Top 5 Jumps moments of 2019: Tiger tears up Aintree

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Tiger Roll made history at the Grand National in 2019.
Tiger Roll made history at the Grand National in 2019.

5. Remarkable RSA Chase

The Cheltenham Festival always throws up a plethora of great memories each year, but in terms of brilliant sporting finishes, it doesn’t always deliver.

It was different in 2019 though, with the RSA Chase remaining fresh in the minds of any who saw the remarkable novices' chase. The race started with three fancied horses in the form of Delta Work, Santini and Topofthegame and it duly delivered a contest for the ages, with the trio of young chasers settling down for battle up the famous Prestbury Park hill.

The atmosphere was electric on course as all three strained every sinew to cross the line in first place, with the ginormous Topofthegame narrowly coming out on top in the epic clash. Santini and Delta Work lost nothing in defeat, though, and the feeling was that we had seen three excellent horses cross swords.

All three are likely to make up into Cheltenham Gold Cup horses in the future, but whatever they go on to achieve later in their careers, the 2019 RSA deserves its place in the list of great Jumps racing moments of the year.

4. Rachael Blackmore hits the big time with Cheltenham glory

The path to equality for female jockeys in Jumps racing has been a long and rocky road, and while there is no doubt that there is still a long way to go, we did see considerable gains made in 2019.

Bryony Frost deserves special mention for her big race wins in the UK, especially on Frodon in the Ryanair Chase, but over in Ireland there is another rider who is deserving of even higher praise. Rachael Blackmore has enjoyed a stunning rise over the past 18 months and that reached a crescendo at Cheltenham when she won two races, including the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett.

Blackmore tasted Prestbury Park success on A Plus Tard and Minella Indo at the four-day spectacular in the spring, and it was just reward for a brilliant rider. A total of 90 winners last season saw her finish only behind Paul Townend in the Irish Jumps Jockeys Championship, and there is now a real possibility that she can challenge for the title in the next few years.

Those within the sport already knew just how good Rachael Blackmore was in the saddle, but her Cheltenham Festival wins in 2019 showcased her talent to the wider world which is a moment deserving of the highest praise. 

3. Paisley Park scorches to Cheltenham glory

Emma Lavelle, like most trainers, has long been looking for that one superstar horse to take her career into a new stratosphere, and she finally found that animal in 2019.

Paisley Park started the year with a win in the Cleeve Hurdle before heading back to Prestbury Park for a tilt at the Stayers' Hurdle. The seven-year-old started the Thursday feature as the 11/8 favourite and duly delivered a fantastic performance to bounce up the hill in one of the performances of the week.

The Andrew Gemmell-owned star stamped his authority on a division which has looked a little thin on the ground in recent years, and there is every chance he can go on to dominate the race in the style of Inglis Drever and Big Buck's. It was one of the feel-good stories of 2019, with his owner also capturing the public attention with his brilliant celebrations and sheer love of the game.

Too often these days we see the sport dominated by the powerhouse-trained stars, which made the Lavelle victory all the more enjoyable. A fantastic trainer finally got her chance in the sun and she took it in stunning style thanks to the brilliant Paisley Park.

2. Cyrname v Altior

Like any sport, racing thrives on big rivalries and we certainly enjoyed a heavyweight clash at Ascot back November, when the two highest-rated Jumps horses in training clashed in the 1965 Chase.

Altior was stepping up in trip for the first time having dominated the two-mile division, but he ultimately came up short against the brilliant Cyrname, who confirmed himself to be top-class with a thrilling performance. The Paul Nicholls-trained horse jumped and galloped his opponent into the ground over a course and distance he clearly loved, and it made for a stunning spectacle.

Fans of Altior were left slightly deflated after his first defeat over obstacles, but connections must be applauded for trying their stable star up in trip. It would have been easy to have avoided taking a risk with a horse who has won the last two renewals of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, but thankfully for us, we got to see a thriller.

As for Cyrname, the world now looks like his oyster, with a crack at the King George on Boxing Day the immediate target. The Ditcheat star will need to prove himself around a left-handed track at Cheltenham in March, but there is no doubt that he is a horse with a huge engine.

1. The Tiger tames Aintree (again)

2019 was a landmark year for the Grand National, as Tiger Roll became the first horse since Red Rum to win the famous race for a second time.

Fresh off another win in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, the Gordon Elliott-trained horse headed to Liverpool in the search of a place in racing immortality. There was strong support behind the Gigginstown-owned horse from the public, and he duly delivered in famous style to produce an even more impressive performance than in 2018.

The second National victory for Tiger Roll was the catalyst for wild celebrations, both at the Liverpool venue and also among the wider sporting public, as the horse made headlines around the world.

The little star with the big heart continues to build one of the greatest careers of all time, and with a third victory in in the race in 2020 firmly in his sights, the Elliott-trained superstar deserves every plaudit he attracts. Few will forget that famous day in April when the Tiger made history and there might even be more to come from Liverpool legend.

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