Sunday 18 August 2019

'Tiger' groom can sleep easy again after double


Proud mother: Louise Magee and her two sets of twin sons, eight-year-olds Thomas and Andrew and six-year-olds Michael and Kieran, with Tiger Roll. Photo: John Grossick/The Jockey Club
Proud mother: Louise Magee and her two sets of twin sons, eight-year-olds Thomas and Andrew and six-year-olds Michael and Kieran, with Tiger Roll. Photo: John Grossick/The Jockey Club
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

The bowls of popcorn were prepared as Louise Magee and husband Gavin sat down with their young family and readied themselves to relive history with tears expected to flow for the evening after watching a repeat of the Aintree Grand National.

As groom of Tiger Roll, Magee was at close quarters last Saturday afternoon as Gordon Elliott's pint-sized star became the first back-to-back winner of the world's greatest steeplechase since the legendary Red Rum 45 years ago.

The National rerun will be comfortable viewing for Magee - a lifelong friend of Elliott - compared to the "terrifying" feeling of watching helplessly from the sidelines as the €1.2 million showpiece took place.

The most important thing for the 33-year-old was that Tiger Roll returned home in full health with the "nerve-racking" moments throughout the 4m2½f marathon akin to watching a family member play in an All-Ireland final.


"It's not really enjoyable to watch. It was such a big build-up to it and especially this year hoping that he'd go out and do what everyone wants him to do. All you want is for him to come back safe and sound," the Summerhill native says.

"You don't actually get to watch any of the race because you literally just watch him the whole way around and you're watching from fence to fence and hoping that he gets over in one piece going to the next.

"As the race unfolds and he gets closer and closer and he starts travelling that little bit better towards the end of the race, you can just feel your heart hopping in your chest. Then it gets really emotional as it gets to the end, it's an amazing feeling."

Magee need not have worried as Davy Russell oozed confidence on the loveable nine-year-old to score in good style and she considers herself "extremely lucky" to have worked with a horse for the past five years that will go down in racing history.

It's not her first time to do so, however, as she was groom to 2016 Gold Cup winner Don Cossack, all while working part-time in Elliott's Cullentra yard every Saturday and Sunday and she pays tribute to the full-time staff who do "the hard yards".

Mother of four young boys - two sets of twins in Thomas and Andrew (8) as well as Michael and Kieran (6) - Magee is kept on her toes at home with the former Meath ladies football goalkeeper viewing the trip to Liverpool last weekend as "a holiday".

"It's more for my own sanity that I stayed working weekends. I love being outside and with horses, it's a hobby for me. It's definitely not work and I love going racing and doing a bit of riding out whenever I can," she says.

Having not slept properly for the two nights before the Tiger's date with destiny due to nerves - as well as travelling through the night by boat to arrive back in Dublin on Sunday morning - she earned a well-deserved lie-in yesterday morning and what's rare proved wonderful.

Magee spends about an hour preparing each horse before racing as she pats them down, brushes them over and paints their feet before putting on their bridle 30 minutes pre-race and parading them.

Anyone watching the action closely last weekend would have seen a shamrock printed on the hind quarters of each of Elliott's 11 National runners, with Magee revealing Elliott as a "very superstitious" type who "hates changing what's worked for him in the past".

She is blown away by what Elliott - son of a panel-beater with his mother a housewife - has achieved in such a short space of time as a trainer and marvels at how crazy it is "to think what he has done from nothing".

As for equine superstar Tiger Roll: "He's in great form, he's loving the attention. He'll enjoy the next couple of days out in the field relaxing and having a pick of grass for himself," she says.

Irish Independent

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