Racing: Avro Anson an Aintree high flier

John Cobb talks to a trainer with a calm approach to the Grand National

Being sane and sober might seem unlikely credentials to carry into the Grand National - particularly for punters - but Avro Anson will at Aintree next week because his trainer planned it that way even before the horse's birth.

Maurice Camacho has not only trained Avro Anson throughout his seven- year racing career, he bred him too. And when picking a partner for the gelding's dam, the hot-headed sprinting mare Tremellick, it was a calming influence that was deemed to be crucial.

"I was taken to see Ardross, the Ascot Gold Cup winner, in his box at stud," Camacho recalls. "Franca Vittadini [the former amateur rider] had care of him and she just got up on him, a working stallion, in his box. It was remarkable. I've never seen a stallion so calm. She was able to lead him out in just a head-collar.

"I said to myself then 'I've got a mate for you'. You've got to have them sane and sober to start with."

The long-term planning might be ready to pay off at Aintree, but it has not always been smooth progress along the path to the great steeplechase. Avro Anson, a top-class staying hurdler, provided Camacho with the greatest thrill but also the greatest disappointment of his career when veering off a straight line and being disqualified from first place in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival three years ago.

"My stepfather [the trainer Charlie Hall] told me when I started as his assistant that if I couldn't face adversity then I was to get out. Well, I've been in this game for a long time now, but I was damned disappointed all the same."

Camacho, 52 has indeed been in the business for some time, having taken out a training licence at his stables at Malton, North Yorkshire, 22 years ago. First, though, his stepfather "sent me to Timeform'', where he did four years as a comment writer for that respected firm's publications, witnessing the exploits of such great chasers as Arkle, Flyingbolt and Mill House.

A colleague at the Halifax-based firm, Brian Skirton, defected to the other side, setting up a small chain of bookmakers in Cornwall, but pledging also to have a horse in training with Camacho.

"He describes it as the worst thing he ever did," Camacho said yesterday, "but he's always had at least one horse with me and Avro Anson is one of them.

"I've always told Brian that this will be a really good horse when he matures, but he keeps asking me 'when is he going to mature then?' Well it's taken until he's nine but this is his time and we'll have him while he's 10, 11, 12, to show him at his best

"He's been a big, gawky horse with a large frame and he's only just started to fill it. But he's a hell of a lot stronger than last year. Now he really fills your eye. He's a very handsome horse."

Despite only now reaching maturity, Avro Anson, who has been in training with Camacho since his two-year-old days, has won on the Flat, over hurdles and now over fences - picking up over pounds 100,000 over obstacles.

"He lacks experience - not racing, but chasing," Camacho said. "He's had just six races over fences, but the only time he's been out of the first two was when he parted company with Peter Niven last time. But he's been over the big fences at Haydock and round the Mildmay course at Aintree, which is a very quick track, and his jumping is not a problem.

"I had his brothers and sisters and none of them needed much work so I'm not worried that he's had just the two outings this year. I've trained him for this time of the year and I don't think I've ever had him in better form."

The rain which fell at Aintree yesterday has still left the ground no softer than good, which suits Camacho and Avro Anson. "I'll be a happy man if it stays dry between now and Saturday week," Camacho said. "But it's old turf, it never gets very wet, very poached.

"I'll be even happier if Mr [Kim] Bailey leaves in the top weight, Master Oats, to keep the weights down. Then we'll be meeting some of these good horses at just about level weights instead of having to give them a few pounds."

Skirton, now semi-retired as a bookmaker, has a passion for old aeroplanes, hence the name Avro Anson. Grand National day is usually one when the bookies can cheer en masse, whatever the result, but this year there will be one set apart from his colleagues. His hopes are more than just a flight of fancy.

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'