THE FIRST 10 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL FACTFILES

 

BALLABRIGGS (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Presenting – Papoose (IRE) (Little Bighorn)

12-11-04  Form: 50220/6S22F212/0/3111/1121/46-P73  Owner: Trevor Hemmings

Trainer: Donald McCain  Breeder: Mrs Sarah Jackson

Ballabriggs

The 2011 John Smith’s Grand National winner Ballabriggs was born in CountyTipperary on April 27, 2001. John Brady paid IR£12,000 for him as a foal at Goffs in December, 2001, and sold the youngster on to Highflyer Bloodstock, acting for owner Trevor Hemmings, for 32,000 euros at Tattersalls Ireland the following November. Ballabriggs was allowed to develop at two of Hemmings’ studs, firstly Monymusk Stud in Ireland and then Gleadhill House Stud near Chorley in Lancashire. Ballabriggs was named after a property on Hemmings’ estate in the Isle of Man. The horse went into training with the late Ginger McCain in Cheshire at the end of 2005 and by the time Ballabriggs made a low-key racecourse debut Donald McCain had taken over responsibility for the licence from his father. The first run resulted in fifth place in a Uttoxeter bumper in May, 2006. He finished 10th of 14 on his hurdle bow at the same course that December. The Presenting gelding contested four more hurdle races before switching to fences, finishing runner-up twice over two and a half miles, but failing to win. He slipped up on a bend on his first chase start at Bangor in December, 2007, and then posted three seconds at around two and a half miles plus a first fence fall before breaking his duck in an extended three-mile beginners’ chase on soft ground at Bangor in March, 2008. He enjoyed another runner-up finish in a valuable novice handicap chase at Ayr in April that year, behind subsequent Scottish Grand National hero Merigo. After a below-par effort in a handicap chase on his reappearance at Haydock in November, 2008, when heavily eased down, Ballabriggs was off the course for over a year until returning with a third in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter in December, 2009. He then gained three straight wins over fences in handicap chases. There were easy triumphs at Catterick (January 22, 2010) and Ayr (February 13, 2010), followed by a much tougher task in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival where he prevailed by half a length. With the John Smith’s Grand National firmly on the agenda, he was not seen again until January 2011, when annexing novices’ hurdles at Wincanton (January 8) and at Ayr on January 31. He returned to fences for his final run before Aintree in the Premier Chase at Kelso on March 5 but was beaten at 8/13 by fellow John Smith’s Grand National aspirant Skippers Brig. The run put him spot on for Aintree where he disputed for the lead throughout before drawing away after the last fence for a two and a quarter length success over Oscar Time to give owner Trevor Hemmings a second John Smith’s Grand National success after Hedgehunter in 2005. Another crack at the John Smith’s Grand National was Ballabriggs’ primary objective for the 2011/12 season. He reappeared in the Premier Chase at Kelso on March 3 and shaped nicely, making smooth headway to lead at the final fence before finishing fourth, beaten nine and a quarter lengths. Aintree brought the best out of Ballabriggs and he was still in contention rounding the home turn, but the 10lb rise in the handicap took its toll over the final two fences and he came home a gallant sixth. Ballabriggs failed to shine in his first two outings this season – pulled up in the Betfred Becher Chase over the big fences at Aintree on his return in December and last of seven in an extended two and a half mile Warwick handicap chase on February 9. He showed more sparkle back at Kelso in the Premier Chase on March 2, finishing 10 lengths third and is on target for his third John Smith’s Grand National on April 6. Race Record: Starts: 27; Wins: 7; 2nd; 7; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £624,049

 

