Friday 23 August 2019

Tiger rolls into town for victorious homecoming after history making run

Grand National winner Tiger Roll homecoming Summerhill. Winning Jockey Davy Russell with his son Finn (3), daughter Jamie (15) and the Grand National Trophy. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Grand National winner Tiger Roll homecoming Summerhill. Winning Jockey Davy Russell with his son Finn (3), daughter Jamie (15) and the Grand National Trophy. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Making the familiar trot down Summerhill's sloped main street to Shaw's Bar, Tiger Roll looked to have all the energy in the world just 24 hours after his ferocious, history making Grand National finish.

The secret to his success is being a Westmeath horse trained in Meath, owner Michael O'Leary quipped as he called for three cheers for trainer Gordon Elliott and groom, Louise Magee.

But as his champion jockey, Davy Russell, insisted, the village on the west of Meath was brought to a standstill for one reason only.

"It's a fantastic community around here. He's touched a lot of people around the whole of Ireland and it's just great they've come so far to see him, I don't think they've come to see us, they've come to see Tiger," Russell said.

Saturday's heroics at Aintree ensured the horse's place in equine folklore, two consecutive Grand National wins for the first time since Red Rum in 1974.

The victory even prompted Ryanair chief O'Leary to dish out two drinks on the house to each of the passengers on the flight back from Liverpool on Saturday night.

But the sheer demand on the plane meant that not everybody's orders could be placed during the 35-minute flight.

"I've to apologise there were about six rows of passengers on the flight that didn't get served because once we started giving two free drinks to everybody there was enormous demand on board," O'Leary said.

Final furlong: Gordon Elliott, Michael O’Leary and groom Louise Magee (centre) celebrate with friends and family at Tiger Roll’s Summerhill homecoming. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Final furlong: Gordon Elliott, Michael O’Leary and groom Louise Magee (centre) celebrate with friends and family at Tiger Roll’s Summerhill homecoming. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Asked if there'd be three free drinks this time next year if the horse can claim a treble, he said: "I suspect there'll be three free drinks in a pub in Summerhill sometime in the next hour-and-a-half."

Before all that though, an excitable Tiger Roll held court in a makeshift parade ring in the centre of the village, with O'Leary and the thousands in attendance shouting "hip, hip, hooray".

This was just minutes before Russell had arrived on to the scene. The Cork jockey - as professional as can be - didn't take a break and was racing in Fairyhouse earlier in the day.

So understandably enough, he hadn't yet come to terms with the scale of his achievement.

"I never dreamt of it to be honest. It's just something I don't know will it ever sink in, I think I'll be finished riding before it does," Russell said.

But any decision on a possible three-in-a-row bid was not up to him, he insisted.

"It wouldn't have anything to do with me but I'm sure they'll do the right thing for the horse.

"Obviously it didn't take too much out of him anyway," he said, a pointer to the energy Tiger Roll had on Sunday evening in Meath.

And then the crowds began to move to the bar next door, with Elliott's mother, Jane, describing the win as the proudest moment of her life.

"It means so much to us all, to him, it's massive."

It won't take long for thoughts to turn to 2020.

Irish Independent

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