Tiger Roll wins National in photo finish

Tiger Roll wins National in photo finish
Listen: Commentary of closing stages of Grand National

Irish challenger Tiger Roll won the Aintree Grand National in a photo finish after holding off a late surge by Pleasant Company.

The 10-1 chance, ridden by the experienced Davy Russell, who had never won the race before, surged clear of the rest of the field late on.

Tiger Roll tired on the run-in as Pleasant Company (25-1) and David Mullins moved to challenge.

But he managed to hold on to win by a head for trainer Gordon Elliott.

It is a second win in the race for Elliott, who guided Silver Birch to victory in 2007, while he also trained the third-placed finisher Bless The Wings (40-1).

The Irish completed a clean sweep of the top four with Anibale Fly (10-1), while Bryony Frost, one of three female jockeys in the race, had an excellent run on Milansbar in fifth.

The eight-year-old winner, who has won three times at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years, including in the cross-country race at last month’s event, had come into the race well-fancied.

He is owned by airline tycoon Michael O’Leary, who also triumphed with Rule The World two years ago.

The winning jockey in the 2018 Grand National achieved a lifelong dream.

Russell’s experience pays dividends

Irishman Russell, the oldest jockey in the race at 38, has had some difficult times over the past couple of months after the death of his mother Phyllis at the start of March and the news of fellow weighing room veteran Pat Smullen’s diagnosis with a tumour.

Tiger Roll was his 14th Grand National ride, with his third place on Saint Are 12 months ago his previous best finish, and he paid tribute to Smullen afterwards.

“This one is for Pat Smullen. I was speaking to him the other morning and he’s as tough as nails,” he said.

“I was thinking about Pat and my mother and my family at home.

“I was also thinking of all the times my dad cut the grass when I was young and it was the only time of the year I enjoyed picking it up because we would make our own Aintree fences around the garden.

“I’ve won this race thousands of times [in my imagination] and I’ve never won it like I’ve won it today. You watch it on television then you get a chance to ride in it.

“He really did tire under me but he was so brave. I thought I might have been done on the line, and it would have been heartbreaking but this is right up there.”

Russell is now the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National

Joy for Frost after memorable first National ride

Frost was delighted to finish fifth in her debut Grand National on the Neil King-trained Milansbar.

“He is incredible, he made a few mistakes early on and then gave me a wonderful ride,” she said.

However, neither she nor fellow female jockeys Katie Walsh and Rachael Blackmore ever looked like becoming the first woman to win the historic race.

Walsh was the last of the 12 finishers on the grey Baie Des Iles while Blackmore, like Frost having her first run in the race, fell on Alpha Des Obeaux.

Of the 26 who failed to complete the course, Saint Are, ridden by Ciaran Gethings, a late replacement for Adrian Heskin, who took a tumble in an earlier race, was treated on the course and then moved to the Aintree stables for further assessment.

The field bypassed Becher’s Brook second time round as jockey Charlie Deutsch was being attended to, but he was not seriously injured.

Analysis

Racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

So, the rise and rise of Gordon Elliott continues. Eleven years on from achieving the rarity of an Aintree Grand National success – with Silver Birch – as a little-known rookie trainer, here’s another feather in an ever-growing cap.

And unlike many of his rivals, apart from a career as a jockey with Martin Pipe which was nothing to write home about, he started out with pretty much zero racing pedigree.

What is really striking is that he has an almost magic touch; many of his horses don’t cost a fortune because they’ve achieved little before joining his team in County Meath, but their subsequent progress can be astonishing.

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