Tiger Roll Grand National Wins
- 2019 - ridden by Davy Russell trained by Gordon Elliott
- 2018 - ridden by Davy Russell trained by Gordon Elliott
The double winner of the National in 2018 and 2019 was born on the 14th of March 2010, meaning that he was 8 when he won that first National with Davy Russell on his back. Sired by Authorized to Swiss Roll, he is a gelding and is bay in colour. Initially bred by Gerry O’Brien in Ireland, he was bought by the Maktoum family’s Godolphin stable before being bought initially by Nigel Hawke before Gigginstown House Stud bought him in 2014.
In just his second race for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown he won the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, not only demonstrating his love of the jumps but also forging a firm relationship with Davy Russell. Even more impressive was the fact that he didn’t fall in any of his first 34 outings, picking up more big wins during following Cheltenham Festivals.
|2019||1||£500,000||11-5||Davy Russell||Gordon Elliott|
|2018||1||£500,000||10-13||Davy Russell||Gordon Elliott|
A Star Is Born
During Tiger Roll’s more formative years his original owners chose not to run him on the flat, predominantly because he was seen as being too slow. That was interesting for his breeders, given that he descended from the same line as Epsom Derby winner Sadler’s Wells. Indeed, his dam, Swiss Roll, won twice on the flat when in Ireland and the sire, Authorized, was also a Derby winner.
Some of Swiss Roll’s other horses went on to be good on the flat, with Ahzeemah winning the Lonsdale Cup at York and being unfortunate to miss out on the Irish St Leger, for example. Despite spending 10,000 Guineas to buy him, Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin sold him for £10,000 without ever even racing him, such was the extent to which he was seen as being a no-go on the flat. Nigel Hawke saw potential in him, however, and he’s the sort of person who should know considering he won the Grand National as a jockey on Seagram in 1991.
Tiger Roll’s Early Years
Indeed, Hawke felt that he was a ‘natural’ from the moment he started training him over jumps and he won his first ever race when he took part in the juvenile hurdle event at Market Rasen. It was a win that captured the attention of the Gigginstown House Stud team, leading Gordon Elliot’s crew to spend £80,000 on him in 2013. His second race for his new home came in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, which he won under the guidance of Davy Russell and that foretold the big-race successes he would have in the future.
His first go at a three mile race came about during the following Cheltenham Festival when he was entered into the Stayers’ Hurdle. Having won the Masterson Holdings Hurdle over 2 miles and 110 yards the previous October, you can see why some thought he was finding a natural affinity with the Gloucestershire course. He finished well but still only came thirteenth and many wondered whether his jumping career had stalled before it had even really begun. He was prone to wearing either cheekpieces or blinkers at the time in a bit to keep him focussed, so at the start of 2016 he was run on the flat at Dundalk’s all-weather track.
He finished second in his first and only outing on the flat, with the Gigginstown crew deciding that he might be more comfortable over fences than hurdles and choosing to enter him into races at both Ballinrobe and Kilbeggan. He won the pair of them, getting himself off to a flyer and encouraging them to enter him into the Munster National at Limerick. This outing in a 3-mile race was far more successful than his first and he won the race over the fourteen other competitors at a price of 25/1.
Winning The Big Races
His next big outing saw him return to his favoured course at Prestbury Park, winning the National Hunt Chase despite making three rather big errors under his amateur jockey Lisa O’Neill in the 4-miler. Gigginstown continued to push him in the hope that they would be able to get some reliability out of him, but he finished a remarkable 42 lengths behind Bless The Wings, his stablemate, when he was entered into the Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in December of 2017. Perhaps he was just getting himself used to the course, though, because he went on to win the Cross Country Chase at the Festival just a few months later.
Is Tiger Roll the sort of horse that needs the big occasion to get himself up for the fight? It’s possible, with his victory in the Cross Country Chase proving to be the perfect preparation for the biggest occasion of them all. Reunited with his old friend Davy Russell in the 2018 Grand National, he beat Pleasant Company into second place by just a head in the race that is widely considered to be the toughest test of thoroughbred horses on the jump racing calendar. Interestingly, he won the Cross Country Chase again in 2019 before going on to become the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back Grand Nationals when he pulled it off in 2019.
He Doesn’t Know When He’s Beaten
Tiger Roll wasn’t a precocious youngster and nor is considered to be quickest of horses, hence his lack of success when looked at for the flat, but what he is is a horse that rises to the challenge when the mood takes him. Timeform described him as ‘leggy and lengthy’ when he was a juvenile and suggested that he would grow to ‘fill in his frame’, but even they must have been surprised at just how successful he would become. Gigginstown owner Michael O’Leary once described him as a ‘little rat of a thing’, which goes someway to indicate the sort of wiry nature to him that has made him so successful thanks to his refusal to give up.
That refusal to know when he is beaten is a big part of why he’s been so successful in the Grand National, of course. It is a race that demands a huge amount of its competitors and what Tiger Roll lacks in physicality compared to his stablemates he more than makes up for in persistence.
Tiger Roll & Cheltenham
It’s fascinating that Tiger Roll’s history is mainly focussed around the Cheltenham Festival despite his Grand National successes. Indeed, he only raced once at Aintree before his 2018 National win, coming in a disappointing 14th out of 19 entrants in a Handicap Hurdle there in 2016. Compare and contrast that with the 9 starts at Cheltenham he enjoyed prior to his 2019 National victory, of which he won five, and you can see that he’s a horse that seems to enjoy the Gloucestershire course more than the Merseyside venue.
One thing that remains interesting about Tiger Roll is that he often seems to do better when he’s asked to run in a large field. His first Cheltenham win came when he was in a field of 15, for example, having also won races that contained 11, 14, 17 and 15 other horses before he beat 37 competitors to that first Grand National title. That might in some way be because his temperament allows the Gigginstown Stud to enter him into numerous different types of races, seeing him win in hurdles, chases and cross-country outings in the past. The ability to mix up the types of races that he’s entered into isn’t something that every horse can do, so it’s little wonder that Tiger Roll is so popular.
Why He Does Well At Aintree
He is an enthusiastic horse, which perhaps helps to explain why he’s managed to win the National twice. Even some of the Cheltenham Festival’s most successful horses, such as five-time Gold Cup winner Golden Miller, could only add one Grand National win to their name. The demanding nature of the race means that horses need to enjoy the challenge set for them, which Tiger Roll clearly does. Given that many other horses fall away after success on the big stage at Aintree, Tiger Roll has proven his worth by winning it more than once.
Boasting a relatively short frame thanks to his 15.2 hands height, he’s managed to avoid the sort of injuries that often see National winners forced to sit out most of a season as they recover. He’s a durable horse that has been able to take on horses much bigger than him and ask serious questions of their desire to win. The quintessential over-achiever, he came from a line of flat racers that has been sprinkled with horses that have done well over the jumps and at the National in particular.