Tiger Roll just held off the late surge of Pleasant Company, to win the Grand National at Aintree this afternoon.
Like much of the season in Ireland and at Cheltenham, Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins dominated the finish to the Grand National.
A field of 38 assembled for the big race, run on the softest ground since Red Marauder’s memorable 2001 triumph.
The race got underway with Ucello Conti and Double Ross prominent.
Over the first fence, Perfect Candidate fell and so too did Blaklion.
I Just Know led at the second from Double Ross and Total Recall, with Ucello Conti well up with the pace, but at the big ditch, Total Recall was all but down.
At the fourth it was I Just Know who led, while Saint Are clouted the fence.
At the one before Becher’s Brook, I Just Know led from Milansbar racing out wide, with Double Ross up there along with The Dutchman.
The leader fell at Becher’s, as did Virgilio and Houblon Des Obeaux.
Captain Redbeard went at Foinavon as Ucello Conti and Double Ross led at the Canal Turn, where Lord Windermere and Final Nudge both went. Buywise was another early casualty.
Up front, Ucello Conti continued to lead Double Ross, The Dutchman and Pleasant Company, with Milansbar still up with the leaders and tracked by Seeyouatmidnight and Anibale Fly.
The field turned into the home straight, with Ucello Conti and Double Ross setting the pace.
They all cleared the thirteenth, with Chase The Spud last of all and his disappointing run saw him pulled up soon afterwards.
There was drama at the Chair, as Alpha Des Obeaux crashed out and brought down Saint Are.
Over the water and out on their second circuit, it was Ucello Conti who led from Double Ross and Milansbar, with Pleasant Company well up with the leaders. Delusionofgrandeur was pulled up.
Heading to the big ditch, the nineteenth, the front four were virtually in a line, with Pleasant Company moving into the lead at the next, from Milansbar, Double Ross, Ucello Conti and Seeyouatmidnight.
Becher’s Brook was bypassed on the second circuit and Pleasant Company headed to Foinavon with am increased advantage over Ucello Conti, with The Dutchman a faller.
Pleasant Company took the Canal Turn in front but Ucello Conti made a bad blunder and was lucky to survive.
Seeyouatmidnight at this stage looked a threat, but further back, The Last Samurai and Shantou Flyer pulled up with Thunder And Roses.
Four out and Ucello Conti’s charmed run came to an end as he fell, while Valseur Lido, who had been prominent, began to fade. Warrior’s Tale was pulled up.
Three from home and Pleasant Company still held the lead, but Tiger Roll had been moved into a promising position and raced strongly with Anibale Fly, Bless The Wings and Gas Line Boy.
They began the long run to the second last and Pleasant Company, who had jumped well throughout, made a costly error, just as Tiger Roll pressurised him.
Tiger Roll was kicked on into a clear lead at the last and powered to the Elbow.
However, having looked destined for a wide-margin win, the petrol started to run out, halfway up the run-in.
That gave David Mullins and Pleasant Company fresh impetus.
Pleasant Company closed hand over foot in the dying strides and at the line, to the naked eye, it was impossible to tell who had won.
But Tiger Roll, a former winner of the Triumph Hurdle and a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner, had held on by the most slender of margins, surviving a photograph finish.
The pair were well clear of veteran Bless The Wings in third, with Anibale Fly fourth, as Irish trained runners filled the first four positions.
Milansbar and Bryony Frost came home a hugely creditable fifth, with Road To Riches sixth. There were twelve finishers in all.
For Gordon Elliott, this was a second Grand National triumph, following Silver Birch’s win in 2007. But not only did he train the winner, but the 13 year old third, Bless The Wings too, for good measure.
Elliott said: “I was nervous when they announced the photo-finish – I thought I had it but you are so nervous watching it. I can’t believe it, to be honest. I’ve said I didn’t appreciate it first time round [with Silver Birch] – I’ll definitely appreciate it now. This is brilliant for the whole yard, for my family at home, everyone.
