Monday 18 February 2019

National hero's joy

Tiger Roll and Davy
Davy Russell on
their way to winning
the Randox Grand
National at Aintree Photo: Reuters
UP AND OVER: Tiger Roll and Davy Davy Russell on their way to winning the Randox Grand National at Aintree Photo: Reuters

Normal order resumed for Davy Russell yesterday and to a lesser extent for Gordon Elliott after their heroics in Aintree on Saturday.

Elliott's presence at the Grand National homecoming was much more required than at Tramore where he saddled the second of Russell's two winners on the card as the latest jockey to etch his name in to history recorded a double less then 24-hours after winning the most famous race of all.

So much is often said about Elliott's joint dominance in the sport with Willie Mullins in the training ranks and the strength in numbers of some owners including Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown but begrudgers and bemoaners seemed to be thin on the ground this weekend and that may be down to an appreciation of just how difficult the Aintree Grand

National is to win. That said, Elliott has now won it twice before his 40th birthday.

Russell's class in the saddle for the near 10 minutes it took to run the race and afterwards when some of his first words were to dedicate the victory to Pat Smullen quite literally showed the world how classy he can be and how tight-knit this racing community are.

Willie Mullins, who was responsible for the runner-up Pleasant Company, was one of the first to congratulate Elliott despite being beaten by not much more than the length of a ruler.

Elliott himself lapped up much praise in the sleepy village of Summerhill which he seems to bring alive more often than most courtesy of big race homecomings, and it's not lost on many that he has quite literally raised the bar for the average soul that wants to follow this profession by coming from very humble beginnings in the context of training racehorses.

Michael O'Leary is no fool and Elliott's ability is not lost on him. O'Leary went viral on Saturday night when a video of him telling the returning passengers on his Ryanair flight, which he himself delayed, that they could 'enjoy a drink on him' and there might be one or two more bought at a future party for the Cullentra team.

They say opposites attract but O'Leary and Elliott are similar in so many ways. Neither would be considered near the top of a list of straight-forward people to work for but both have thrived on getting results. Tiger Roll is proof of that in many ways.

Not only is he a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner in three totally different races (Triumph Hurdle, National Hunt Chase, Cross Country Race) but he's not even the horse that Elliott wanted to bring home from the sales back in 2013.

That December Tiger Roll was knocked down to Mags O'Toole on behalf of Gigginstown for £80,000 and Elliott was told he was getting him. He didn't want him. In his own words he "effed and blinded" about not getting the horse he did want from that sale.

At that stage Elliott was just getting into the Grade One winning habit and obviously had a bit to prove to O'Leary.

The sales were a month after Roi Du Mee had won the Down Royal Grade One and Don Cossack was a Grade One winning novice just two weeks previous. How far Elliott has come from then and so too has Tiger Roll.

Normal order might not have resumed for Elliott yesterday but with a trainers championship to chase it'll be very much back to the grind today. Should that dream be achieved he has vowed to throw Summerhill's biggest party yet.

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