Tiger Roll will not bid for a record-equalling third Randox Grand National triumph after being ruled out of the Aintree spectacular by his owner Michael O'Leary.
The Ryanair supremo, whose horses run under his Gigginstown House Stud banner, has issued a statement criticising British Horseracing Authority chief handicapper Martin Greenwood, describing his rating of 161 for Tiger Roll as "absurd".
O’Leary’s decision came just hours after the weights for the world’s greatest steeplechase were announced at a special ceremony in Liverpool with Tiger Roll, trained by Gordon Elliott, being allotted 11st 4lb.
His statement read: "Tiger Roll is now 12 years old, He is clearly not as good as he was at eight or nine, and yet the UK handicapper now rates him 2lb higher than his 159 rating in April 2019, when he won both the Boyne Hurdle and the Aintree Grand National.
"This rating is absurd, and unfair on a 12-year-old chaser. It is a pity that the handicapper won’t give Tiger Roll either a fair rating or a fair weight in the Aintree Grand National, where he could at least try to emulate Red Rum’s three wins.
"However, the handicapper sets the weights and even if he is manifestly wrong in the case of Tiger Roll, there is nothing we can do about it other than remove him from the race, since we don’t believe it is fair or safe to ask him to carry close to top weight at the age of 12.
"Since the top two horses in the handicap won’t run in Aintree this year, Tiger Roll will have to carry either 11st 8lb or 11st 9lb at the age of 12, which is three years after he carried 11st 5lb at the age of nine to win the great race in April 2019.
"Since we are responsible for the welfare of Tiger Roll, we must protect him from the idiotic opinion of this handicapper. We therefore regret to announce that he will not run in the year’s Aintree Grand National.
"Instead Tiger Roll will be trained for the cross country race in Cheltenham and there is every likelihood that win, lose or draw, this will be his last racecourse appearance
"He will then return home for his well-earned retirement here in Gigginstown for the rest of his days.
"It’s sadly clear from his ratings that this handicapper doesn’t want Tiger Roll to run in this year’s Grand National, he won’t give him a fair chance and sadly the race will be poorer for his absence."
In his defence, handicapper Martin Greenwood had earlier said: "I have relented a bit with Tiger Roll and he is down to 161 from 166 last year, which is 5lb lower.
"As I keep telling people, you can’t just ignore his win in the cross country at Cheltenham last season which was less than 12 months ago when he easily defeated two good horses in Easysland and Some Neck.
"He and Minella Times – the two previous winners among the entries – are both on 161. Minella Times has run two stinkers this year, but it was only three starts ago that he was winning the Grand National."
Tiger Roll became the first horse since Red Rum in 1973-74 to win consecutive Grand Nationals when he was victorious in 2018 and 2019.
However, the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the race in 2020, while connections chose not to run him in the 2021 renewal as they were not happy with the handicapper's assessment of Tiger Roll.
Elliott explained how the National became a turning point in Tiger Roll’s fortunes.
"We decided to run him in the National in 2018 as he had lost his way a little bit, so we had to try to rejuvenate him and it really worked for him," he said.
"I was nervous going into the next year’s Grand National, but it was a dream come true to win it for a second time with him. He was very good on the second occasion.
"To have a horse like him is a dream come true, but to win two Grand Nationals with him has just been awesome and I’m very lucky to have him. I do think there is still more in him and we are certainly not finished yet."
Of his other contenders, Elliott – who has 19 entries – said: "Death Duty is a dual Grade One winner and came back to form at Punchestown the other day.
"Mount Ida is a good mare, she stays, she won the Kim Muir. Galvin and Conflated are at the top of the handicap, but they are Grade One winners and that is the way the race has gone.
"We’ve a great team of horses, but we’ll get Cheltenham out of the way and see how we go."