This year's Grand National at Aintree was a vintage renewal containing just about everything the great race is known for, including one of the closest finishes in memory as a little superstar won the day!
Tiger Roll to Win and Each Way @ 25/1 - BET NOW
Has there ever been a horse quite like Tiger Roll before? No question, there have been many, many more talented horses in the pantheon of national hunt racing but it is now questionable whether any of his predecessors can claim the versatility, courage and sheer desire for victory of Gordon Elliott's redoubtable eight-year-old – and he's far from finished yet one suspects!
His trainer suggested the famous Aintree fences would 'light up' Tiger Roll but many, owner Michael O'Leary amongst them, were far from convinced this economical jumper would take to the birch-covered Aintree obstacles.
How wrong they were. Tiger Roll travelled superlatively well through the race, never having a moments worry. By the second last, he looked the clear winner. With the jumping complete, Davy Russell sent him for home and he moved away, seemingly for a comfortable win.
Then the tank began to empty rapidly and Pleasant Company came surging looking to steal the prize, but Tiger Roll held out – just!
His CV now boasts the two-mile Triumph Hurdle, four-mile National Hunt Chase and the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival as well as an Aintree Grand National over four-miles and two-furlongs. It certainly has never been done before, and is unlikely to be matched in the future. A tiny horse with a huge heart, long may Tiger Roll prosper. He might even get in the Easyodds tips next time!
Folsom Blue to Win and Each Way @ 16/1 - BET NOW
Gordon Elliott is the man with the Midas touch right now. Fresh from being crowned leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival last month, he's gone and won both the Irish and English Grand Nationals with General Principle and Tiger Roll.
Both have carried the colours of leading owners Gigginstown House Stud and Elliott may bid for a National hat-trick next weekend with Folsom Blue in the maroon and white silks at Ayr in the Scottish Grand National – it would be hard to discount him in the Easyodds odds if he runs.
Elliott's will to win is legendary and much talked-about in racing circles. He has an insatiable desire for success, ensuring that his partnership with O'Leary's Gigginstown operation is essentially a perfect one.
Proof of that Elliott drive is on offer at Cork on Sunday where the 53-rated Flat maiden Scealai Aonair will run for the first time since joining his stable.
The daughter of Fastnet Rock couldn't land a blow in five starts for Dermot Weld last year, but rest assured Elliott will pour the same effort and determination into finding a race for her as he does with Tiger Roll.
She kicks off in a lowly Apprentice Handicap on heavy ground and whilst somewhat overlooked in the Easyodds betting, it would be folly to write her off.
It isn't called the People's Race for nothing. The Grand National always produces the most wonderful storylines, both human and equine.
On Saturday we saw Bryony Frost steering Milansbar home in fifth spot in her first attempt in this race. It was a sterling effort and she was rightly beaming with pride afterwards. Who would bet against Frost one day becoming the first lady rider to win the Grand National?
The horses all came out on the other side of the great race, though there were anxious moments for Saint Are, part of the Aintree fabric, as he was treated on the course and in the Aintree stables after he came down at the Chair.
His well-being was a key post-race talking point for everyone but, thankfully, trainer Tom George reported his charge to be "shook up" but said he hoped he will soon be able to return to his Slad yard.
The last word must rest with winning jockey Davy Russell. In the ultimate moment of glory in what has been a stellar career for the Cork-born rider, Russell's thoughts weren't on his own achievements or glory but with Pat Smullen, the multiple Irish champion jockey on the Flat recently diagnosed with a brain tumour.
In his proudest moment, Russell took the time to dedicate it to Smullen and wish him well in his recovery. The People's Race was in good hands this time.
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