How Tiger Roll Became a Grand National Legend

History was made on Saturday as the small-standing Tiger Roll was immortalised in Grand National and British horse racing legend. His win meant he become the first back-to-back winner of the world’s best race since Red Rum in 1974, and only the fifth ever to accomplish the feat.

It is remarkably hard to win one Grand National, but Michael O’Leary summed it up best when he described the chances of his nine-year-old winning a second straight National as ‘impossible’. If history has taught us anything, Tiger Roll makes his own history.

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Humble Beginnings

Much like Red Rum, Tiger Roll was never expected to compete over jumps; let alone become a Grand National horse. He was brought to be a middle-distance flat racer. John Ferguson purchased him on behalf of Godolphin for a modest 70,000gns. However, he never took to racing on the flat and was sold again, nearly three years later.

Nigel Hawke brought him for £10,000, and began to school him. He raced for the first time over hurdles in November 2013. This was the first time that owners, trainers, and punters all caught a glimpse of the natural jumping ability that the enigmatic horse possessed. He was set off at a 12-1 chance. However, he ran away and won by three-and-a-quarter lengths. 

After this excellent debut, he was put back up for auction again. He was sold with a profit of over £70,000, before joining trainer Gordon Elliot to set out for unprecedented success.

Early Successes

He entered the Cheltenham festival in 2014 as still an unknown quantity, but he successfully led the Triumph Hurdle from start to finish under the stewardship of Davy Russell. He won by a total of three-and-a-quarter lengths in his first race for his new owners. It was also his first of four Cheltenham festival winners; the next one coming three years later in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup.

His second festival win came in the Cross Country Chase in 2018, en route to winning the Grand National under Davy Russell. This win meant that Russell became the oldest ever winning rider of the National. Tiger Roll’s success hasn’t been without defeats; as he started the 2018-19 jump season with a fourth-place finish in the cross country at Cheltenham in November.

Legendary Status

However, this run wasn’t to last. He showed his diversity when he ran in the Boyne Hurdle in Navan in February. Elliott was using the race to freshen up Tiger Roll, and he wasn’t expected to compete for the victory. The nine-year-old had other ideas, and despite being set off at 33/1, he roared home.

The run certainly caught the punters attention, and he entered the Cheltenham festival as one of the bankers of the whole week. He didn’t disappoint. He was commanding in his record-breaking Cross Country win and didn’t break a sweat, as he finished 22 lengths ahead of the chasing pack. This run was his 34th start, and he was yet to fall; winning on eleven occasions.

The cross country was the perfect set up for Grand National success, as it was 12 months prior. After this victory he was priced at 3/1 in the horse racing betting to win the National; the lowest priced favourite for the race in nearly 100 years. He was better than ever, and the inevitable success in the featured race at Aintree never looked in doubt.

He was carrying six more pounds than the previous year and demonstrated his prowess by winning by two lengths from Magic of Light. The mainstream audience tuned in to see history made; with over ten million people watching in the United Kingdom.

Tiger Roll is a horse of a lifetime; he catches the hearts and minds of all racegoers; something that hasn’t been the case since Red Rum. There will always be discussions over who was better, with Rummy sitting on three national wins; however, we should consider ourselves lucky that we live in a time when we were able to witness the Tiger.