Ratings Update articles often begin with the best – according to weight-adjusted Timeform ratings – performances, but this week’s simply cannot follow suit. Tiger Roll’s career-leading figure of 167 (up 2 lb), which is top class on Timeform’s scale, was bettered elsewhere over Aintree’s Grand National Festival, but its impact on British sport – and horse racing in particular – was much, much greater.
You can read more about the early life and career of Tiger Roll here, and while not on the same level as staying greats like Best Mate or Kauto Star, he is deserving of mention in the same breath for his achievements and the qualities rightly revered above and beyond pure form. Three weeks earlier he had put himself in a select group of four-time Cheltenham Festival winners and he joined an even more exclusive club on Saturday with this second successive Grand National victory following numerous failed attempts from others since Red Rum in 1974. Tiger Roll is not quite in that bracket of Aintree folklore yet - the quality of rival is far higher these days but the test much more forgiving - but he is still sufficiently young to believe he'll have another live chance in 2020 when bidding to set himself apart as the first ever to complete a Grand National hat-trick.
Tiger Roll wins the Randox Health Grand National!— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 6, 2019
Back-to-back Grand Nationals and a place in history pic.twitter.com/vcF6v9JEOL
The unfortunate incident that claimed the life of Up For Review at the very first fence thankfully didn't set the tone for a Grand National that was otherwise notable for its lack of incident, as well as its obvious significance in a historical context, only six of the non-completers either falling or unseating compared to 14 pulling up and, in an unprecedented sequence, fences 2 to 18 passed entirely free of departures. The first six home included not only the first back-to-back winner since Red Rum in 1974, but also the highest-placed mare since 18 years further back than that in Magic of Light (up 10 lb to 155), who survived a couple of notable errors to finish runner-up.
Rathvinden (up 1 lb to 162) confirmed he's returned better than ever in third, while Becher winner Walk In The Mill (144) confirmed the suitability of this track in fourth, doing just about enough to prove his stamina for the marathon trip, though softer ground might have found him out that bit more. Anibale Fly (167) had improved his Gold Cup position by one when fourth a year ago, but went the opposite way in this, a mere three-week turnaround compared to last season perhaps insufficient rest to put an edge back on him after his Cheltenham heroics.
An honourable mention goes to One For Arthur (152), who might well have fulfilled the record-breaking role reserved for Tiger Roll had things gone better for him since his impressive 2017 success in this, robbed of a chance at defending his crown by injury last season. He left the firm impression that all of his powers are intact, going fourth on the run-in before his huge effort flattened out, a lack of peak fitness perhaps telling by then; assuming he gets a clearer run at his racing, he'll return with frame claims in 2020.
Kemboy (170 from 168p) was one of those whose bare performance exceeded that of Tiger Roll, his strong-travelling, all-the-way win in the Bowl Chase banishing the memories of his first-fence unseat in the Gold Cup. He’s progressed throughout the season and is now rated the same as Al Boum Photo, the pair still only seven and in the very best hands to boot. That’s an ominous sign for the older, less progressive crowd outside Willie Mullins' yard, though the addition of RSA 1-2 Topofthegame and Santini - not to mention the following day's Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase winner Lostintranslation - into the mix suggests that they won't have it all their own way next season, 2019/20 a potentially stellar one in the staying division.
Lostintranslation is now on 160 (from 155p) after a six-length beating of Topofthegame (down 2 lb to 162p), the former improving for the longer trip and the runner-up seemingly not in the same form as at Cheltenham.
Min (up 7 lb to 176) provided jockeys with a further reminder that it’s not a great idea to allow Ruby Walsh an easy lead on a top-class chaser when dominating the Melling Chase.
Min not only banished the memories of his subdued showing in the Champion Chase, but proved better than ever as he put up a performance every bit as authoritative - indeed possibly even more so - as Cyrname in the Ascot Chase, handing out a very similar beating to Politologue (remains on 166) and a bigger one to Waiting Patiently (164+ from 168). With Altior and Cyrname set to clash at Sandown, Min should have the Punchestown Champion Chase at his mercy, while connections will no doubt be eyeing another crack at Altior next season on the back of this.
Ornua (up 3 lb to 151) also benefited from an excellent front-running ride in Saturday’s Maghull Novices’ Chase, bouncing back from his own Cheltenham disappointment (fell in the Arkle) to beat Us And Them (150) into second. Though often associated with his patient rides, Davy Russell controlled a race in which there had looked potential for quite a bit of competition for the lead. The winner is likely to be aimed at the Tingle Creek, but would need to improve a stone to be involved in an average running, never mind one involving potentially any of Altior, Cyrname or Min.
Kalashnikov (up 8 lb to 154p) appeared to relish the step up in trip when making his breakthrough in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, in contrast to the runner-up La Bague Au Roi (down 3 lb to 148p) who looked a little one-paced in second, for all that she gave everything in defeat. Mengli Khan (151) came up short at Grade 1 level for the fourth start running, though performed as well as he has in any of those races; he's probably not going to be easy to place out of novice company.
Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills (146p) enhanced his reputation with a neck defeat of Fakir d’Oudairies (143) in the Anniversary Four-Year-Old Hurdle; the winner has work to do to make the transition to the top open races next season, but first he has a very exploitable mark on the Flat and could well make hay in that sphere over the next few months. Felix Desjy’s (up 10 lb to 147) chance in the Supreme was compromised by the standing start, but he showed improved form for the return to front running when beating a closing Aramon (145) in the Top Novices’ Hurdle, while Champ (148p) recorded a second Grade 1 success when winning the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, the manner in which he saw out the trip opening up plenty of opportunities for chasing next season, for all that the race was steadily-run for much of the way.
Supasundae (remains on 157) ran his best race of the season when beating a below-par Buveur d’Air (down 2 lb to 161) in the Aintree Hurdle, the runner-up also done no favours by the fall of Melon three out, while Paisley Park was a notable absentee from the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle. Apple's Jade (162) set a strong pace and succumbed only late to two lightly-raced big improvers, the trio worth lots of credit for finishing clear in a stirring finish, even if plenty of the rest ran as if they've had enough for the season. Ultimately, If The Cap Fits (159+ from 151) showed terrific guts to shrug aside a final-flight blunder and then squeeze between rivals to edge it late (would have been an unlucky loser) by a head from Roksana (150 from 142), who underlined her status as a mare of considerable quality, while also paying a compliment to Benie des Dieux, who'd have beaten her easily at Cheltenham but for falling at the last.
Clearly, there were many other performances of note, including bumper wins for Mcfabulous (116 from 112) and The Glancing Queen (110 from 107+), but some of the most notable winning performances came in the handicaps. Moon Over Germany (up 10 lb to 147) made most of the running to land the Red Rum Handicap Chase, making plenty of his rivals look second-raters as he opened right up in the straight, while Paul Townend adopted similar tactics on Cadmium (up 5 lb to 157), whose excellent jumping allowed him to set just a steady pace (before quickening clear) in the Topham. More patient tactics were sensibly employed on Kildisart (155p from 147), who took advantage of an overly strong gallop in the Grade 3 handicap on Saturday. Upped markedly in trip, he clearly relished the extra distance and proved better than ever. He is sure to be a player in the top-end staying handicaps next season, with the Ladbroke Trophy an obvious starting point before heading back into graded company.