But, special horse he is. He just doesn’t grab you by the heart, plus he’s never a price to do so. For gamblers the special horses defy the odds – literally. Atavus was a special horse, by way of example. I doubt you’ll have heard of him. He needed 7 furlongs, fast ground, to be drawn close to the rail, and guaranteed an unopposed lead. Without those stars aligning he was useless. But the four other times, he won good races at 33/1. Every time. God, I loved him.
Sergeant Cecil was a special horse. He won the three biggest staying handicaps one year, each time at double figure odds. What’s Up Boys won at five of the big festivals , chucked in a Hennessey for fun, and only lost the National because of his jockey, at prices from 40/1 to 14/1. Obviously, these are outliers, from a lifetime gambling. It’s very hard to be a great horse and keep going off at big odds.
Which, of course, brings us to Tiger Roll. Who has won the National, and at four Cheltenham Festivals, over 2m, 4m, hurdles, fences and the annual Cross Country nonsense. I honestly can’t think of a more versatile horse. Plus, I’ve backed him every single time. Two months ago, as a loosener, he ran in a 2m 4f Grade 2 hurdle for speedy youngsters and won without coming off the bridle at 33/1. Which was nice.
At Cheltenham he won the Cross Country race so easily most people there wondered why he wasn’t running in the Gold Cup. Except me, who was so excited I fell over at the Cheese Wedges cheering him on. And I promise you something. This little rat of a horse (as his shit of an owner has it) was greeted as a far greater hero than Altior. And now he’s likely to be the shortest priced horse for decades to win the National again (hopefully). Currently he’s 7/2. Is it a fair price? I’ve no idea. It’s an argument about value that horse-racing enthusiasts on racing forums digest like a holy mobius strip of the unanswerable.
Who cares, I have him at 12s. Yes, I suspect he’s going to be beaten by some unfathomable outsider who might go on to be the next Atavus or What’s Up Boys, or even Tiger Roll. But this year, possibly for the first time since Red Rum, I think the race really is about one horse. Enjoy.