Horse Racing - Grand National FestivalHorse Racing - Grand National Festival - Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, Britain - April 14, 2018 Tiger Roll ridden by Davy Russell clears a fence before winning the the 17:15 Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase REUTERS/Darren Staples
(Reuters) - Ireland's Tiger Roll won the English Grand National in a photo finish at Aintree on Saturday.
The smallest horse in the field held off a late surge from Pleasant Company in one of the closest ever finishes in the historic race which is watched by an estimated global television audience of 600 million.
The 10-year-old winner is owned by Irish businessman Michael O'Leary, the chief-executive of Ryanair, and trained by Gordon Elliott.
Tiger Roll, a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner, was well backed at 10/1 coming into the race and always looked likely to challenge. He surged ahead on the home straight of the four-and-a-half mile course and looked set for a comfortable win.
But David Mullins chased him down on Pleasant Company and Tiger Roll required all his courage to hold off the stirring challenge from the 25-1 shot.
Bless The Wings was third at 40-1 and Ireland completed a clean sweep of the top four with Anibale Fly (10-1).
The winning jockey, Ireland's 38-year-old Davy Russell, said he was delighted to have finally won the race at his 14th attempt.
"He's an unbelievable horse. I've won this race a thousand times in my head as a child. It is amazing to have finally won; it is a marvelous event," he said.
Russell's win was laced with emotion following the death of his mother earlier this year.
"She was a marvelous woman, getting up at 6 a.m. to drive me around Ireland for races. She always did what was best for her children," he said.
For O'Leary it was a second triumph after Rule The World in 2016. "At the elbow we were all celebrating, at the line we were all panicking," he said. "It's a wonderful day for Davy, and for Gigginstown."
Elliott has also won the race before, training Silver Birch in 2007. He said: "It's unbelievable. Tiger Roll is a yard favorite. It's great for the yard, for Gigginstown (House Stud, owners), for everyone."
Before the race, much attention had been focused on the three female jockeys who were hoping to make history by becoming the first to win the world's most famous steeplechase.
Of the trio, Bryony Frost was best placed, finishing fifth on Milansbar.
(Writing by Neil Robinson, Editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon)