McCain raises National defence

 

Bankhouse Stables, Cheshire

It rather comes under the heading "well, he would say that, wouldn't he?" But Donald McCain, the trainer of last year's Grand National winner Ballabriggs, is nonetheless robust and convincing in his defence of the Aintree marathon. And, like Mandy Rice-Davies, he most certainly speaks from experience.

Ballabriggs yesterday took pride of place at a media morning held to launch the countdown to this year's contest and discussion inevitably turned to his hard-won victory's controversial aftermath. McCain's late father, Ginger, might well have given questioners some of his trademark short shrift, but the son is more measured.

"I'd really have loved a few more people to have seen the horse the morning after the race," he said. "He came out of his box bouncing, with his ears pricked, not a hair turned, looking a million dollars. Yes, on the day he was tired, like any marathon runner at the end of a race. It was a desperately hot day and he'd given everything. But that's not something to be frowned on, he was a fit, healthy horse doing his job. He recovered quickly and the next morning looked outstanding."

The name McCain is, of course, part of National folklore; Ballabriggs followed the triple winner Red Rum and Amberleigh House, both under Ginger's care, on to the roll of honour. McCain was only six when Red Rum won for the third time, but was involved at the sharp end with Amberleigh House eight years ago.

"When he finished third he actually came in more tired than Ballabriggs did last year. But it was all out of sight, in the stables, and so there was no fuss. And he came back and won it the next year so, obviously, he too recovered."

Ginger, who died four months ago, is to be commemorated at Aintree with a bronze bust overlooking the parade ring, a permanent reminder of the National's most outspoken champion.

"It is the greatest race in the world, you don't have to be a genius to work that out," McCain said. "But those who don't like it, well, it's the same with any anti-anything, they hold views and won't change them. It's just a shame when the views are couched in ignorance, without any understanding.

"Horses can finish races tired, horses can get killed, horses can have accidents anywhere, not just at Aintree. In fact, the course is one of the most forward-thinking in the country when it comes to looking after horses.

"The changes that have been made to the fences since last year aren't going to make a huge difference to the race; it is what it is. I hope we can now draw a line in the sand because somewhere we have to stand up and say we believe in what we do."

Ballabriggs himself has not been seen on a track since last April; his season this time has been geared only towards another tilt at the £975,000 purse. Trevor Hemmings' 11-year-old will start fast work this week, with his final racecourse prep planned at Kelso in early March. He may be joined in the Kelso race by three other inmates of McCain's yard, Weird Al, Wymott and Fabalu. "I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for the National," McCain said. "Winning has been wonderful, but taking part is almost as precious."

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Araucaria (3.10 Newbury) Last month's second try over fences was a huge improvement on her first and going back up in trip on better ground may bring further progress.

Next best

Grumeti (1.00 Newbury) An impressive hurdling debut sent his Triumph Hurdle odds tumbling. More of the same is expected.

Where the money's going

Somersby is the popular pick for each-way punters ahead of Saturday's Victor Chandler Chase, at 5-1 from 13-2 with Ladbrokes.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

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