The worldwide efforts to combat the spread of the Corona virus is having a devastating effect on the sporting programme. Horse racing in the UK is the latest to feel the impact with all race meetings suspended from Wednesday 18th March. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead as planned but the Grand National meeting from 2nd to 4th April could not be saved.
Tiger Roll denied hat-trick bid
The Grand National is the most famous National Hunt race in the world with an estimated TV audience in excess of 600 million. It is one of the few races in the calendar which attracts interest from outside the sport. The spectacle of forty horses tackling the unique Aintree fences for over four miles is one of the traditional highlights of the British sporting year.
The Grand National is famous for its office sweepstakes and for once-a-year punters having a small flutter. An estimated £250 million was staked on the race last year and many had already invested in Tiger Roll, the winner for the past two seasons. The Irish-trained gelding was set to attempt an unprecedented hat-trick of wins this year and was ante-post favourite at 8-1.
Bookmaker offers are carefully selected by freebets.co.uk with a dedicated page for the best free bets in 2020. The special introductory offers for new customers are still valid and regularly updated. Tiger Roll came through his prep race in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham safely and Trainer Gordon Elliott is already looking forward to 2021 as his winning horse is already set to be the best bet next year as well as in 2020.
Last year, Tiger Roll became the first clear favourite to win the race since Hedgehunter in 2005. The average starting price for the previous ten Grand National winners was 33-1. If you fancy Tiger Roll to return in triumph next year, he is as high as 25-1 in the new betting market for the Grand National 2021.
New Contenders emerge for 2021 Grand National
While the priority is obviously to protect people from the virus, the loss of the Aintree Grand National meeting was a massive blow. Equine superstars are rare and the publicity surrounding Tiger Roll has put the sport on the front page. No horse has won the Grand National three times in a row and only Red Rum (1973, 1974 and 1977) managed three victories in the great race.
Prior to the corona virus outbreak, Tiger Roll had recovered from a minor injury and the only debate was whether his owners would allow him to run with top weight. That barrier appeared to have been negotiated safely but matters far beyond racing have intervened.
Betting has already opened on the 2021 Grand National with several new contenders having emerged from the Cheltenham Festival. These include Gold Cup runner-up Santini (25-1) and Cross Country Chase winner Easysland (33-1). The Conditional (25-1) also won at the festival meeting and 2018 Gold Cup winner Native River (33-1) is another to consider.
Any Second Now (33-1) had been heavily backed for the 2020 Grand National and was as short as 12-1 in the ante-post betting. He will be re-assessed by the handicapper while Nicky Henderson’s long wait for a Grand National win continues. His leading candidate for 2021 appears to be Ok Corral (50-1).
Grand National History
This is only the second time that the Grand National has been lost since the end of the Second World War. The previous occasion was in 1993 when a false start was not acknowledged by most of the jockeys, leading to complete disarray. Many realised their mistake and were pulled up but seven completed the course before the race was declared void.
The Grand National was also under threat in 1997 due to a bomb threat which meant that the racecourse had to be evacuated. Although it was impossible to stage the race on the Saturday, authorities moved quickly to re-stage the event on the following Monday. They also issued 20,000 free tickets to racegoers who watched Lord Gyllene race into the history books as the winner of the Monday National.
There was controversy in 2001 when Red Marauder won the race in desperate conditions. He beat his only surviving rival from the 40 horses who originally set out. Two horses were remounted to finish third and fourth, something which was subsequently banned in the interests of horse welfare.
Racing fans are already looking towards 2021 and a new chapter in the history of the Grand National. Tiger Roll will be eleven years of age, the same as recent winners including Neptune Collonges and Pineau De Re. Amberleigh House (2004) was successful at the age of 12, the same age as Red Rum in 1977. The dream of a third National victory for Tiger Roll is not over just yet.