The racing world can hold its head high with pride; Tiger Roll winning the Randox Health Grand National and Winx winning 33 races on the trot in Australia were two examples of how good racing can be. These two horses are poles apart in distance and codes of racing, but they both hold a special place in racing history.
Winx has achieved and broken seemingly all records in Australian racing and, for that, she deserves to go into the history books as the best.
Tiger Roll’s Grand National was a huge success for Gordon Elliott, Davy Russell and owner Michael O’Leary — winning back-to-back Grand Nationals is a feat that has not been achieved since the great Red Rum.
The little warrior looked tiny under his jockey and the scrutiny of the world’s cameras was on them once the race was over. He looked a tired horse immediately after the race, which was hardly surprising, but he perked up when he returned to the winner’s enclosure. He looked every inch the equine celebrity with ears pricked, head held high and a bounce in his step.
There is no other race in the world — bar the Melbourne Cup — that can stop a nation, and no other race that makes the post-race celebrations go on for many days after the event; it was great for jump racing.
We all now know that the Tiger Roll story and I was there when he was bought by Mags O’Toole. Afterwards, I thought to myself, “Why has she bought such a small horse for £80,000?” But she has always known more than me, and again proved it.
Championing northern racing
Last weekend’s Scottish Grand National win by Takingrisks was also a telling moment. First, for Nicky Richards, who has always been a good trainer and steeped in Grand National history — his father Gordon trained two English Grand National winners with Lucius and Hallo Dandy — but also it was a great win for northern racing.
Cheltenham has been and gone and yet again the northern trainers failed to produce a winner, but this win by Nicky has helped put them firmly back on the map. Nicky has, for many years, been an advocate of buying store horses and giving them time. He has also championed the northern racing cause, so it really was a very fitting result.
It was also an outstanding result for Takingrisks’ jockey Sean Quinlan, who has finally come of age. I don’t mean that because he is now 35, but because he has always had huge talent as a rider.
By his own admission, Sean has been a bit of a wild child. In 2014, it all went wrong after a pub brawl and prison threatened, but a new girlfriend — who is clearly strong enough to tame him — has resulted in Sean showing his true talent.
This year he has been well rewarded, with over 50 winners and now a Scottish Grand National.
From strength to strength
On a final note, it was lovely to see a new career beckon for the wonderful racehorse Cue Card in the world of Retraining of Racehorses (RoR). These show classes have been a huge success for so many ex-racehorses and it is a big feather in chief executive Di Arbuthnot’s cap because she has worked tirelessly for this cause — every year it goes from strength to strength.
Ref Horse & Hound; 18 April 2019