It’s certainly been a spring to remember for National Hunt fans, with the Cheltenham Festival as ever delivering in spades, and a whole host of other headline making stories. As good as the action at Prestbury Park was, the 2018-19 jumps season will likely be remembered – above all else – for what occurred at Aintree in April. Here we take a look back at the most famous steeplechase in the world and round up the results from the Scottish and Irish versions of the race.
Grand National 2019: Tiger Rolls Like Red Rum
Where else to start than on Merseyside and what turned out to be a truly momentous renewal of the greatest steeple chase in the world, Grand National at Aintree. 2018 winner Tiger Roll had been prominent in the betting ever since that win but, following a resounding success in this seasons Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, the gamble really began to gather momentum. So much so that he was sent off at just 4/1 for this forty runner affair. That’s comfortably the shortest price for a Grand National favourite in living memory.
Too short they said. “Cant back it at the price” was the verdict of most pundits and tipsters. One thing’s for sure though, that 4/1 looked to be pretty good value as they rounded the elbow, as Tiger Roll tanked into contention seemingly full of running. The mare Magic Of Light ran a mighty race to keep him honest coming up the straight, but there was only ever likely to be one winner, as Davy Russell forged 2¾l clear at the line. Cue wild scenes in the stands, for all other than the bookmakers, whose heads were firmly in their hands.
Tiger Roll was said to have made history with this mighty performance, and as good as he was, this statement wasn’t quite accurate, as a number of other runners have claimed the big prize in back to back years in the past. Should he take his place in the 2020 field though – as he surely will – then the Gordon Elliott star really will have a shot at the record books, as no horse has ever claimed the prize in three successive years. Red Rum did win it three times, but there was a three year gap between his second and third successes. It’s a tall order, but if any horse is up to it then it is surely the Tiger. He will still only be ten years old in 2020 and so by no means over the hill, and those looking to get on early may want to take a look at the 8/1 currently on offer.
Scottish Grand National 2019: Risk Rewards Richards
Next on the agenda on the staying chase scene was the Scottish Grand National up at Ayr, which this year fell just one week after the Aintree action. It may not be quite as high profile as the biggest chase in the world – but then what is – but the Scot’s certainly know how to create an atmosphere, and nowhere do they do it better than at what is, by some way, the biggest race of the season north of the border.
The race itself as ever delivered a cracking spectacle. The ground may have been significantly better than is often the case here, but they went a real frenetic gallop from the off, ensuring that it was as ever stamina which very much came to the fore in the closing stages. Crosspark had shown he certainly wasn’t short in the staying department when landing the Eider Chase at Newcastle, and looked like following up here, only to finally wilt close home. An excellent effort from the Caroline Bailey runner nonetheless.
The one to stay on best of all and win with some authority in the end was Takingrisks from the yard of Nicky Richards. This one returned an SP of 25/1, but would likely have been a significantly bigger price in running after the first fence. Making a jarring error at the obstacle – causing his rider to lose his irons – Sean Quinlan showed excellent patience to both sort himself out and allow the horse to work his way back into the contest. Eventually powering right away for a four-length success, he looks a horse worth keeping onside in similar events next season.
Irish Grand National 2019: Burrows Breaks Mullins Duck
Willie Mullins of course famously tasted Aintree Grand National success with Hedgehunter in 2005, but headed into 2019 he had never won his “home” National. All that has changed now though as this year proved to be the year when the multiple Irish Champion Trainer laid a couple of ghosts to rest. Hot on the heels of his first ever Cheltenham Gold Cup success with Al Boum Photo, Mullins made the 2019 edition of the Fairyhouse showpiece, the Irish Grand National, all his own.
Carrying the famous Ricci colours and with Ruby Walsh doing the steering, Burrows Saint was backed right into favouritism for the Easter Monday contest, and never gave supporters too much cause for concern. Travelling eye-catchingly well throughout he jumped excellently for a novice and showed abundant stamina to tough it out close home. Still only six years old, there’s likely plenty more to come from this one. William Hill make him their 20/1 second favourite for the English Grand National in 2020.
If you are going to break your Irish Grand National duck, then you might as well do it in style, and Mullins certainly delivered on this mantra. With Isleofhopesandreams once again filling second spot, and Acapella Bourgeois bouncing right back to form in third, this was a famous 1-2-3 for the County Carlow maestro.