The spirit of Red Rum returned to Aintree on Saturday when Tiger Roll, the 4-1 favourite, became the first horse for 45 years to win the Randox Health Grand National two years in succession romping to a two and three quarter length victory in the spring sunshine at Aintree.
The 172nd Grand National will go down in Aintree folklore as the one when Tiger Roll, racing’s rockstar, was admitted to one of the most exclusive clubs in sport: a two time winner of the world’s greatest race.
Abd-El-Kader, The Colonel, The Lamb and Manifesto won twice in the 19th century when there were traditionally smaller fields but only Reynoldstown in 1935 and 1936, has joined that club in the last 100 years and Tiger Roll could now come back in 12 months’ time to try something even Red Rum could not manage; three in a row.
Of course the National may be a bit shorter now and the fences a bit more forgiving but that, in a way, is counter-balanced by the fact it is a generally a deeper, better race and, if anything, harder to win.
At the start it has not looked promising when the Gordon Elliott trained nine-year-old initially refused to line up with his 39 rivals but, with a lead from another runner in the Gigginstown colours, he re-joined them and from there on the further they went the better he went for Davy Russell.
Vintage Clouds fell at the first and brought down Up For Review, which caused that fence to be by-passed a second time round, but there were no fallers in the intervening circuit as Step Back, jumping right-handed, led them along.
On the second circuit a few mistakes began to creep in and the jumping started getting a bit ragged towards the back of the field. Richard Johnson’s hopes of riding his first winner in 21 attempts were dashed when Rock The Kasbah went at the 19th where Jury Duty and General Principle also came down.
Though Gordon Elliott had saddled 10 others besides Tiger Roll, it was Willie Mullins who appeared to have the strongest hand as they cleared Becher’s second time as Pleasant Company, Rathvinden and Livelovelaugh, three of his four, shared the lead with the mare Magic of Light and Walk In The Mill.
But Russell, who had been tucked in behind the leaders in about 10th for most for the race, began closing in on them as they headed for home and, though he was low over the fourth and third last, Tiger Roll joined the mare at the second last with Russell almost motionless while Paddy Kennedy, having the ride of a lifetime, was all hands to the pump on Magic of Light.
She, however, made a mistake at the last and, though keen not to repeat last year when he went soon enough, Russell was taken to the lead by Tiger Roll and only went he got to the elbow and hit the wall of noise cheering him home did he have to start riding him out.
“I can’t believe it,” said Russell, 39, who was once famously sacked as stable jockey by Michael O’Leary over a cup of tea. “At my age now, to win two Nationals – it’s madness. He’s one hell of a horse. The O’Leary’s have been so good to me throughout my career and Gordon? What can I say?”
“He’s unbelievable,” said owner Michael O’Leary. “There was so little pressure this year. I though he had no chance of winning a second under that weight but, if anything, he won it easier than he did last year. Davy gave him a masterful ride. I don’t think winning a Grand National is ever easy but if it ever was this was.
“The improvement Gordon has wrought out of him is amazing. To think we couldn’t win a novice chase with him!”
His brother Eddie, who originally bought him as a juvenile hurdler, added: “He’ll be even better aged 10. He’s a brilliant, brilliant horse. A little superstar. It’ll be very tough to come back a third time.”
Elliott, who has now won three Nationals, the first with Silver Birch and two with Tiger Roll, dedicated the victory to his uncle Willie Elliott who passed away three months ago. “Without him I wouldn’t have been in racing,” he said. “The horse is a legend.”
The game 66-1 runner-up, bidding to become the first mare to win the race since 1951, put up a lifetime best effort. Ironically Jessica Harington had planned to keep her at home for the Irish National until she took her to The Curragh to give her other intended runner, Sandymount Duke, a lead over the practice National fences.
“She jumped them so well at The Curragh I said we’d run her here but Robbie Power (who rode the 19th fence faller Jury Duty) said ‘they’re bigger at Aintree, she won’t jump round. Nicky Henderson has just told me the good news he was second with his first National runner and he’s still waiting to win it 40 years later so I might have to keep trying now until I’m 110.”
