AINTREE, England (AP) Tiger Roll won the Grand National Steeplechase in a photo finish over Pleasant Company as Irish horses dominated the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree on Saturday.
A 4 1/2-mile (6,400-meter) race was won by a matter of inches in the closest finish to the Grand National since 2012, when Neptune Collonges won by a nose.
Tiger Roll, a 10-1 shot, was leading by as much as 10 lengths in the long run to the line, but only just held off the fast-finishing Pleasant Company (25-1) to win a first prize of 500,000 pounds ($710,000).
”I did have a big fear,” said jockey Davy Russell, who won the race for the first time at his 14th attempt. ”It would have been heartbreaking.”
The first four horses home in the National were from Ireland, including Bless The Wings (40-1) and Anibale Fly (10-1).
It was the second National victory for both trainer Gordon Elliott, who also won with Silver Birch in 2007, and owner Michael O’Leary, who had 2016 winner Rule The World. O’Leary is chief executive of budget airline Ryanair.
”We bought the horse as a pint-sized hurdler,” O’Leary said, ”but he’s got a heart of a lion.”
Russell grew up dreaming of winning the National. As a child, he erected Aintree-style fences in his garden and pretended to ride a horse over them.
”I’ve won this race thousands of times (in my head),” Russell said. ”But not like this.”
David Mullins, the jockey of Pleasant Company, said he thought he was well-beaten after jumping the next-to-last fence.
”Davy was going so much better than me,” Mullins said.
That seemed to be the case as the horses made it past the elbow in the run to the line, but Pleasant Company closed in as Tiger Roll faded. It was too close to call as they crossed the line and the 171st edition of the race required a photo finish to separate them.
Total Recall went off as the 7-1 favorite but fell.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80