Trevor Hemmings CVO

Dual John Smith’s Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings, who was born on June 11, 1935, boasts a classic rags-to-riches story. Brought up in Woolwich Arsenal, south east London, where his father worked at the Royal Ordnance factory, Trevor was sent to Lancashire as a five-year-old during World War II and became a bricklayer’s apprentice after leaving school aged 15, before getting involved in the Pontins holiday business. He eventually owned Pontins and sold it to Scottish & Newcastle in exchange for a significant share holding in S & N (in 1989). He bought Pontins back in 2000 but retained a stake in S & N, which netted him £218 million when the company was sold in January, 2008. In 2012, he sold his major shareholding in Arena Leisure Plc, which owned Folkestone, Lingfield, Southwell, Wolverhampton and Windsor racecourses and managed Doncaster and Worcester, to the Reuben brothers. Arena also has a major part of specialist broadcaster At The Races which owns some of British racing’s media rights. This followed on from him selling BlackpoolTower and the Winter Gardens to the North   West resort’s town council for £40 million in March, 2010. He also owns a share of Preston North End FC and is chairman of the TJH Foundation, a charity which makes grants to organisations such as Macmillan Cancer Relief, St John Ambulance, Crimestoppers Trust, Royal National Lifeboat Association, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and Racing Welfare. In 2011, he was appointed a Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO) for his work as vice-president of the Princess Royal Trust Carers. In 2012, the Sunday Times estimated Hemmings’ wealth at £575 million, £25 million more than the 2011 figure. Hemmings fulfilled one of his greatest ambitions when Hedgehunter carried his colours to victory in the 2005 John Smith’s Grand National. After years of trying, Hemmings had finally emulated his mentor Fred Pontin, owner of the 1971 National hero Specify, with his 13th Grand National runner. Ballabriggs added a memorable second John Smith’s Grand National success in 2011. His first winner came on the Flat in 1985 but Hemmings now brings on young jumping stock at Gleadhill House Stud, near Chorley, Lancashire, managed by former trainer Mick Meagher, and at his Monymusk Stud in Co Cork. He first tried to win the John Smith’s Grand National with the Stan Mellor-trained Rubika, who finished 14th in 1992. Hemmings, who was made an honorary Jockey Club member in December, 2006, is based on the Isle of Man and is said to have paid £12 million for the Ballavoddan estate on the island where his retired horses live. He enjoyed doubles at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005 (Trabolgan & Juveigneur), in 2007 (Andreas & Cloudy Lane), in 2008 (Albertas Run & Old Benny) and 2010 ( Albertas Run & Ballabriggs). Albertas Run added a second Ryanair Chase victory in 2011 and a further Grade One win in the 2010 John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree. Hemmings had his 10th Cheltenham Festival success this year with Carrickboy, who captured the Byrne Group Plate at 50/1. As well as those already mentioned, his best horses have been  BurtonPort, Young Kenny, Blue Shark, Afsoun, Turpin Green, Arctic Jack, The Last Fling and Simply Supreme. His best season numerically came in 2007/08 when his horses triumphed in 51 races in Britain and Ireland. He has over 50 horses in training, spread across at least 14 trainers. He also has eventers who are ridden by Zara Phillips. John Smith’s John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1992 Rubika (14th); 2000 The Last Fling (7th); Esprit De Cotte (Fell 22nd); 2001 The Last Fling (UR 5th), Esprit De Cotte (UR 11th); 2002 Goguenard (Fell 1st), Beau (UR 14th); 2003 Southern Star (14th), Chives (PU bef 12th); 2004 Arctic Jack (Fell 1st), Southern Star (PU bef 9th), Hedgehunter (Fell 30th); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON), Europa (20th); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd), Juveigneur (Fell 1st), 2007 Hedgehunter (9th), Billyvoddan (PU bef 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th), Hedgehunter (13th), Idle Talk (14th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Battlecry (16th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th); 2011 BALLABRIGGS (WON), King Fontaine (11th); 2012 Ballabriggs (6th)

 

Donald McCain Jnr (Cholmondeley, Cheshire)