Rathvinden and Ruby Walsh threatened for a long way but a couple of mistakes, at the water and Valentines, probably cost him, though he ran all the way to the line to finish two and a quarter lengths back in third. Walk In The Mill was fourth with the Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly, unable to improve on last year, back in fifth and the 2017 winner One For Arthur ran a great race in sixth.
Valseur Lido gave Rachael Blackmore a good spin to finish 10th but her ladies changing room colleague Lizzie Kelly pulled up Tea For Two before the last. In all 19 finished with Don Poli tail-end Charlie. There were five fallers, one brought down and an unseated rider while the remainder pulled up.
Up For Review brought the run of fatality free Grand Nationals which stretched back to 2012, when the fences were softened up, to an end when he sustained an injury at the first.
“Winning this is special, I just can’t wait to get home to see all my family and friends.
“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 I could remember last year. He didn’t tie up this year. He’s an absolute gentleman to deal with.
“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.”
He added: “I don’t know about next year (winning three). Cheltenham again will be the plan.”
“He is in that bracket now with Red Rum. This is a lifetime memory, this is what you get into racing for. If he wins the Cross Country at Cheltenham again next year I’ll retire.”
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a phenomenal training performance by Gordon. It’s brilliant that he keeps bringing this horse back at Cheltenham better than ever and Aintree better than ever.
“And what a ride by Davy – fantastic. It’s unbelievable, to win two Grand Nationals is just incredible.
“It’s a great result for the punters as well.”
“Liverpool and Aintree are just streets ahead. They can be so proud of what they have here, it touches so many people around the world.”
Up For Review fell at the first fence and sustained a fatal injury.
It is the first fatality in the race since the deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete in 2012.
Tiger Roll has
become the first horse to win back-to-back Grand Nationals since the immortal Red Rum. We will have report and reaction as soon as we can, plus a rundown of where YOUR horse finished.
is going bananas as they lead the horse in! He’s absolutely having it large. Davy Russell, by contrast, seems quite overcome and is quiet, looking almost shell-shocked.
Sir AP McCoy
“It is hard to put into words, horses do not win back-to-back Grand Nationals. He is an amazing little horse, such heart, this is what makes this sport great.”
1 Tiger Roll (D N Russell) 4-1 Fav
2 Magic Of Light (P D Kennedy) 66-1
3 Rathvinden (R Walsh) 8-1
4 Walk In The Mill (James Best) 25-1
Tiger Roll and Davy Russell
Davy pouring some water on him, and there is Gordon Elliott to join the celebration.
Tiger Roll goes to the front with Magic of Light…Tiger jumps it brilliantly! He goes to the elbow, Rathvinden tries to rally but he is not going to get there. It is going to be back-to-back Nationals for this amazing little horse and Davy Russell!
2 to jump
Bit of Magic, Rathvinden, Tiger Roll. Former winner One For Arthur is getting involved!
Tiger Roll making headway, and Rathvinden is also prominent but he makes a bad mistake at the one after the CT.
We are coming up to the chair
I can only see two that have fallen so far.
Tiger Roll midfield still as we go past the halfway point.
Over the Melling Road
I can see Rathvinden, Magic of Light, Step Back is leading, Pleasant Company. Tiger is midfield.
At 12th fence
The open ditch, bad mistake from Rock The Kasbah but Richard Johnson clings on.
Live Love Laugh over safely, lots over safely there. Rathvinden is prominent coming to Foinavon.
And they are straining
to get going in the National…. but they starter is calling them back…. they will line up…
The champion there
And the horse in front of him, Anibale Fly in the green and gold stripes, who will carry the top weight.
Rathvinden, another well fancied contender, looks a bit razzed up to me and is jigging on his toes.
Looking for Grand National tips?
To the present day
Tiger Roll is betting at 9/2, with Rathvinden 8/1 and Anibale Fly at 10/1.
