Donald McCain has nothing but admiration for Tiger Roll after Gordon Elliott’s ‘street-fighter’ emulated the one and only Red Rum by successfully defending his Grand National crown at Aintree on Saturday.
It was a totally different era when Red Rum, trained by McCain’s father, Ginger, leapt into racing folklore when following up his dramatic success over Crisp in 1973 with a convincing victory under 12st a year later.
The public took ‘Rummy’ to their hearts and 45 years on the same can now be said of Tiger Roll, as he galloped into the history books when powering home in the Randox Health-sponsored spectacular.
After his father retired, McCain was lucky enough to win the world’s greatest steeplechase with Ballabriggs in 2011, but he could not do the double and had to settle for sixth place 12 months later.
“It was a pleasure to be there. I never thought I’d feel like that. Growing up, I was always hoping last year’s Grand National winner didn’t win it again, but I think he’s the right horse to do it, I really do,” the Cheshire handler told Press Association Sport on Sunday.
“Obviously the race has changed dramatically, but he was a really good winner and it was a wonderful occasion.
“I had a quick chat with Gordon first thing this morning. I didn’t want to mind him yesterday. It’s magic.”
McCain feels what has made Red Rum and Tiger Roll so special is that they came through an unconventional route, being bred to be Flat horses and precocious types and certainly not ones for the long haul.
“It’s amazing in some ways, everyone is looking for a certain type of racehorse to be a Grand National horse and they broke the mould. That is failed they were Flat horses going on to do a job they weren’t expected to do,” he said.
“It just shows you. It’s the street-fighter type of model they both are that people are so affected by.
“It’s very tough to do. I’ve always said Grand National winners going up 7lb, 8lb, 9lb still does not sit right with me in some ways, but that’s the way it is and it’s just become the best staying handicap chase there is and that’s what it is. It was a huge performance.
“We’re brainwashed by Cheltenham from August, September onwards – all year – and it’s become this unstoppable monster, but for the general public, and the feelgood factor, there is no place makes you feel better than the National meeting.”
Red Rum unforgettably made it three National wins when bringing the house down at Aintree in 1977.
He was ridden on that occasion by Tommy Stack, who was full of admiration for Tiger Roll – but doubts he can go on to land the hat-trick, should he be given the chance.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live Sportsweek, he said: “Tiger won it very well, but next year he’ll have more weight and he’s not an over-big horse.
“Davy (Russell) gave him a brilliant ride, he took his time because he was going well from the Canal Turn on the second circuit – he took his time and didn’t press the button too soon.
“Neither Red Rum or Tiger Roll are over-big horses, but they are both well-made horses and that’s what Aintree needs.
“When Red Rum got to Aintree he knew he was in a different place. Tiger Roll seems to be the same. Trying to win a third Grand National isn’t going to be easy, because he’ll have more weight.
trying to achieve what Red Rum did is going to be impossibletrying to achieve what Red Rum did is going to be impossible
“Trying to win any National isn’t easy, trying to win a third one – it’s possible for him, but he has to get there first. People will run horses who are low in the weights and it will be a big challenge to him.
“Overall it was an unbelievable performance, but trying to achieve what Red Rum did is going to be impossible. Records are there to be broken, but they’re not easy to do.
“If he did win it a third time, he’d equal Red Rum, but there’ll never be anything with the following that Red Rum had from 40 years ago.
“People still keep sending me photographs to autograph, even to this day.”