Robert Walford: The BHA has done a great job with welfare at the National *H&H VIP*


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  • Tiger Roll is a phenomenal horse. For him to win for the second year running — the first horse to do so since Red Rum in 1974 — was really something. There’s a lot of talk about him being small, but when horses have heart and lungs, they don’t need bulk. He tries really hard and is a wonderful horse. In my eyes, he could have won the Gold Cup if he’d run in it.

    It’s amazing for the public, too. The longevity of horses is part of the sport, it’s one of the things that people love about National Hunt racing. They see the same horses run and win year after year, and get to know them — you don’t get that so much on the Flat.

    Tiger Roll won at Cheltenham when he was five and he’s still winning now at nine, which is great to see. Seeing all those guys in tiger suits this year supporting Tiger Roll shows he has a fanbase and that’s great for racing.

    First British-trained home

    It was a fantastic day for us, with Walk In The Mill being the first British-trained horse home in the race. We have around 20 horses at the yard so in the grand scheme of things we’re pretty small, so it was a big day. He jumped great throughout — in a perfect world, I’d have liked it to have been a little bit faster, but we were thrilled.

    We were always confident in his abilities — although you can never be too confident ahead of a race like the Grand National. The horse had a place in the race last year, but was withdrawn due to lameness on the day.

    He’s a wonderful jumper though, and he won the Becher Chase in December so we were as happy as we could be. We didn’t do anything differently during training — it’s so easy to change things but it’s important to keep things steady. David Pipe has some Grand National fences at his yard, so we took him there to get his eye in.

    On the day, I just told his jockey James Best to go out there and have some fun. He would have gone over the race hundreds of times in his head and had walked the course twice so he didn’t need me interfering. He knew who he wanted to be behind. He was delighted when he came back in fourth, as were we all — it was a lot of fun.

    Walk In The Mill was very bright the next day — he was galloping around the field and travelled really well. Although he might have been tired internally, on the outside he wasn’t showing it at all. His grandsire is Montjeu so he’s a bit fiery and he’s his usual self.

    Sad turn

    It is a great shame for all the connections of Up For Review, who was fatally injured in the race. The horse was brought down, which was an unavoidable accident. Everyone involved with horses knows how much the animals are loved and looked after.

    The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has done a great job in focusing on welfare over the past few years, and that no horse has died in the race since 2012 is testament to that. They’ve tried as hard as possible to minimise the risk, but you can’t completely erase it. They will review it again now. Racing is the most amazing sport and I hope it remains in good health.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 11 April 2019