As the Grand National nears closer, it seems only fitting to pay tribute to the legend of the race in the modern age – Tiger Roll.
Not since the great Red Rum in 1974 had a horse landed the race on back-to-back occasions, with the long 45-year wait being put to bed in 2019.
In an age where Best Mate and Al Boum Photo claimed the Cheltenham Gold Cup in successive years, there was always a lack of modern domination in the Aintree feature hosted a month later.
But the remarkable Gigginstown House Stud gelding, who started his career at Market Rasen eight years ago for Nigel Hawke, would emulate the aforementioned three-time National winner when Groundhog Day arrived once again twelve months on from his last gasp head-bob with Pleasant Company.
Sadly, there will be no repeat at a third tilt after Michael O’Leary pulled his representative from the contest due to an “unfair weight”.
There will no doubt be a hint of regret from all parties in the sport following his sensational fifth Cheltenham Festival win earlier this month, turning the form a year on with recently confirmed Merseyside absentee Easysland.
Having begun in Britain, the Tiger made the switch to Cullentra in the 2013/14 season, having a sole run for Gordon Elliot before his Cheltenham Festival heroics. He finished second at Leopardstown behind Guitar Pete, but would overturn the form at Prestbury Park a month later under Davy Russell.
He would endure a tough time of it at Punchestown two months later, with his October win back at Cheltenham his only success in the wake of the Triumph for the next 17 months.
The only disappointing effort he put in at the Festival sandwiched in between, a switch to fences on a Monday evening at Ballinrobe would change the course of history.
He would go onto win his first two starts as a chaser, but it would soon appear obvious that his future would shape far more profitable when upped to a staying trip.
On his first try over a full three-mile trip, he easily landed the Munster National at Limerick before a win in the National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Festival under Lisa O’Neill at odds of 16/1 – the biggest price he would ever be at Cheltenham.
A switch to the Cross Country route soon arrived and he rather flattered to deceive a first, finishing a fair way behind stable-mate Bless The Wings in Gloucestershire. But off level weights, he would land a third win at the National Hunt Olympics in the sphere under Keith Donoghue, with the more fancied Cullentra star Cause Of Causes underperforming.
A month later, his finest hour would arrive – until 2019 when he’d do it all over again, of course.
A patient, prominent ride from Russell at Aintree on his English National debut saw him land a Cheltenham and Liverpool double within the space of a month, confirming his position as a modern great.
He couldn’t do it again, could he?
A top-weighted jaunt around his beloved Cheltenham sharpened him up perfectly for the upcoming campaign and his versatility could not have been exacted more than when he won the Boyne Hurdle at 25-1 before a fourth piece of Festival glory.
From the M5 to the M6, he would once again confirm his status as a modern great when landing a second Grand National, beating Magic Of Light at 4/1 and becoming the first favourite to win the race since 2010.
However, it would appear as though his best days were behind him as a result. He finished well back in the preparation Boyne before a damaging defeat to Easysland last year, ending his three-year win streak at the March showcase.
The ongoing covid-19 pandemic cancelled his hopes of a third Grand National and prevented any hopes of him becoming the first horse to land a hat-trick of the Grade 3 Handicap contest.
A Flat run at Navan was followed by a very flat run back at Cheltenham, where he was pulled up in November. Many called for retirement after his sudden halt at Navan after, feeling he’d lost his love for the game.
But an amazing shift in form saw him secure a superb third win in the Cross Country and fifth Gloucestershire success two weeks ago, dishing out a battering on the French Easysland and avenging last season’s loss.
Connections had confirmed before his demolition job that there would be no place for him in the people’s race, but there is continuing talk of a shot at the Grade 1 Betway Bowl which could potentially be his last racecourse appearance at the grand age of 11.
Be it Aintree, Cheltenham or in his stable across the Irish Sea, there are many words to describe the superb, brilliant, dynamic and versatile little Tiger Roll.
We can all agree on one, though.