O'Leary's flying high as Tiger Rolls home
"He's a little horse with the heart of a lion," said jubilant owner Michael O'Leary yesterday as Tiger Roll brought Aintree Grand National glory to Meath and Ireland.
It was a second Grand National victory for Meath trainer Gordon Elliott, 11 years after he trained 2007 winner Silver Birch and a first win for jockey Davy Russell who dedicated the win to flat jockey and friend Pat Smullen who was recently diagnosed with a serious illness.
The Westmeath-born Ryanair boss and his wife Anita roared the brave 10-1 winner home after a breathtaking finale to the four-mile blue riband of steeplechasing in Liverpool.
Tiger Roll, who looked like the winner a long way out, idled in front and was nearly caught on the line by Pleasant Company, the 25-1 shot ridden by David Mullins for his uncle, Willie.
Completing the Irish clean sweep was Bless The Wings (40-1) ridden by the new wunderkind of national hunt racing Jack Kennedy for trainer Jim Culloty.
Anibale Fly (10-1), ridden by Barry Geraghty, and trained by Tony Martin came fourth. It meant that the first four home in the race were all trained in Ireland.
Davy Russell told BBC that he was wary of Pleasant Company stealing the win from him. "I did have a big fear," said Russell. "That would have been heartbreaking. I was thinking of my Mum and my kids.
"I've won this race thousands of times in my head and I've never won it like I've done today. My Mum was a great woman, she got me out of bed at six every morning to drive me around the country so I could ride.
"I hope that everyone who has supported me is enjoying this as much as I am."
It's another notable triumph for Michael O'Leary and for his Gigginstown operation which has dominated the sport in recent times.