“Tiger Roll is unbelievable. I was actually fighting with Michael O’Leary, saying that when he retires he’s to keep him at home at Gigginstown, and he said, no, he’s not good enough, so he’d better keep him now! I’m very lucky to be training for the O’Learys. It’s unbelievable for Davy Russell – his father Jerry is, I’m sure, very proud watching him at home.”
He was asked whether he had any worries for Tiger Roll before the race, and Elliott replied: “I was worried about the ground. I can’t say on camera how I was feeling through the race!”
Asked about his tussle for the Irish training championship with Willie Mullins, who trained the runner-up, Pleasant Company, Elliott said: “Willie is an amazing man. He sets the standard; he’s probably the greatest trainer of all time, so to be in the same sentence as him is unbelievable.”
Barry Geraghty, who rode Anibale Fly into fourth place, said: “It was a great effort. He got a bit close to the first and was on his head, and I was lucky to avoid a couple of fallers, but otherwise I had a great round.
“I was struggling going to Becher’s second time round, but he came back and he tried for me, and I thought we might get third coming to the elbow, but he just got worn out in the finish.
“It was a great run and Tony [Martin] had him in great shape. It was thrill to be involved once again. It’s the greatest race in the world and still the biggest thrill of the year.”
Willie Mullins, who saddled the runner-up Pleasant Company, said: “We were delighted with him – he jumped from fence to fence, and while it looked like he got a bit tired going to the second-last fence he got his second wind and ran on again.
“Last year he made a bad mistake at a crucial stage and that ended it for him.”
Mullins also ran Total Recall and Children’s List, who both pulled up. He said of Total Recall: “He was lucky to stand up – he made two dreadful mistakes as everyone saw. His chance had gone after the second error. Children’s List ran a cracker and just appeared to get tired.”
Two years after celebrating Grand National victory on Rule The World, jockey David Mullins experienced different emotions when losing out by a head in a photo to this year’s race aboard Pleasant Company.
“You hope and you pray but in my heart I knew I was beaten,” said Mullins. “In a war of attrition like that all you want is another stride. That’s racing and I’m very lucky that I won it two years ago. It’s two years since I had an experience like that. He ran his heart out.
“He probably did a little bit too much with me but I had to let him go after jumping The Chair – he just winged fences. But Davy went by me on a fresh horse at the second last and I wasn’t going to win that race to the Elbow. I thought I’d have one crack at him after the Elbow. I just wanted him to keep going to the winning post!
“I fancied him a bit as he hadn’t had his ground this season and it’s not too bad out there and dried out a bit. I was sick for a couple of seconds after it but I told myself that Davy Russell (on the winner Tiger Roll) is 38 and had never won the race but I won it when I was 19.”
Owner Malcolm Denmark was gracious in defeat and added: “That was one of my greatest moments in racing. We got very close and I’m over the moon.”
2018 GRAND NATIONAL FINISHING ORDER
1) TIGER ROLL (TS, CP) 8-10-13 (Gigginstown House Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE/Davy Russell 10/1
