In the preview article for the 2019 Grand National, it was described how difficult it was to win one National, let alone 3 as the mighty Red Rum did – and how many winners have come back to try to win a second – but – ultimately – all had failed.
Then along came Tiger Roll.
History, extra weight, 39 rivals, 30 fences, 4 and a half miles and winning at Cheltenham just a month ago mattered not to this special little horse who, despite a couple of scruffy jumps and pecks on landing, was as comfortable a winner as you will ever likely see at Aintree over the National course. The record books will show the winning distance as just under 3 lengths, from the gallant 66/1 shot Magic of Light, with Rathvinden, the horse deemed Tiger Roll’s biggest threat a further 3 lengths back in 3rd.
Tiger Roll went off the 4/1 favourite – a ‘ridiculous price’ many pundits and punters alike cried for a race like the National. No favourite had won the race since 2008 – but Tiger Roll defied every stat and argument going to achieve horse racing immortality.
Always prominent, Tiger Roll hugged the inside rail from early on – a dangerous tactic often, but one that yields high dividends if you can avoid the dangers – both from the other horses and the fences – with, notoriously, Bechers Brook and the Canal Turn being of real threat to those taking the shortest route round the course. 2018 runner up Pleasant Company had been leading the field around the National course before unseating Gold Cup winning jockey Paul Townend, with another Willie Mullins runner, Livelovelaugh, the subject of a huge gamble pre race, taking over the lead and setting a fine pace before falling away. Past winner One For Arthur started running on from the rear of the field, but Tiger Roll was moving ominously well, with jockey Davy Russell motionless aboard him. Still Rathvinden plugged on and Magic Of Light, with Gold Cup runner up Anabale Fly also going well, looked dangers to Tiger Roll as they entered the final stretch of the race.
In 2018, many felt that Tiger Roll went for home too early, which almost allowed Pleasant Company to nail him on the line – and the feeling was that he would be produced much later on. But so well was he travelling as they approached two out, that Russell just allowed Tiger Roll to cruise to the front and lead the charge for home. Magic of Light responded and the two seemed destined to slug it out. But, crucially, at the final fence, Magic of Light blundered whilst Tiger Roll leapt it like a gazelle, giving him a three length cushion that couldn’t be closed.
The winning line was crossed, and Tiger Roll made history.
It was a stunning performance – both from the horse, the jockey and his maestro Irish trainer Gordon Elliott. Carrying the famous colours of the Gigginstown House Stud, owned by Michael Ryan of Ryanair fame, Tiger Roll came into the winners enclosure to rapturous applause and cheers from the adoring racing fraternity, privileged to have witnessed such a spectacle. Horse racing enthusiasts from across the world sent their plaudits and congratulations to the horse and its connections – everyone recognizing just what had been achieved.
Whether Tiger Roll returns to Aintree for another Grand National run remains to be seen. He will be 10 years old next year, and will again carry more weight for his efforts. Its not beyond the realms of possibility that he will make the attempt – and after this, its also not beyond the realms of possibility he can win again. But what does he owe anyone? Nothing…and the sentiment is that another run at Cheltenham over the softer Cross Country course there at the 2020 Festival could well be the swan song for this little wonder horse, before he is retired to luxury, which none could say he isn’t deserving of.
2019 GRAND NATIONAL STATS
- Of the 40 runners, 19 completed the field, with Don Poli finishing in 19th and last place
- Of the 21 runners that didn’t complete, 3 Fell, 2 Brought Down, 2 Unseated Rider and 14 Pulled Up
- The 19th fence (Open Ditch) claimed the most victims
- The winning time was 9m 1.1 seconds – just over 13 seconds slower than the course record held by Mr Frisk (1990)
- The 4/1 winning odds were the shortest since Poethlyn won in 1919 at 11/4
- Nearly 10 million viewers watched the race live