Michael O'Leary stunned the racing world by announcing he is to wind down his massive National Hunt operation which most recently celebrated Tiger Roll's second successive Grand National triumphMichael O'Leary stunned the racing world by announcing he is to wind down his massive National Hunt operation which most recently celebrated Tiger Roll's second successive Grand National triumph (AFP Photo/Oli SCARFF )
London (AFP) - Tiger Roll put his name alongside Grand National legend Red Rum on Saturday by winning the greatest steeplechase in the world in successive years -- now the question is can he become the first to win three in a row?
Tiger Roll succeeded where 17 other National winners since Red Rum in 1973/74 had failed and won consecutive races.
The manner in which he won suggests Tiger Roll can go on and achieve something not even 'Rummie' did, and win three straight. One bookmaker is already quoting odds of 8/1.
After winning in 1973 and 1974, Red Rum finished second in 1975 and 1976 but remarkably won a third in 1977 ridden by Irishman Tommy Stack.
Jockey Davy Russell called Tiger Roll a "devil" for his habit of barely clearing fences, but the horse has an aura.
Nothing fazes him and although he made a couple of errors, his 39-year-old Irish rider did brilliantly to rescue him from disaster.
Tiger Roll will still only be 10 when the National comes round again next year.
His trainer Gordon Elliott, however, did not sound overly enthusiastic of a triple.
"I don't know about next year," said Elliott, who was winning his third National.
"Cheltenham again will be the plan," added Elliott. The Cross Country race is the most likely destination at the Festival.
Elliott originally did not want to buy Tiger Roll at the sales, preferring another horse but eventually gave in and paid £80,000.
Owner Michael O'Leary, the head of Ryanair, also would not commit, though, he revelled in having a horse mentioned alongside Red Rum and, with his renowned competitiveness in business, a third tilt may prove be irresistible.
Victory next year would also make O'Leary the most successful owner in the race -- he has a joint record three to his name having won in 2016 with Rule The World.
"He has improved even on last year," said O'Leary. "He is a legend of a horse to be in the same bracket as Red Rum is unbelievable.
"It is a phenomenal training performance by Gordon."
- 'Once in a lifetime horse' -
Tiger Roll has been described as a "little rat" by O'Leary but that was long forgotten as he eulogised the horse.
"He is a once in a lifetime horse who has given us a twice in a lifetime experience."
Elliott said he sees similarities between himself and Tiger Roll's relaxed aura.
"He is a little like myself. He likes the good things in life -- eating drinking and sleeping," the stocky Irishman said before adding, laughing: "though he is a little more athletic than me!"
Russell, who was once fired as first-choice jockey by O'Leary, will perhaps want Tiger Roll to give him less of a rollercoaster ride.
"He is a devil, he barely gets over, he flicks over them," said Russell.
"I say to him 'jeepers can you lift the legs a bit!'"
Russell said Stack, who rode Red Rum to a third victory, had been an inspiration.
"I was in awe of Tommy Stack, in fact I still am, because of this race," said Russell.
Even Elliott's great Irish rival in Ireland, Willie Mullins, whose Rathvinden finished third but whose Up For Review suffered a fatal injury at the first fence, could not fail but be impressed.
"Tiger Roll is a phenomenon," said Mullins. "He's got some appetite for racing with a great eye for jumping. He's once in a lifetime."