|Brave Ballabriggs a true Grand National hero|
On an unseasonably warm spring afternoon and on ground riding appreciably quicker than the official going description of 'good', Aintree was returned to the hands of the McCain family as Donald, son of the legendary 'Ginger', added his own name to the list of winning trainers courtesy of the tough as teak Ballabriggs who triumphed in a pulsating finish from the gallant Oscar Time in a race to remember, writes Elliot Slater.
Prominent throughout the gruelling four-and-a-half-mile contest, Ballabriggs took a definite lead after The Chair under a superb ride from Jason Maguire and apart from one mistake at Valentine's on the second circuit put up a tremendous display of jumping as he dominated the race from the front, dictating the pace, cutting corners and being in the perfect position throughout.
In behind, many of the big names appeared with live chances as they turned for home with two to jump. Last year's winner Don't Push It (who eventually finished an honourable third) had every chance, Big Fella Thanks was in there pitching before fading, but it was the Sam Waley-Cohen ridden Oscar Time who could be named the biggest danger to Ballabriggs some way out and who eventually threw down what looked a winning challenge as he drew virtually alongside the front-runner rounding The Elbow.
To Ballabriggs' eternal credit, and to the delight of those who had backed him in the online horse racing betting markets, he found extra when challenged, and though Oscar Time gave it his all he couldn't get by the Trevor Hemmings-owned hero who prevailed by two-and-a-quarter lengths, the pair 12-lengths clear of Don't Push It, with the gallant State of Play staying on from a mile back to run a blinder in fourth, finishing in the places for the third year running.
Dismounted immediately after crossing the line after showing signs of dehydration and exhaustion, Ballabbriggs didn't make it to the winners' enclosure but was soon reported to be fine, if very tired, after his sterling effort. As for Donald McCain, the boy who grew up as the son of the man who trained the great triple Grand National winner Red Rum, he has now proved himself on the biggest stage of all as nothing less than the equal of his legendary father.