Tiger Roll races into history after Grand National triumph

Tiger Roll ridden by Jockey Davy Russell wins the Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase. Pic: Nigel French/PA Wire.
Tiger Roll ridden by Jockey Davy Russell wins the Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase. Pic: Nigel French/PA Wire.
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Tiger Roll raced into the history books as he became the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back Grand Nationals at Aintree.

It is 46 years since Red Rum claimed the first of his three victories in the world’s most famous steeplechase – successfully defending his crown in 1974 before adding a third in 1977.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, Tiger Roll appeared to hold outstanding claims of recording a second victory on Merseyside, having looked better than ever in winning his two most recent starts in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan and the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – his fourth Cheltenham Festival win.

Davy Russell had the 4-1 favourite well positioned throughout the four-and-a-quarter-mile journey and after moving to the front, he found plenty on the long run-in to claim a historic two-and-three-quarter-length victory over 66-1 chance Magic Of Light.

Rathvinden (8-1) was two and a quarter lengths back in third, with another 11 lengths to Walk In The Mill (25-1) fourth.

Winning owner Michael O’Leary said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s a phenomenal training performance by Gordon. It’s brilliant that he keeps bringing this horse back at Aintree better than ever.

“And what a ride by Davy – fantastic. It’s unbelievable, to win two Grand Nationals.”

For much of the way it looked like Ruby Walsh might seal his third National success as his mount Rathvinden raced and jumped with zest on the front end, along with stablemate and last year’s narrowly beaten runner-up Pleasant Company.

However, Tiger Roll was always in their slipstream and it was clear on the run to the final fence that, barring accidents, he would seal victory, with Russell still motionless in the saddle.

Jessica Harrington’s mare Magic Of Light attempted to chase him down, but Tiger Roll was not for catching and passed the post comfortably ahead.

It was a third National success for Elliott – having first struck gold as a fledgling trainer with Silver Birch in 2007.

The County Meath handler – who had 11 of the 40 runners – said: “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 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.”

Russell said: “He got very wound up before the race, which was unlike him. Then Denis O’Regan came towards me on another horse of Gordon’s and that was a big help. Once we got going, we were fine. This horse and this place is amazing. People go on about certain sporting events, but Liverpool and Aintree are so far ahead.

“It’s televised all around the world and I’m so proud to be a part of it, I can’t believe it.

“Tommy Stack [who rode Red Rum in 1977] is a Tipperary man and I’m still in awe of him, because of this race.

“He’s a little devil, he doesn’t get high at his fences, but he gets away with it.”

Harrington was thrilled with the performance of Magic Of Light.

She said: “He [Paddy Kennedy] said she did too much, she was running away the whole way.

“It was just fantastic. I didn’t expect her to run that well. I wasn’t even going to bring her. Robert [Power] said to save her for the Irish National, as the fences would be too big. All the way round I couldn’t believe how easily she was going, she was going so well – then I saw Tiger Roll on the inside, but she’s amazing.

“She’s only eight, was the only mare in the race – it was some thrill.”

Willie Mullins was equally proud of Rathvinden. He said: “Rathvinden ran a cracker, he had every chance, but he just wasn’t good enough.

“Tiger Roll is a phenomenon. For an ex-Flat horse, he’s not a typical four-mile chaser, but he’s got some appetite for racing with a great eye for jumping. He’s once in a lifetime.”

There was a sad postscript, however, as it was announced the Mullins-trained Up For Review had suffered a fatal injury when he came down at the first fence.