At just under 16 hands high, Tiger Roll is small for a steeplechaser and was, in fact, originally bought by owner Michael O’Leary to win the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. However, Tiger Roll proved significantly better than anticipated, winning the Grade One Triumph Hurdle, on just his second start for his new connections, in 2014.
Subsequently, despite his diminutive size, fences have been the making of him. Of course, in April, 2019, he made history by becoming the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National two years running, but he also has three further successes at the Cheltenham Festival to his name. He won the National Hunt Chase in 2017 and the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase two years running, in 2018 and 2019, en route to victory in the Grand National.
Still only a nine-year-old, Tiger Roll takes the odd liberty with an obstacle but, although he did once unseat his rider in a novices’ chase at Galway, when bumped by a rival at the second-last fence, he has never fallen. So, while Michael O’Leary has said that Tiger Roll is ‘very unlikely’ to run in the Grand National in 2020, another win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – which would be his fifth at the Cheltenham Festival – looks within the realms of possibility.
The cancellation of the 2020 Grand National due to the coronavirus pandemic has put paid, at least temporarily, to any attempt by Tiger Roll to win the celebrated steeplechase three years running. Of course, Red Rum won the National three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977, but what is, perhaps, less well-remembered is that ‘Rummie’, as he was affectionately known, also finished second in the National in 1975 and 1976 on his only other attempts.
In 1975, despite being sent off 7/2 favourite, Red Rum was denied a third consecutive victory by L’Escargot, trained by Dan Moore and ridden by Tommy Carberry, who won comfortably by 15 lengths. In 1976, Red Rum started at 10/1 and went down by two lengths to Rag Trade, trained by Fred Rimmell and ridden by John Burke.
Of course, the late Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain – who died in 2011, just two days shy of his eighty-first birthday – has his name writ large in the annals of Grand National history as the trainer of the incomparable Red Rum. Nevertheless, ‘Mr. Aintree’, as McCain was affectionately known in his heyday, remained in the training ranks until 2006, when he handed over his licence to his son, Donald Jnr., and, in 2004, won a record-equalling fourth Grand National.
That emotional victory came courtesy of the twelve-year-old Amberleigh House who, according to BBC commentator Jim McGrath, came ‘absolutely flying down the outside’ under jockey Graham Lee to beat joint-favourite Clan Royal by three lengths. Two years previously, Amberleigh House had been balloted out of the Grand National, despite winning the Becher Chase, over 3 miles 3 furlongs on the National Course, the previous November. Nevertheless, despite entering the ‘veteran’ stage of his career, Amberleigh House returned to Aintree to make Ginger McCain just the second trainer, after Fred Rimell, to saddle four Grand National winners.
The revered Red Rum, of course, made five appearances in Grand National, winning in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and finishing second in 1975 and 1976. However, much earlier in the annals of the Grand National – in fact, in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century – Manifesto made eight appearances in the space of ten years.
Bred and originally owned by Irish solicitor Harry Dyas – who also rode him, albeit no further than the first fence, in the 1896 renewal of the National – Manifesto won twice, in 1897 and 1899, and finished in the first four on another four occasions, including on his debut, as a seven-year-old, in 1895. His second victory, in 1899 – by which time he had been sold to stockbroker John Bulteel and transferred to trainer Willie Moore – was notable for the fact that he carried 12st 7lb. So, too, was his highly creditable third, under an eye-watering 12st 13lb, behind Ambush II in 1900. Manifesto made his final appearance in the National, as a sixteen-year-old, in 1904, finishing eighth and last.