2) PLEASANT COMPANY 10-10-11 (Malcolm Denmark) Willie Mullins IRE/David Mullins 25/1
3) BLESS THE WINGS (CP) 13-10-06 (Adrian Butler/Stephen O’Connor) Gordon Elliott IRE/Jack Kennedy 40/1
4) ANIBALE FLY (TS) 8-11-08 (J P McManus) Tony Martin IRE/Barry Geraghty 10/1
5) MILANSBAR (BL) 11-10-06 (Robert Bothway) Neil King/Bryony Frost 25/1
6) ROAD TO RICHES (TS) 11-10-05 (Gigginstown House Stud) Noel Meade IRE/Sean Flanagan 33/1
7) GAS LINE BOY (VISOR) 12-10-11 (The Three Graces) Ian Williams/Robbie Dunne 25/1
8) VALSEUR LIDO 9-11-07 (Gigginstown House Stud) Henry de Bromhead IRE/Keith Donoghue 66/1
9) VIEUX LION ROUGE (CP) 9-10-13 (Prof Caroline Tisdall & John Gent) David Pipe/Tom Scudamore 25/1
10) RAZ DE MAREE 13-10-09 (James Swan) Gavin Cromwell IRE/Robbie Power 20/1
11) SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT 10-10-12 (Patricia Thompson) Sandy Thomson/Brian Hughes 11/1
12) BAIE DES ILES (CP) 7-10-08 (Zorka Wentworth) Ross O’Sullivan IRE/Ms Katie Walsh 16/1
F 1) PERFECT CANDIDATE 11-11-03 (ISL Recruitment) Fergal O’Brien /Alain Crawley 50/1
BD 1) BLAKLION 9-11-10 (Simon Such & Gino Paletta) Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies 14/1
F6) I JUST KNOW 8-10-08 (Michael Scholey & The Late Ray Scholey) Sue Smith /Danny Cook 14/1
F 6) HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (BL) 11-10-07 (Jennifer Blackwell) Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch 25/1
F 6) VIRGILIO (TS) 9-10-08 (Chris Edwards, David Futter, Andrew Rushworth) Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton 50/1
UR 7) CAPTAIN REDBEARD 9-10-07 (Stuart Coltherd) Stuart Coltherd/Sam Coltherd 20/1
UR 8) FINAL NUDGE (CP) 9-10-06 (Corbett Stud & Andrew George) David Dennis/Gavin Sheehan 33/1
UR 8) BUYWISE 11-10-08 (T Hywel Jones) Evan Williams/Adam Wedge 50/1
UR 8) LORD WINDERMERE 12-10-07 (Dr Ronan Lambe) Jim Culloty IRE/Andrew Lynch 50/1
F 15) ALPHA DES OBEAUX (CP) 8-11-04 (Gigginstown House Stud) Mouse Morris IRE/Rachael Blackmore 33/1
BD 15) SAINT ARE (BL, TS) 12-10-10 (David Fox) Tom George/Ciaran Gethings 50/1
PU 15) CHASE THE SPUD 10-10-12 (Christine Banks) Fergal O’Brien/Paddy Brennan 25/1
PU 17) DELUSIONOFGRANDEUR 8-10-05 (McGoldrick Racing 3) Sue Smith/Henry Brooke 50/1
PU 18) MAGGIO (TS) 13-10-08 (Douglas Pryde/James Beaumont) Patrick Griffin IRE/Brendan Powell 66/1
UR 23) THE DUTCHMAN (TS) 8-10-11 (SprayClad UK) Colin Tizzard/Harry Cobden 20/1
PU 26)THUNDER AND ROSES (TS, CP) 10-10-05 (Gigginstown House Stud) Mouse Morris IRE/J J Slevin 33/1
PU 26) THE LAST SAMURI (TS) 10-11-08 (Paul & Clare Rooney) Kim Bailey/David Bass 16/1
PU 26) TENOR NIVERNAIS 11-11-01 (Boultbee Brooks Ltd) Venetia Williams /Tom O’Brien 66/1
PU 26) SHANTOU FLYER (VISOR, TS) 8-11-02 (Carl Hinchy) Richard Hobson/James Bowen 20/1
UR 27) UCELLO CONTI (TS) 10-10-10 (Simon Munir/Isaac Souede) Gordon Elliott IRE/Daryl Jacob 16/1
PU 29) TOTAL RECALL 9-11-05 (Slaneyville Syndicate) Willie Mullins IRE/Paul Townend 7/1 Fav
PU 29) WARRIORS TALE (TS) 9-10-12 (Trevor Hemmings) Paul Nicholls/Sean Bowen 33/1
PU 29) PENDRA (BL, TS) 10-10-08 (J P McManus) Charlie Longsdon/Aidan Coleman 80/1
PU 29) DOUBLE ROSS 12-10-06 (Options O Syndicate) Nigel Twiston-Davies/Tom Bellamy 66/1
PU RUN IN) CARLINGFORD LOUGH 12-11-01 (J P McManus) John Kiely IRE/Mark Walsh 33/1
PU RUN IN) CHILDRENS LIST 8-10-08 (Susannah Ricci) Willie Mullins IRE/Jonathan Burke 66/1