It was an Aintree stroll for Tiger Roll as the Gordon Elliott-trained diminutive gelding ignited a euphoric Liverpool crowd by becoming the first horse since legendary Red Rum 45 years ago to win back-to-back Nationals.
Memories of one of the sport’s best known horses were evoked as Tiger Roll became only the fifth horse to win back-to-back Nationals in the race’s long history.
Now Tiger Roll, a horse who has parallels with Ginger McCain-trained Red Rum given their similar stature and they were both originally bred to be Flat horse, is also guaranteed Turf immortality.
Jockey Davy Russell celebrates as Tiger Roll defended the Grand National in style on Saturday afternoon at Aintree
Tiger Roll has emulated the great Red Rum to win back-to-back Grand Nationals, finishing ahead of Magic of Light in second
After moving to the front, Tiger Roll managed to find plenty on the long run-in to claim the historic victory
The Gordon Elliott-trained horse and 4-1 favourite powers on to a famous victory in Liverpool on the weekend
What is supposed to be the world’s most unpredictable steeplechase was made to look like child’s play as jockey Davy Russell had Tiger Roll perfectly positioned behind the leaders throughout the race before launching an attack after the second last fence and beating 66-1 outsider Magic Of Light by two and three-quarter lengths.
Last year Tiger Roll had clung on by the skin of his teeth to hold off fast-finishing runner-up Pleasant Company. On Saturday it was the opposition that were struggling to cling to Tiger Roll’s coattails.
In emotional scenes in the winner’s enclosure, trainer Gordon Elliott, who was winning the race for a third time, was in tears while the 10-year-old’s owner, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary who was also landing his third win in the £1million race, said he felt like he had ‘died and gone to heaven’.
Memorably, and with affection, 12 months earlier, O’Leary had called Tiger Roll a ‘little rat of a thing’. This time he simply said: ‘God, I am so in with rats’.
O’Leary added: ‘This is phenomenal. There was no pressure today. I did not think he would win. They don’t win two in a row and Red Rum was a legend and now Tiger Roll is a legend. I am floating on air.
‘The aim today was for him to come back in one piece. He is so precious to me and he is to everyone now. The cheering he got at the finish was great for the crowd and it was bad for the bookies which is always a good thing.
‘These are the most days in my life. You never expect to win one Grand National and we have now won three. Tiger Roll is not a Gold Cup horse but he is a legend in his own right now.
‘We will have a very good party tonight and the Ryanair flight from Liverpool will be going a few minutes late again I suspect.’
Magic of Light stumbles as it jumps a fence before placing second behind the formidable Tiger Roll on the weekend
Rathvinden, ridden by jockey Ruby Walsh, placed third after an impressive performance in the eagerly-anticipated race
Following the victory on the weekend, triumphant owner of Tiger Roll, said: ‘To win two Grand Nationals is just incredible’
Sam Coltherd, riding Captain Redbeard, successfully clears the Canal Turn during the race on Saturday
The result was equally momentous for Elliott. He was already a record-breaker going into the race.
Tiger Roll was one of a record 11 runners in the race for Elliott, one more than his mentor, former trainer Martin Pipe, who had 10 starters in 2001 when the best of his finishers was third-placed Blowing Wind.
Of the Elliott squad, two others finished – A Toi Phil in 12th and Bless The Wings 13th.
One more victory in the biggest steeplechase in the world will take Elliott level with the record jointly held by Fred Rimell and Ginger McCain, the man who trained the legendary Red Rum.
The odds against that happening will be even smaller than Tiger Roll’s 4-1 odds given the impact Elliott has and will continue to have on the sport.
Amazingly, his first Grand National winner, Silver Birch in 2007, came before he had trained a single winner in his native Ireland.
The 41-year-old workaholic may have been born a racing outsider being the son of a panel beater but having got a start in the sport, he is now at the centre of it and making massive waves.
As he wiped away tears, Elliott, said his thoughts were with his late Uncle Willie who had got him interested in racing.
Racegoers watch on during the early stages of the meeting before Tiger Roll powered away to victory
General view during the Grand National as those in attendance fix their eyes on the historic race in Liverpool
Elliott added: ‘I do not get emotional too often but I can’t believe it. Everybody loves him, he is the people’s horse. This is for all the stable and my family and for my uncle Willie. If it wasn’t for him I would not be in racing.’
Apart from a stumble four fences out, Tiger Roll barely put a foot wrong and Russell said: ‘He had a couple of stumbles at fences but he was soon back on the bridle. He just loves running and jumping.’
Twelve months ago it was an Irish 1-2-3-4 in the National and only Robert Walford-trained Walk In The Mill picking up fourth prevented a repeat.
Jessica Harrington’s Magic of Knight outran her odds and went close to being the first mare to win since Nickel Coin in 1951 while Ruby Walsh’s mount Rathvinden picked up third, his cause not helped by mistakes at the Water Jump and Valentine’s Brook second time.
But Walsh said he was aware that Tiger Roll was travelling ominously well. Walsh said: ‘Rathvinden ran a blinder but from Becher’s on I knew he was behind me and every time I saw him I could see Davy going so well.’
Surprisingly, given Tiger Roll was the shortest priced winner since Poethlyn won at 11-4 100 years ago, most claimed it was not a bad result for them with Paddy Power saying the spread of bets across the field made them winner overall.
They may not need to worry about Tiger Roll next year. O’Leary said he could retire Tiger Roll if he could win the Cross Country Chase again at next year’s Cheltenham Festival and take his tally of successes at that meeting to an equally amazing five.
The horses line up before race time at Aintree for what was another fascinating Grand National on Saturday afternoon
Thousands of racegoers watch on during the final day at Aintree as they gather for the eagerly-anticipated Grand National