The jockeys getting ready
I always loved this quote from Sam Waley-Cohen about the Grand National weighing room, he said it a couple of years back to the BBC.
They always say that the loud ones go quiet and the quiet ones are suddenly the loudest. It’s a race that triggers extreme emotions: the jockey who wins will have their name made forever, but some others are going to get hurt.
The loud ones go quiet, the quiet ones are suddenly loudest. Really captures how people behave with nerves and pressure. And, I dare say, some fear.
How much is up for grabs?
Not too sure if it means much in National terms, but perhaps worth noting that the first two home in the 4.20pm at Aintree were Kildisart and Mister Malarky, the top weight and second top weight respectively. That might suggest that the ground isn’t as tough as it might have been feared, I guess. I dunno. Probably just two excellent runs. Magnificent jump a the last for Kildisart under Daryl Jacob.
Daryl rides Valtor in the Grand National next, for Nicky Henderson.
His jockey Davy Russell won the 3.00 race – the Doom Bar Maghull Novcies’ Chase. So that’s encouraging. However, he has drifted in the betting market: back out to 5/1 or so having been far too short a price for most people’s taste.
Classy moment from Noel Fehily
there… he’s just retired and he used to be the rider of the winner, he comes up to congratulate Sean Bowen, the winning jockey.
1 If The Cap Fits (Sean Bowen) 7-1
2 Roksana (Harry Skelton) 10-1
3 Apple’s Jade (J W Kennedy) 5-6 Fav
15 ran Also: 8-1 William Henry 4th
Stayers Hurler thriller
a hell of a race.
The favourite Apple’s Jade is definitely third… the winner is If The Cap Fits. Ooh he has just got it on the nod from Roksana, who ran a tremendous and game race there. But she, and the other mare, Apple’s Jade have to settle for the minor places.
all throughout the day at Aintree of course: there’s a hundred grand and change up for grabs in the Stayers Hurdle now. Apple’s Jade is the warm favourite.
Ruby Walsh on Rathvinden
“He goes on the ground, he is a sound jumper, he has the pace. He’s got 11 stone and you don’t want any more than that. You just need a bit of luck.”
The late Hugh McIlvanney
is being hounoured at Aintree with a plaque on the wall of legends at the course; ITV are replaying the piece he did for them last year.
If you’re in the market
But a boost for the punters
in the third race on the card, the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase, won by Ornua for Henry de Bromhead and jockey Davy Russell. Ornua went off the 3/1 joint favourite, the second placed horse Us And Them was the co-fave.
Davy Russell will ride Tiger Roll in the Grand National.
Decent start for the bookies
Today, with an 11/1 winner in the first race for Aux Petits Soins; and then a 20/1 shot taking the second in the shape of Reserve Tank.
The greatest horse race in the world
is at 5.15pm, in just over two hours time. In the build-up to that, we will bring you Grand National tips, stories about the runners and riders, and hopefully a bit of guidance on how to pick the winner of the Grand National. Aintree is looking a picture, it is a pleasant sunny day there, and the attention of the British and Irish sporting world is firmly on this famous course near Liverpool.
The favourite to win the Grand National is Tiger Roll, bidding to become the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back Grand Nationals. He is a wonderful wee horse, but it is a tall order: a lot of weight to carry and history against him. Telegraph racing correspondent Marcus Armytage, who triumphed himself in this race of course back in 1990 with Mr Frisk, has spoken to the connections of the horse in this preview piece.
And there are plenty of other contenders, believe you me. The days when you could rule out a quarter of the field as just being there to enjoy a day out and make up the numbers are long gone.
Telegraph Sport columnist, and ITV Racing presenter, Ed Chamberlin has had plenty of success for us with his Grand National tips in the last two years. Last year he picked Tiger Roll for Telegraph Sport readers, and the years before that he tipped One For Arthur. This year, he says that Tiger Roll might be a bit too short of a price to recommend with confidence, but he does like the chances of Rathvinden.
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