Tiger Roll and leading Irish jockey Davy Russell triumphed in a nail-biting photo finish to today’s Randox Health Grand National (Saturday, 14 April).
The diminutive gelding and 10/1 shot, who won the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase at the Festival in March, gave his trainer Gordon Elliott a second victory in the big race — 11 years after Silver Birch’s win.
Owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud — who won the 2016 Grand National with Rule The World — eight-year-old Tiger Roll looked to have the race well in-hand after the final fence, however, a late surge from the Willie Mullins-trained Pleasant Company resulted in a thrilling photo finish. The official winning distance was a head.
“I was nervous when they announced the photo finish — I thought I had it but you are so nervous watching it,” said the winning trainer. “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 and 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.”
The victorious jockey, who is soon to be crowned Ireland’s champion jump jockey, was the oldest rider in the race aged 38 and was claiming his first ever Randox Health Grand National success — he described his win as “outstanding.”
“I’ve won this race a thousand times in my head, in my dreams as a child,” said Davy. “I am thinking about my kids at home knowing they can be part of this wonderful event. I’ve been coming for years and been satisfied leaving not winning, because it is such a marvellous event. It’s just amazing to have finally done it,” added the jockey who lost his mother Phyllis before the Cheltenham Festival.
“Mam passed recently and she was a marvellous woman. She got me out of bed at 6am to drive me around the country. She always knew it was worthwhile for her child.”
David Mullins had to settle for second with 25/1 shot Pleasant Company, two years after celebrating his National win aboard Rule The World.
“You hope and you pray but in my heart I knew I was beaten,” said David. “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.
“Pleasant Company 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.”
Irish trainers filled the first four places, with the best British result coming courtesy of the Neil King-trained Milansbar under National debutant Bryony Frost.
There were a total of 12 completions from 38 starters and all horses and jockeys returned. The Tom George-trained Saint Are was reported to be in a “stable condition” having been assessed by vets after falling and had returned to the racecourse stables.
The Grand National finishers:
1st Tiger Roll (Davy Russell)
2nd Pleasant Company (David Mullins)
3rd Blessed The Wings (Jack Kennedy)
4th Anibale Fly (Barry Geraghty)
5th Milansbar (Bryony Frost)
6th Road To Riches (Sean Flanagan)
7th Gas Line Boy (Robert Dunne)
8th Valseur Lido (Keith Donoghue)
9th Vieux Lion Rouge (Tom Scudamore)
10th Raz De Maree (Robbie Power)
11th Seeyouatmidnight (Brian Hughes)
12th Baie Des Iles (Katie Walsh)
Don’t miss the full report from the Randox Health Grand National — including analysis, pictures and comment — in the 19 April issue of Horse & Hound.