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Big up for Ballabriggs repeat in Grand National
Not since the legendary Red Rum nearly 40 years ago has any horse managed to win the Grand National more than once, but Ballabriggs can re-write the record books in the John Smith’s-sponsored showpiece at Aintree today.
Like no other race, the National has a knack of producing fairytale winners and Ballabriggs fits a similar mould to Red Rum. The 1970s Merseyside hero was trained by the late Ginger McCain and Ballabriggs is handled by his son Donald. The family have featured in much Grand National history. Not only was Red Rum a triple-winner, but McCain senior won it again with Amberleigh House in 2004 and was on hand 12 months ago to join in his son’s victory celebrations. He died later in the year.
Ballabriggs, an impressive winner, has been trained with this race very much in mind. His recent outing at Kelso, in which he finished fourth, was an ideal prep race for what awaits him this afternoon.
Jason Maguire got a tremendous tune out of Ballabriggs in last year’s National and the gelding quickly adopted that crucial jumping rhythm, which is so vital in conquering this formidable four and a half miles course. He has more weight to carry this time and is one year older, but Ballabriggs has ticks in all the right boxes.
According To Pete, the big local hope, trained by in-form Malcolm Jefferson at Norton, cannot be left out of the reckoning. He finished two places in front of Ballabriggs at Kelso last month and had previously won valuable prizes at Wetherby and Haydock to prove himself in the form of his life. A sound jumper for a fairly small horse, he is an unproven stayer over this marathon distance, but he promises to give Harry Haynes a great ride.
The great Tony McCoy bids to win his second Grand National, after scoring on Don’t Push It two years ago, on Synchronized, who aims to add to his memorable Cheltenham Gold Cup win.
For all his class, Synchronized has never been the most fluent of jumpers and, although he stays extra well, his tough race at Cheltenham may count against him when the chips are down, especially under top weight.
tom's top four
1 Ballabriggs (NAP)
2 According To Pete
4 Giles Cross