Tiger Roll roars home to make it back-to-back Grand National triumphs
Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell triumph yet again to lead home Irish 1-2-3 at Aintree
Jockey Davy Russell celebrates winning the Grand National on Tiger Roll for a second year at Aintree. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Tiger Roll became the first horse since the legendary Red Rum 45 years ago to win the Randox Aintree Grand National back to back with a thrilling success on Saturday.
The Gordon Elliott-trained star justified 4-1 favouritism in style as Davy Russell guided Tiger Roll to a decisive defeat of the 66-1 outsider Magic Of Light with Rathvinden in third in an Irish trained 1-2-3.
Tiger Roll is just the fifth horse ever to successfully defend his title in the world’s most famous steeplechase and has established an indelible place in racing history after perhaps a career-best effort.
The hugely popular little nine-year-old defied an 11. 5 impost and a 9lbs higher rating than when just lasting home from Pleasant Company a year before.
The general feeling that Tiger Roll might prove an even better performer this season proved gloriously correct on the biggest stage of all as he overcame a number of jumping blunders to take over from the gallant Magic Of Light at the final fence.
Unlike 2018 there was weakening in the closing stages and the blinkered Tiger Roll powered home by two and three quarter lengths in the shadow of the Aintree winning post, where the greatest National legend of all, Red Rum, is buried.
It was a third National success in the last four years for Tiger Roll’s owner, the Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary and his Gigginstown Stud.
O’Leary’s hesitation about sending the horse he famously once described as a “little rat of a thing” back to the National after this fourth Cheltenham Festival victory last month proved gloriously misplaced.
“History says you don’t win two years in a row but he’s done it,” said an amazed O’Leary, who had publicly stated beforehand he thought Tiger Roll had no chance of winning again.
“I don’t know what Gordon has done but he seems to have improved him. He’s a legend of a horse. Red Rum won two in a row and he’s in that bracket now with Red Rum,” O’Leary added.
Russell was, for once, almost stuck for words about the little horse with the huge heart who has captured the public imagination and earned valid comparisons with Red Rum.
“This horse is amazing. I can’t believe. I really can’t,” said the triple-champion jockey who will be 40 in June.
“He travelled well. I was afraid the blinkers had lit him up too much early on but Gordon Elliott knew what he was doing.
“He stumbled after the back of a few but he would always jump the next one well. He has more respect for his fences these days. He doesn’t bulldoze through them as much,” Russell added.
Tiger Roll’s win was a third for Elliott, who established himself in 2007 with Silver Birch’s success and equalled Vincent O’Brien’s tally of three National victories.
Elliott saddled a record 11 runners in the race and said: “I was trying to watch all of mine. I can’t believe it. I never once thought he was going to win until he crossed the line because all I could remember was last year. He didn’t tie up this year.
“I don’t get upset too often but I’m emotional today. For my whole yard and everyone involved it’s unbelievable. You dream about this. He’s named well – he’s a tiger. And he knows how to win.”
Almost before the 19 finishers had pulled up bookmakers were offering 10-1 about Tiger Roll eclipsing Red Rum in 2020 and securing an unprecedented National hat-trick.
After his two victories in 1973-74,Red Rum twice finished runner-up before winning for a third time in 1977.
Jessica Harrington came tantalisingly close to a fairytale outcome with her first ever National runner as Magic Of Light threatened to become the first mare to win since 1954.
Rathvinden raced prominently for much of the race but couldn’t quicken up with Tiger Roll from two out and stayed on for third.
Another of Willie Mullins’s four runners, the gambled on Livelovelaugh, faded to 11th but there was a bitter blow at the very first fence when the Mullins trained Up For Review appeared to be brought down by a faller and sustained fatal injuries.
It was the first fatality in the National since 2012 and the 37 horses who finished the first circuit were directed around the obstacle second time around.
The topweight and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly finished fifth, one place lower than a year before.
But the horse in the No 1 spot was wonderfully familiar as Tiger Roll earned legendary status in style.
Pitched the inevitable question about a potential hat-trick next year O’Leary said he couldn’t see it happening.
But Tiger Roll will still be only 10 in 2020 whereas Red Rum was two years older when winning his third National.
Elliott nominated Cheltenham’s Cross-Country at the 2020 festival as a target before that. But talk about an ultimate National success story has already begun.
GRAND NATIONAL RESULT
1 Tiger Roll 4-1 fav
2 Magic Of Light 66-1
3 Rathvinden 8-1
4 Walk In The Mill 25-1
5 Anibale Fly 10-1
6 One For Arthur 25-1
Others to finish
7 Regal Encore 66-1
8 Singlefarmpayment 50-1
9 Outlander 66-1
10 Valseur Lido 66-1
11 Livelovelaugh 25-1
12 A Toi Phil 50-1
13 Bless The Wings 50-1
14 Ultragold 50-1
15 Vieu Lion Rouge 50-1
16 Captain Redbeard 66-1
17 Folsom Blue 66-1
18 Valtor 66-1
19 Don Poli 66-1