In front of a sell-out Aintree crowd, Ballabriggs battled the Grand National fences to come home ahead of the field, producing a first win for trainer Donald McCain and jockey Jason Maguire.
Although a first win for the trainer, Donald hails from a family steeped in Grand National history. His father, the legendary Ginger, trained Red Rum (1973,1974 and 1977) and Amberleigh House (2004). Ginger congratulated his son, saying he’d done a “cracking job”.
The 14-1 Ballabriggs battled on strongly from the elbow in a tight race to the line with Oscar Time, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen. But Maguire denied the amateur jockey a fairytale Gold Cup/Grand National double by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
“It’s amazing, simply amazing,” said winning trainer Donald McCain. “We always felt that Ballabriggs was the right type of horse for this race and everything has gone so smoothly in his preparation.
“He is an absolute joy to deal with. We’ll have the mother and father of all parties when we get home.”
After the race Jason entered the winners’ enclosure on foot. But McCain explained the horse was just tired and dehydrated from the hot weather and would be fine.
“He travelled great but he just got tired. He gives his everything and is coming round fine. He was just very tired,” he said.
Winning jockey Jason Maguire said afterwards that he “wasn’t sure what to feel”.
“There was a bit of a question mark as to whether he’d get the trip but fair play to Donald, he has done a brilliant job. I’m just overwhelmed but I’m sure it will sink in later.”
And owner Trevor Hemmings was celebrating for a second time, owning 2005 winner Hedgehunter.
“You can’t describe the feeling, it’s just incredible,” he said.
The race was marred by the death of two horses — Dooneys Gate at Becher’s Brook and Ornais two fences earlier. This lead to both fences being removed from the second lap of the course for the first time in the race’s history.
Don’t miss H&H’s full report on all the action from Aintree in this Thursday’s magazine