Born on June 13, 1970, Donald McCain Jnr is the son of the late Ginger McCain, trainer of the legendary Red Rum, the only horse to win the John Smith’s Grand National three times (1973, 1974 and 1977) and also Amberleigh House, the 2004 victor. Ginger McCain died at the age of 80 on September 19, 2011. Donald learnt to ride on his sister Joanne’s pony Gambol and rode in his first race on the Flat aged 15 (his father told a few white lies) at HaydockPark. He became a jump jockey, firstly as an amateur and then a professional, partnering around 40 winners under Rules. He rode several times over the Grand National fences, finishing fifth aboard Harley in the 1992 Fox Hunters’ Chase and 17th on Sure Metal in the 1996 Grand National. He also worked for trainers Luca Cumani, Sir Michael Stoute and Oliver Sherwood. Donald subsequently became assistant trainer to his father at Bankhouse Stables at Cholmondeley in Cheshire and played a significant role in Amberleigh House’s Grand National victory in 2004. He was expected to take over the licence from his father at the start of the 2006/7 jump season, but had to wait until June, 2006 as he needed to complete the appropriate British Horseracing Authority courses. Donald’s first winner as a trainer came with Bearaway in a handicap chase at Newton Abbot on June 8, 2006. He secured his first Cheltenham Festival triumph with Cloudy Lane in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase in 2007 and enjoyed 40 winners in his first campaign. In the 2007/08 season, he had 58 successes and a second Cheltenham Festival success with Whiteoak in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, while the 2008/09 haul of 62 winners included Cloudy Lane’s victory in the Peter Marsh Chase at HaydockPark. The 2009/10 season brought further success with a double at the Cheltenham Festival thanks to Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and Ballabriggs in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, and a career-best 88 winners. The 2010/11 season yielded 100 winners including the John Smith’s Grand National when Ballabriggs stayed on gamely to score by two and a quarter lengths, while Peddlers Cross and Overturn also provided a number of highlights. Peddlers Cross  landed the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle and was a gallant runner-up in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Overturn took the Northumberland Plate on the Flat in June and added the Galway Hurdle a month later. McCain sent out 153 winners last term and Overturn was the flag bearer for the yard, gaining his first success at Grade One level in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and finishing second in the Champion Hurdle, while Cinders And Ashes annexed the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He has saddled 129 winners (March 21) so far this jump season, with Overturn becoming a smart novice chaser, winning three of his four starts impressively. He plans to run three horses in this year’s John Smith’s Grand National – Across the Bay, Ballabriggs and Weird Al, with CloudyBay targeted again at the John Smith’s Fox Hunters which he won last year. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Idle Talk (UR 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th), Idle Talk (14th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th), 2011 BALLABRIGGS (WON); 2012 Ballabriggs (6th), Weird Al (Fell 27th)

 

 

CAPPA BLEU (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Pistolet Bleu - Cappagale (Strong Gale)

11-10-11  Form: 1/3F2P/1334-22 Owners: William and Angela Rucker

Trainer: Evan Williams Breeder: Thomas O’Connor

 

Cappa Bleu

Cappa Bleu was born on June 6, 2002 in Ireland for breeders Thomas and Eileen O’Connor and he raced for the family in Irish point-to-points. He made his debut at Tullow on February 10, 2008, when he fell at the penultimate fence. He returned seven days later at Knockanard and showed promise in second behind Dreamy Sweeney before breaking his maiden tag at Kilworth point-to-point in comfortable fashion. He returned after a short break, at Ballybunion point-to-point, winning well despite heavy ground. Shropshire-based trainer Sheila Crow, who had first taken interest in the horse when Cappa Bleu was entered in a sale but then withdrawn, was looking on behalf of owners William and Angela Rucker, and went to Ireland to buy him. A deal was struck but the horse became ill travelling to England. It was touch and go whether he would survive, but he did and, following a brace of point-to-point victories, he was sent to the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival where, despite his relative inexperience, he annihilated the field to win by 12 lengths. He switched from Crow to Evan Williams for a campaign geared around a return to The Festival for chasing’s Blue Riband, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, the 2009/2010 season didn’t pan out as expected. After finishing third of five on his seasonal return at Aintree over two and a half miles of the Mildmay Course in late October, he lined up in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury but fell at the 15th when beaten. The fall reportedly knocked his confidence and he returned in February in a three-mile novices’ hurdle at Taunton, finishing second. Connections were encouraged enough to run him in the three-mile Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival, but he was found wanting, being pulled up before the last. He left Williams and rejoined Crow for the 2010/11 season to participate in some point-to-pointing so that he could regain his confidence. That nine-month spell appeared to be a shrewd move, because he hasn’t finished out of the frame in six subsequent starts over fences. Cappa Bleu made a winning return for Williams in a valuable three-mile handicap chase at Haydock in November, 2011, before thirds in the Coral Welsh Grand National in late December and a Listed handicap chase at Ascot in February, 2012. He did well in last season’s John Smith’s Grand National, running on strongly to take fourth after encountering trouble on the first circuit. With the world’s greatest chase again the target for the 11-year-old, he has only run twice this season, chasing home fellow John Smith’s Grand National aspirant Across The Bay in a graduation chase at Carlisle in November and finishing second, beaten two and a half lengths, by Vino Griego in a Listed three-mile handicap chase at Ascot on February 13.

