Grand National Review 2019: Favourite Tiger Roll Goes Back-To-Back

O'Leary: 2019 Grand National ReviewTiger Roll became the first horse since Red Rum in 1973 and 1974 to win the Grand National in consecutive years when prevailing in the 2019 race as the 4/1 favourite.

The diminutive Gordon Elliott-trained runner, ridden by jockey Davy Russell, was almost three lengths ahead of the second-placed Magic Of Light (66/1) at the finish. Rathvinden (8/1) and Walk In The Mill (25/1) were third and fourth, two and a quarter lengths and 11 lengths further adrift in a maximum field of 40 runners.

The 2019 National winner was denied the chance to become the first horse to win three Nationals on the run when the 2020 race was cancelled. Could he do it 2021 as a an 11-year-old? The opportunity may just have passed him by.

Red Rum won the race again in 1977 and is the only-three time winner. Tiger Roll carried 10-13 to victory off a handicap mark of 150 in 2018 but was allocated 11-5 (up 9lb to a 159 rating) for his second win. If they go again, connections will be pushing for a manageable weight but the handicapper has to be fair to every horse entered in the race. He has a balancing act between giving Tiger Roll an attractive mark and making the race competitive, despite the puerile idle threats and protestations of the gelding’s owner Michael O’Leary, the well-known bleater and CEO of budget airline Ryanair.

Elliott was winning his third Aintree Grand National, having trained ex-Paul Nicholls’ inmate Silver Birch to win the race in 2007. In addition to his three Nationals, The Irish handler trained Don Cossack to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2016. His main ambition is to be the champion trainer in Ireland but he has finished second behind Willie Mulllins. Elliott is obviously keen for Tiger Roll to aim for a third National but the owner makes that decision.

As mentioned, the team that pay the bills is Gigginstown House Stud which is the racehorse ownership arm of O’Leary. His brother, Eddie, is the racing manager and he will have the final say on whether Tiger Roll goes for racing immortality by winning the National three times in three renewals. Gigginstown won the 2016 race with Rule The World, ridden by Danny Mullins. The operation also owned Don Cossack when that horse won the Gold Cup.

Russell rode Tiger Roll for the horse’s two Grand National wins. The jockey has not won the race on any other horse but he was third on Saint Are in 2017. Russell has been Gigginstown’s first jockey in the past but was not contracted to the owners when they gave him the ride on Tiger Roll. The horse has also won two cross-country chases at the Cheltenham Festival and while he has had the form to be competitive in and possibly win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the protection of his handicap mark for the Aintree showpiece has always been the priority.

How did the 2019 Grand National pan out?

If ever a Grand National can be relatively drama-free for the winner, the 2019 race went that way for Tiger Roll. The son of Authorized was always going well in the mid-division for the first circuit. Russell edged closer to the leaders after the 22nd fence which is the second Bechers. The one minor scare was a peck on landing five fences from home. The horse moved into third place at the third last fence and then took the lead approaching the 30th and final fence. Russell sent his mount on at the Elbow and rode out a finish and Tiger Roll stayed on well towards the line.

The nine-year-old could have been backed at 10/1 immediately after the first 2018 Grand National win. On the day, Tiger Roll opened at 9/2 and was supported at that price on the track and off-course. The Starting Price (SP) of 4/1 made Tiger Roll the shortest-priced winner since Poethlyn won at 11/4 in 1919. He was the first outright winning favourite since Hedgehunter won the 2005 National at 7/1. Red Rum was returned at 9/1, 11/1 and 9/1 in 1973, 1974 and 1977.

Magic Of Light produced a fine effort to finish second. Trainer Jessica Harrington’s mare was always near the front but made jumping errors at the Chair and the final fence. She could not go with the winner at the Elbow but stayed on well on the run-in, carrying eight pounds less than Tiger Roll. The daughter of Flemensfirth is young enough to contest another Grand National – she will be 10 for the 2021 renewal – but she is currently 7lb higher than the 151 rating she ran off here.

Rathvinden was at the head of affairs in the first half of the race and beyond. However, a jumping error at the 25th fence was costly. The horse was outpaced by the front two from the second last but again stayed on approaching the finishing line. Walk In The Mill could not get closer to the front three after the final fence. Some bookmakers paid out each way bets for six places. Anibale Fly (10/1) was fifth, half a length behind Walk In The Mill and the 2017 hero One For Arthur (25/1) was nine lengths further behind the winner in a creditable sixth place.

Where did other fancies in the 2019 Grand National betting finish?

Three of the four shortest priced runners finished in the top five so the Grand National 2019 generally went to form. Jury Duty was the joint fourth favourite with Anibale Fly at 10/1. The horse was hampered at the first fence so had a difficult race. It lasted until the 20th obstacle at which point Jury Duty unseated the jockey after a serious jumping error.

Vintage Clouds was next in the betting at 11/1 but was out of the race with a fall at the first fence. The horse is owned by Sir Trevor Hemmings who previously won the National with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).

Five other horses were returned at less than 20/1 but none completed the course. Lake View Lad (14/1) was pulled up after the 27th fence, Pleasant Company (12/1) unseated the rider at the same fence, Dounikos (16/1) was pulled up before the second last, Rock The Kasbah (16/1) was brought down at the 18th fence and Joe Farrell (14/1) was pulled up before the second last obstacle.

Summary of 2019 Grand National

Here are some facts and figures related to the race:

  • 40 runners.
  • 19 finishers.
  • 14 pulled up.
  • 3 fallers.
  • 2 unseated rider.
  • 2 brought down.

The race was run on good to soft ground and the winner’s time was 9 minutes and 1 second.

2019 Grand National Betting: Tiger Bites Bookies

The Grand National is not a good race for bookmakers when the winner is a well-backed favourite and two other fancied runners finish in the payout places. Five of the six horses that occupied the places were available at 25/1 or less in the Grand National betting. The first and second favourite finished in the first three.

Magic Of Light, although 66/1, was trained by Jessica Harrington and attracted some each-way betting interest from those hoping for another female-trained winner. Anibale Fly is owned by JP McManus and Irish punters will follow his runners blindly. Rathvinden was ridden by Ruby Walsh and trained by Willie Mullins and that combination was always popular.

Two horses went off at single figure odds, 27 horses were priced from 10/1 to 50/1, there were 10 66/1 chances and one horse had a three-figure Starting Price. However, the 4/1 favourite winning the race for the second consecutive year was the worst-case scenario for the major UK bookmakers. The punters won the battle to beat the bookies in the Grand National of 2019. They’ll never win the war though.

2019 Grand National Review Conclusion

Only seven horses in the history of the race dating back to 1839 have won the Grand National more than once. The previous five dual winners before Red Rum won between 1850 and 1936. So, it must go down as a fine Grand National when it produces the rare feat of a repeat winner. Almost half the field completed the course and there were very few mishaps. Tiger Roll was a worthy winner and this Grand National 2019 review hopes he makes it to Aintree Racecourse again in 2021.