FERDY MURPHY believes jockey Davy Russell has all the attributes to make Grand National history on Tiger Roll today.
Russell’s diminutive mount is a short-priced favourite to become the National’s first dual winner since Red Rum 45 years ago.
Victory in the £1m race would be a third triumph for Ireland’s top trainer Gordon Elliott who is due to saddle 11 of the 40 runners. Up to £250m could be gambled on the 172nd National with the four-and-a-quarter mile race due to be broadcast globally across 16 time zones.
Yet all eyes will be on the veteran Russell as he bids to orchestrate a repeat of his 2018 win when Tiger Roll held off Pleasant Company in a photo-finish.
An accomplished point-to-point rider in his native Ireland, he began his professional career with Murphy at the trainer’s West Witton stables before returning to the Emerald Isle where he became champion jockey.
“Davy’s grounding in point-to-point racing is invaluable for races like the National when there are 40 runners going hell for leather,” Murphy told The Yorkshire Post.
“When he was riding, you could have 15 winners. Twleve riders would be no good – and you’d have one or two, like Davy, who were special. This is where it all started.
“He has also been determined from a very young age. He has had property for a long time, and a couple of holiday cottages in Spain. He’s always wanted to better himself.”
Murphy was always convinced that Russell, now 39, was destined to win a National and was convinced that his Scottish National winner Joes Edge was the perfect horse in 2006.
“The night before, it rained heavily and he had no chance. Davy gave the horse the most unbelievable ride to finish seventh,” added the retired trainer who now lives in France. “He is just great around Aintree. Nothing fazes him. A brilliant horseman and a great jockey. He is a great tactician – but also a horseman.
“You need both to plot your way around there. I don’t see why Tiger Roll can’t win again.”
Murphy’s assertion is based on the horse’s form this year. Normally the National takes its toll on previous victors – and many struggle to win another race.
Yet Tiger Roll won a competitive hurdle race in Ireland before recording a fourth career win at the Cheltenham festival when landing the cross country chase last month.
The most versatile horse in racing, victory today would propel Tiger Roll into the pantheon of racing greats.
“It would be something special if he could do it, because the public have really latched on to him,” said the aforementioned Elliott last night.
“He’s won four times at Cheltenham and an English National – if he did it (again) I think he’d go down as one of the greats.
“I hope the ground isn’t too soft. The other worry I’d have is the 39 other horses around you. The best horse doesn’t always win the Grand National – that’s the brilliant story to it.
“The way he won at Cheltenham, he looks like he is better this year than ever.
“We are very lucky to have him and he is a great horse.
“Every horse in the race has gone up 4lb after Bristol De Mai came out.
“I would have preferred it if we hadn’t, but that’s where we are. His form definitely looks better than it has been.
“This will be his toughest test and it’s the Grand National.”
Barry Geraghty will miss the Grand National ride on Gold Cup second-place Anibale Fly after breaking his leg at Aintree yesterday.
A new rider will be confirmed today, but Aidan Coleman has been released by Cartmel trainer Jimmy Moffatt from Just A Par, who will now be ridden by Jonathan Burke.