Cloudy Lane puts McCains on right road for another National

Nicholls' Mr Pointment likely to miss Liverpool but stable land feature race at Newbury

On an afternoon of mixed fortunes for Grand National contenders, Cloudy Lane produced the silver lining. After a seven-length romp in the Grimthorpe Chase, the eight-year-old is 6-1 favourite for next month's Aintree showpiece. And even if the gelding has not yet tackled the unique National fences, those closest to him are part of the fabric of the great race.

Cloudy Lane carries the colours of Trevor Hemmings, successful in 2005 with Hedgehunter, and the eight-year-old is trained by Donald McCain, whose four-time winning father Ginger needs little introduction. Red Rum was before Donald's hands-on time, but he was an integral part of Amberleigh House's preparation and now has a live chance of adding to his family's Aintree record.

The route trodden here – a three-and-a-quarter mile handicap – was the same taken by Amberleigh House before his subsequent date with immortality four years ago. But whereas his predecessor finished a staying-on fifth, Cloudy Lane put his rivals to the sword.

"All we came here for was a good solid run," the Cheshire-based McCain said. "I'd have been happy with second or third or fourth today. To win like he did was tremendous. He wouldn't have been 100 per cent fit, but he does love his work and his job."

With a strong headwind blowing down the long Town Moor straight, Jason Maguire kept Cloudy Lane covered until sending him to the front two fences out and a spectacular leap at the final obstacle sealed the issue. "It was a proper test," said the rider, "as they went a good gallop. I was travelling well all the way, and although mine is a very neat, clever jumper he was enjoying himself so much he just let fly at the last."

Progressive Cloudy Lane, who had 11st 9lb on his back yesterday but is set to carry just 10st 8lb in the National, will not run again before the big one. "I'll be ordering a bale of cotton-wool," added McCain. "He's a pleasure to have around; you keep asking him questions and he keeps coming up with the answers."

The disappointment yesterday – and a rare enough one for the Paul Nicholls stable, on the mark with Natal in Newbury's feature yesterday – was the performance of Mr Pointment, who had been vying for National favouritism with Cloudy Lane. The Ruby Walsh-ridden gelding made the running until backtracking rapidly in the straight and, with an early diagnosis of internal bleeding, his Aintree participation is in doubt.

But there was better from McKelvey, the Aintree runner-up 12 months ago, in an earlier hurdle race. The 10-year-old, who hurt a leg in the process of his gallant second place, faded to eighth here but delighted his connections after his long lay-off. "He travelled well until he ran out of puff," said trainer Peter Bowen. "He'll have one more run over hurdles, then it will be back to Aintree."

Exotic Dancer, who beat all but Kauto Star in last year's Gold Cup, is still on target for the Cheltenham showpiece after a satisfactory workout at home yesterday morning. The eight-year-old had a sore back in the week but showed no ill-effects as his big-race pilot Tony McCoy steered him up the Jackdaws Castle grass gallops.

Ireland's Gold Cup challenge may be boosted by Afistfullofdollars, impressive six-length winner of a Grade Two contest a week ago on only his fourth start over fences.

A supplementary entry, at a cost of £22,500 is under consideration for the Noel Meade-trained ten-year-old, whose stablemate Harchibald completed his Champion Hurdle preparation with an easy win an a 12-furlong Flat race at Dundalk on Friday night.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£37500 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Quantity Surveyor r...

Recruitment Genius: Digital & Print Designer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast-growing company speci...

Recruitment Genius: IT Analyst

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Riding of Yorkshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Administrator - East Ridi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable