THE McCain dynasty was passed from father Ginger to son Donald at Aintree on Saturday when Ballabriggs put in a foot-perfect round and made almost all the running to win the John Smith’s Grand National.
The 10-year-old, trained at the McCains’ Cholmondeley yard, triumphed in front of a capacity crowd of 70,000 at a sun-kissed Aintree.
It was obvious that Ballabriggs was racing with the crucial Aintree rhythm in front, but it was no one-horse race.
Five horses were in contention in the final half mile, among them last year’s winner Don’t Push It, who was a gallant third, carrying top weight.
The most serious challenge came from the second-placed horse, Oscar Time, who did range alongside Ballabriggs but was unable to overhaul the relentless gallop of the leader who scored by two and a quarter lengths and rewarded supporters with a starting price of 14/1.
McCain Jnr, whose father Ginger has four Grand National wins to his name, said: “I’ve been lucky to have been involved in the Grand National all my life and, being from the north west, you realise there’s nothing quite like the Grand National.
“We decided to pop him out and be nice and handy. The way the horse raced, he was enjoying himself. He’s big, genuine and honest. I was thrilled watching him go round.”
Jason Maguire rode the race of his life with two stiches in his elbow, resulting from a fall on Thursday.
The jockey said: ‘He took to it really well and was probably doing too much. I couldn’t believe how well he was travelling in the first half of the race.
“He enjoyed himself in front and jumped from fence to fence. He got the trip, fair play to Donald.
“Once he’d winged the Chair, he had to dig deep and another horse came alongside him. He gave his all. Once he straightened up at the elbow I knew I had the race won!”
The horse’s owner, the Jersey-based millionaire Trevor Hemmings, added: “It must be in the McCain genes. I’m lucky to win this race twice. They have believed in Ballabriggs and it was a gradual, steady path to get him here today.
‘He ran an absolute corker. Unbelievable! You can’t do more than have a horse and jockey as good as that!”
The gate to Bankhouse Stables was festooned with balloons to welcome the national winner home.
Ballabriggs enjoyed a quiet stretch around the yard on Sunday before posing for the media.
Reflecting on the previous day’s momentous victory, McCain said: “There’s no place like Aintree. It’s about trying to get a horse to peak for one day and avoid going to places that will prevent you doing that. We gave him every chance to do it.”
Grand National success has put McCain third in the national hunt trainers table for this season.
While keen to train more winners, McCain said: “I’ve got just over 100 horses in the yard and would need more than that to be champion. We’ll stick at that for now.”
Dad Ginger, trainer of legendary three-time National winner Red Rum and 2004 champion Amberleigh House, was proud to see his son carry on a family tradition.
“I am just a little bit proud of my boy,” admitted the 80-year-old. “He’s done a cracking job with this horse. If I ever meet his father I am going to congratulate him and ask him where his brains came from.”
On Sunday, the Cheshire Hunt stages its popular point-to-point fixture at Alphraham. Racing is scheduled to begin at 2pm.