luck - which she didn’t get when being brought down four out in this race last year - but you are entitled to think that she can hit the frame, and she certainly goes with everything in her favour.

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