Tiger Roll triumphed in a thrilling, nail-biting finish to the Randox Health Grand National to give his trainer, Gordon Elliott, a second win in the race, and ensure an Irish clean sweep of the first four places.
Diminutive Tiger Roll (10/1), purchased for £80,000 by Gigginstown House Stud in September 2013, looked to have the race well in hand after the last fence under Co. Cork jockey Davy Russell, the oldest rider in the race at the age of 38 and riding in his 14th National. However, a late surge by the Willie Mullins-trained Pleasant Company (25/1) brought the race to a photo-finish. The official winning distance was a head in favour of Tiger Roll, who is owned by Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, who won the race with Rule The World in 2016.
The winner, Tiger Roll, the 26th Irish-trained winner of the Randox Health Grand National, is a three-time winner at the Cheltenham Festival, his most recent success at Prestbury Park coming last month in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. He previously won the 2017 Grade 2 National Hunt Chase (4m) and the 2014 Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m).
The eight-year-old becomes the fifth horse of that age to triumph since 1988, but by the second shortest distance (a head) in recent history.
The third horse home, Bless The Wings (40/1), was also trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Jack Kennedy. With the JP McManus-owned Anibale Fly (10/1), trained by Tony Martin, coming home in fourth place under Barry Geraghty, Irish-trained horses filled the top four spots for the first time in the race’s long history. In fact, of the 12 horses that completed the race, a total of eight are trained in Ireland.
Gordon Elliot, who won the Aintree showpiece with Silver Birch in 2007, said of his second Grand National win:
“I was nervous when they announced the photo-finish – I thought I had it but you are so nervous watching it. I can’t believe it, to be honest. I’ve said I didn’t appreciate it first time round [with Silver Birch] – I’ll definitely appreciate it now. This is brilliant for the whole yard, for my family at home, everyone.
“Tiger Roll is unbelievable. I was actually fighting with Michael O’Leary, saying that when he retires he’s to keep him at home at Gigginstown, and he said, no, he’s not good enough, so he’d better keep him now! I’m very lucky to be training for the O’Learys. It’s unbelievable for Davy Russell – his father Jerry is, I’m sure, very proud watching him at home.”
Willie Mullins, who saddled the 25/1 runner-up Pleasant Company, said: “We were delighted with him – he jumped from fence to fence, and while it looked like he got a bit tired going to the second-last fence he got his second wind and ran on again. Last year he made a bad mistake at a crucial stage and that ended it for him.”
Two years after celebrating Randox Health Grand National victory on the Gigginstown House Stud-owned Rule The World, jockey David Mullins experienced different emotions when losing out by a head in a photo to this year’s race aboard Pleasant Company:
“You hope and you pray but in my heart I knew I was beaten. In a war of attrition like that all you want is another stride. That’s racing and I’m very lucky that I won it two years ago. It’s two years since I had an experience like that. He ran his heart out.
“He probably did a little bit too much with me but I had to let him go after jumping The Chair – he just winged fences. But Davy went by me on a fresh horse at the second last and I wasn’t going to win that race to the Elbow. I thought I’d have one crack at him after the Elbow. I just wanted him to keep going to the winning post!”