Race Record: Starts: 11; Wins: 2; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £122,561

 

William and Angela Rucker

William Rucker, born on June 18, 1963, is chief executive of Lazard London operations and has been since June, 2004. He is also deputy chief executive of the European investment banking business at Lazard. The bank dates back to 1848 and is one of the world’s pre-eminent financial advisory and asset management firms, operating from 40 cities across 24 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Central and South America. William joined Lazard in 1987, having previously qualified as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen. He is also non-executive chairman of Quintain Estates and Development plc and Crest Nicholson Holdings Ltd, and was a non-executive director of Rentokil Initial from 2008 to March, 2013. His wife Angela is from a legendary point-to-point family, being the grand-daughter of Major Harold Rushton, who rode 86 winners, and the daughter of Pat Tollitt, who rode 171 winners between the flags and was champion lady rider on six occasions. Angela herself is also a talented rider and trains pointers. The Ruckers are based at Himbleton in Worcestershire and also have horses with Fergal O’Brien and a variety of point-to-point trainers, including Sheila Crow, who trained their Cappa Bleu to win the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. Horses that progress to run under Rules are principally sent to Evan Williams, who has been well supported by Angela’s family since he began training in 2003. Major winners for owner and trainer include State Of Play, who won the 2006 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November, 2008. State Of Play became a Grand National stalwart by finishing fourth to Mon Mome in the 2009 John Smith’s Grand National, third behind Don’t Push It in the 2010 and fourth behind Ballabriggs in the 2011 renewal. High Chimes landed the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase for them at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival. They have about 20 horses in training.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd); 2011 State Of Play (4th); 2012 Cappa Bleu (4th); State Of Play (UR 5th)

 

Evan Williams (Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan)

Unrelated to the winning jockey of the 1937 Grand National who bears the same name and also hails from the Cowbridge area of South Wales, Evan Williams was born on April 3, 1971, on his family’s farm in the village of Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan. He used to get up at dawn to milk the cows before going to school. He took over the running of the farm full-time when he was 17, concentrating firstly on dairy farming and then beef when the price of milk dropped. He also started training a few point-to-pointers in 1997 but the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 decimated his herd and restrictions on the movement of livestock wiped out the point-to-point season. Williams sold his cattle at a loss after the outbreak and went to Ireland to buy 18 horses with the proceeds, going on to be champion point-to-point trainer and jockey in 2002. He rode and trained over 200 point-to-point winners. He took out his full training licence the following year and rode his first winner, Cherry Gold, in a hunters’ chase at Chepstow on April 22, 2003. Williams enjoyed his first big-race success at the same course in December of that year, when saddling Sunray to win the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at odds of 40/1. The winners continued to flow and Williams shot to national prominence with State Of Play, who followed up success in a handicap chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting in April, 2006, with victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury seven months later. The chaser went on to triumph in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in 2008, while other big-race success has arrived courtesy of High Chimes, who gave Williams a first Cheltenham Festival winner in the 2008 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, and Grade Two scorers Deep Purple and Simarian. In the 2009/10 season, Barizan emerged as a top-class juvenile hurdler, winning a Grade One at Punchestown after finishing second in both the JCB Triumph Hurdle and in the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree. Williams enjoyed his best season in terms of winners in 2010/11, with 90 successes and had 89 victories in Britain and Ireland in 2011/12. State Of Play did him proud in the John Smith’s Grand National – finishing fourth in 2009, third in 2010 and fourth in 2011 before unseating his rider in 2012 when Cappa Bleu ran fourth. Williams is assisted by top amateur James Tudor, who was champion point-to-point rider in 2007 and partnered High Chimes to his Cheltenham success. He is married to Cath who continued to train point-to-pointers after he took out his professional licence, saddling over 50 winners in two seasons including the prolific CannonBridge, who chalked up nine wins in a single campaign. They have three children William, Isabel and Ellie. Evan is the son of former amateur jockey Rhys Williams. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd); 2011 State Of Play (4th); 2012 Cappa Bleu (4th); State Of Play (UR 5th); Deep Purple (PU 19th)

