Thursday 22 August 2019

'After the engagement ring he is probably the best purchase I've ever made' - Michael O'Leary hails Tiger Roll

6th April 2019, Aintree Racecourse, Aintree, England; The 2019 Grand National horse racing festival, day 3; Tiger Roll's winning connections including Michael O'Leary the Ryanair owner lift the Grand National trophy (photo by Conor Molloy/Action Plus via Getty Images)
6th April 2019, Aintree Racecourse, Aintree, England; The 2019 Grand National horse racing festival, day 3; Tiger Roll's winning connections including Michael O'Leary the Ryanair owner lift the Grand National trophy (photo by Conor Molloy/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Graham Clark

There could soon be a new statue on display at the home of Michael O'Leary after Tiger Roll became the first horse since the mighty Red Rum to win back-to-back renewals of the Randox Health Grand National.

With his two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners War Of Attrition and Don Cossack having sculptures built in their honour, Ryanair supremo O'Leary - who owns Tiger Roll under his Gigginstown House Stud banner - may need room to immortalise the nine-year-old following his heroics at Aintree.

After claiming a fourth Cheltenham Festival victory last month, the diminutive Gordon Elliott-trained gelding wrote his name into the history books when achieving what many before him have tried and ultimately failed.

A bad stumble at the fourth-last failed to stop the momentum of the 4-1 favourite, who after taking it up between the final two fences passed the post two and three-quarter lengths clear of Magic Of Light to emulate Red Rum's back-to-back wins in 1973 and 1974.

Elliott said: "When Silver Birch won (in 2007) I probably didn't appreciate it enough. Tiger Roll last year was unbelievable. Tiger is just a bit special, but the stats were against him.

"Hopefully he will get the recognition he deserves and will go down as one of the greats.

"Michael has got two statues in his house of War Of Attrition and Don Cossack, and hopefully he will get one.

"He wears his heart on his sleeve and takes a chance at everything in life.

"Everyone who knows me knows that I just get on with things and do them. As I've said, I would have been happy for any of them (his 11 runners) to win, but for Tiger it was a bit special.

"When you talk about legends, Tiger Roll has won at four Cheltenham Festivals and two Grand Nationals and that is a legend to me."

Celebrating big-race glory is common practice for both Elliott and O'Leary - but for the latter it was a victory that he will not be forgetting any time soon.

O'Leary said: "This is one of the greatest days of my life. Last year was a wonderful surprise. We won it before with Rule The World, and Tiger was a great surprise.

"Frankly I felt no pressure at all, as I didn't give him any chance having gone up in the weights. I was much more worried today that he would just come back safely.

"The bizarre thing is it seemed to be a more comfortable ride this year than last year and he always seemed to be right in the right place.

"I think he stumbled twice there and that kind of woke him up, but there was never a moment's worry.

"To win it once is a dream come true to win it three times is Trevor Hemmings-esque!

"He is already a legend. He has now won it twice and has achieved more than any other horse since Red Rum in 1974."

Regarding future plans, a shot at claiming the world-famous contest for a third time appears not to be on the agenda, with O'Leary prioritising trying to make it a hat-trick in the Glanfarclas Cross Country Chase as his main target.

O'Leary said: "I was asked outside would he come back for the hat-trick and I said probably not. If he is fit and well next season his main aim will be the cross-country. If he was to win that for a third time we would retire him.

"After the engagement ring he is probably the second-best purchase I've ever made. Money can't buy you days like this.

"I've been fortunate to win the Gold Cup twice with Don Cossack and War of Attrition and it is such an attritional race.

"He has been to Cheltenham and won there four times and if he was to go back there and in the cross-country and win five times at Cheltenham, what more would you want from the horse?"

After landing the race for the first time aboard Tiger Roll last year, winning rider Davy Russell expressed his delight at being able to enjoy taking his position centre stage once again.

Russell said: "This horse and this place is amazing. People go on about certain sporting events, but Liverpool and Aintree are so far ahead.

"People come here in their droves to cheer you on and they can be so proud of what they have here, it's so well run.

"It's televised all around the world and I'm so proud to be a part of it, I can't believe it.

"Tommy Stack (who rode Red Rum in 1977) is a Tipperary man and I'm still in awe of him, because of this race.

"Myself and Gordon go back a long way, my dad is here - he only booked his flight and hotel on Wednesday. It's a marvellous day.

"He's a little devil, he doesn't get high at his fences, but he gets away with it."

PA Media

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