Last Updated: 15/04/18 10:17am
Winning Jockey Davy Russell, owner Michael O’Leary (right), trainer Gordon Elliott (left) and Anita O’Leary
Gordon Elliott was still pinching himself the morning after claiming his second Randox Health Grand National with Tiger Roll.
Eleven years on from saddling Silver Birch to win the Aintree spectacular, the Cullentra handler struck gold on Merseyside for a second time as three-times Cheltenham Festival winner Tiger Roll clung on grimly in the hands of Davy Russell.
Elliott, who caught the ferry back to Ireland on Saturday night, was back in his yard on Sunday morning and reports his National hero to have arrived home safe and well.
Speaking on Racing UK’s Luck On Sunday programme, the trainer said: “I suppose when you go out in the yard this morning and see all the lads and there’s a bit of a buzz about the place, it starts to sink in a bit.
“I was very, very lucky (with Silver Birch). It was my first year of training and I hadn’t even a winner trained in Ireland at the time. To win a National, I probably thought it was all very easy.
“But now, with all the water that has gone under the bridge and all the ups and downs of the game, to win another one is unbelievable.
“He (Tiger Roll) has come home and he’s a bit tired this morning, but he’s OK, thank God.”
Tiger Roll was among the market principals at 10-1 off the back of winning the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham, adding to his previous triumphs at Prestbury Park in the Triumph Hurdle and the National Hunt Chase.
“To win three different races at the Cheltenham Festival and then go on and win an English National, it’s just unbelievable. If he never does another thing for us he doesn’t owe us much,” Elliott continued.
“He’s a bit of a character and he probably is a real favourite in the yard. All the kids that come in at the weekend, this is the horse they can ride the whole time because he’s so quiet. He starts and stops.”
It has been quite a season for Elliott, who in the last five weeks alone has taken the Leading Trainer Award at Cheltenham for a second time, broken records by going through the 200-winner mark for the season in Ireland and won his first Irish Grand National with General Principle.
He looks well set to be crowned champion trainer in his homeland later this month, but admitted Saturday’s success was particularly special.
He said: “I suppose you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I’m in a very lucky position and I’ve got a lot of good horses and good owners.
“You do get wound up on these big days as it’s kind of nearly expected of you to have winners.
“I probably was a bit emotional yesterday. It’s just nice to do it.”
Elliott was keen to pay tribute to Russell, winning the race for the first time at the age of 38, and Tiger Roll’s regular partner Keith Donoghue.
He added: “It’s a shame for Keith Donoghue as he’s done a lot of work on him and he’s Keith’s ride. He just couldn’t do the weight on him.
“He’s going to have plenty more days on him and he’ll be back on him in the cross-country race next year, all being well.
“But I’m delighted that Davy rode him. I’ve been friends with Davy since I was 15 or 16, so it’s nice that he’s won a National for me.
“Davy has been a good friend more than anything. He’s ridden for me throughout my career, but sometimes we talk about anything else but horses. We lie on the couch and drink tea!
“Davy’s a brilliant man and such a good horseman.”
There were no Saturday night celebrations for Russell, who has five booked rides at Tramore this afternoon.
The weighing room veteran admitted he is struggling to come to terms with the scale of his achievement.
He said: “It’s a bit surreal, to be honest. It’s hard to put into words. If we have a party then we might be able to say we have it done.
“There’s been so many movies made about the Grand National and as kids we were starved of horses on television as obviously there were no racing channels then.
“Whether it was a cowboy movie or National Velvet or Bob Champion’s movie (Champions), I’ve watched those movies so many times and you get an affinity with the race.
“It just sucks you in and to win it is the stuff of dreams really.”
Of Tiger Roll, he added: “He’s very economical with his jumping and I just wondered whether he’d have enough respect for the fences. If he fell at the first it would’t have been a huge surprise.
“He’s a shocking brave horse and nothing seems to faze him, but he set his eyes on the first fence and I knew we had a chance then. He had a look at what he was doing and was taking everything in.
“He’s a very sensible horse and a very kind horse. It’s easy to like him.
“He was a little bit silly at the times, but he’s matured something wicked. He’s only eight and the transformation he’s made from being a Flat-bred horse and a juvenile hurdler is unbelievable.
“Im definitely not the biggest fan of juvenile hurdlers, but I’m going to have to change my tune now!”