Tiger Roll heads an Irish whitewash in Grand National
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins is likely to lose that title this season to arch rival Gordon Elliott who looks to have an unassailable lead in the run up to the Punchestown Festival in just over a week’s time. The master of Closutton lost out to Elliott in the dying strides of the Irish Grand National recently as his Isleofhopendreams failed by a head to repel the last-gasp challenge of Gigginstown’s General Principle at Fairyhouse and it was a case of more of the same at Aintree in the £1 million Randox Health Grand National.
For the vast majority of the extended 4m 2f marathon Elliott’s 10-1 joint second favourite Tiger Roll looked to be a serious contender to take the world’s most famous steeplechase and when the mount of Davy Russell took up the running from Mullin’s Pleasant Company jumping the second-last fence the result appeared all over bar the shouting. Six lengths ahead at the elbow the ultra-versatile eight-year-old was being cheered home by his supporters, until the final hundred yards that is when jockey David Mullins got a renewed effort from his charge in the closing stages.
Just as in the Irish version, a head separated the first two with the Elliott runner once again getting the verdict by a diminishing head to the frustration of the Mullins family. Of the 38 horses who set off at 5.15pm 14 were trained in Ireland and at the finish only fifth placed Milansbar and Bryony Frost prevented a total Irish whitewash as Bless The Wings, Anibale Fly and Road To Riches came home third, fourth and sixth respectively.
38 year-old Russell was winning the great race for the first time and only got the ride due to Tiger Roll’s regular pilot Keith Donoghue being unable to do the weight of 10st 13lb, of which the winning trainer said: “ It’s a shame for Keith Donoghue because he was Keith’s ride. He just couldn’t do the weight. He did a lot of work on the horse but he’s going to have plenty more days on him. He’ll be back on him in the cross-country race next year.” Should Tiger Roll attempt to follow up in 12 months time the horse is likely to be nearer top weight at Aintree so it could prove a difficult decision for connections as to whether Russell or Donoghue takes the mount.