|Where Would Tiger Roll Rank among the Greats with a Third National Win?
Saturday 15th February 2020
When Red Rum landed his third Grand National win in 1977, many believed his achievements would never be bettered. The Ginger McCain-trained Thoroughbred steeplechaser become a national icon and his races are ranked among the greatest sporting moments of all time.
In April 2020, reigning champion Tiger Roll has the chance to make history by winning three consecutive Grand Nationals. Red Rum’s wins came in 1973, 1974, and 1977, although he also came second in the two intervening years. So will the Irish-bred runner be afforded the same heroic status if he wins again at Aintree? And where would he rank among the greats?
An almost impossible job
Assessing the greatest racehorses of all time is difficult. As well as being subjective, there is such a diversity of races and conditions around the world that there is no universal set of criteria that can be applied.
For example, US racehorse Secretariat raced for less than two tears but won the first Triple Crown in a quarter of a century and won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths breaking the one-and-a-half-mile dirt track record in the process. Comparing a speed merchant like Secretariat with a stayer like Red Rum is almost impossible. Both reached the pinnacle of their disciplines and were honoured as national heroes.
A better comparison to Secretariat would be Man o' War who won 20 out of 21 races during his two and three-year-old career between 1919 and 1920. Most US sports publications put him ahead of Secretariat in their all-time lists. Although the order remains hotly debated.
Arkle still No. 1 for many
In the UK, Arkle is regarded by many to be the best of all time. The steeplechaser is often ranked above the likes of Red Rum, Ribot, Secretariat, and Phar Lap in the all-time lists. Such was his superiority that handicap weight rules had to be changed to accommodate him. He never fell and put the great Mill House in his shadow at the 1964 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He went on to win three successive Gold Cups along with one King George VI Chase, an Irish Grand National, one Whitbread Gold Cup, and two Hennessy Gold Cups amongst other wins.
Tiger Roll in contention
Tiger Roll is the clear favourite in the horse racing betting this year, and a win in April would certainly put him in contention for a place in the top ten racehorses of all time. Despite changes to the course, the Grand National remains one of the toughest races in the world and the outcome can sometimes be a lottery. For any horse to defy that and take control of such demanding conditions in successive races is extraordinary.
That’s why Red Rum finishing in the top-two five-years running is such an astonishing feat. And his win in 1973, in which he overcame a 20-length deficit with two fences left to jump, is still considered one of the greatest of any horse race. Winning three in a row would be incredible for Tiger Roll, but it would not quite eclipse the achievements of the UK’s most beloved horse. And he would need to do that to be considered one of the greatest horses of all time.