 

CHICAGO GREY (IRE) FACTFILE

gr g Luso – Carrigeen Acer (IRE) (Lord Americo)

10-10-07  Form: 533/230261/13105/313211F2510/U3032B-0F631 Owner: John Earls

Trainer: Gordon Elliott IRE  Breeder: Anne Lalor

 

Chicago Grey

Chicago Grey, born on March 6, 2003, was bred by Dick and Anne Lalor, who have been breeding horses with the prefix Carrigeen for more than 30 years at their yard at Lisronagh, County   Tipperary, Ireland. The Luso gelding made his debut for trainer Noel Glynn in a Leopardstown bumper in December, 2007, in which he finished seventh under Dick and Anne’s daughter Liz, and subsequently came home third in similar contests at Punchestown and Cork. He was sent hurdling for the 2008/2009 campaign and went down by a short-head on his first start over the smaller obstacles at Fairyhouse in November, 2008, but failed to improve on that effort in four subsequent starts for Noel Glynn. Chicago Grey joined Gordon Elliott in the spring of 2009 and made a winning debut for his new trainer with a comprehensive victory for owner John Earls in a Perth, Scotland, maiden hurdle that April. He followed up with another victory at Thurles in November, 2009, and ran well to take third in the Grade Two Tara Hurdle at Navan the following month. He claimed the notable scalp of Mourad in a Listed hurdle at Thurles later the same month but failed to shine in two subsequent hurdle starts, in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival and a Grade Three contest at Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting. Chicago Grey was sent chasing for the summer of 2010 and he posted a neck success over Prince Erik in a Galway beginners’ chase that July before going on to further victories at Navan in September and at Cheltenham in October. He headed back to PrestburyPark for his next two starts, falling at the second last when staying on well in November and filling the runner-up spot behind Time For Rupert a month later. He ran a good race to take fifth in the Grade One Fort Leney Novice Chase at Leopardstown later the same month and was given a break prior to recording the biggest success of his career to date in the National Hunt Chase at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, when he readily beat Beshabar by four and a half lengths. He failed to reproduce that form on his next outing as he could only finish eighth behind Beshabar in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. He unseated Paul Carberry on his first appearance of the following season in a Cheltenham handicap chase and raced at Wetherby two weeks later, coming home third behind Weird Al in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase, but trailed home last in a handicap chase at Cheltenham the following month. He returned to hurdles to finish third in a Grade Two contest at GowranPark in January 2012 and warmed up for last year’s John Smith Grand National at the same course on February 18, when he took second behind Rubi Light in the Grade Two Red Mills Chase. He only got as far as the fifth in the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National when he was brought down by the fall of Rare Bob. After two disappointing efforts this season at Cheltenham and Down Royal, he shaped better when sixth in a Grade Three handicap chase at Cheltenham on November 12. The 10-year-old came home a remote third in the Grade Two Galmoy Hurdle at GowranPark on January 24, but bounced back with a classy two and a half length victory in the Grade Two Red Mills Trial Chase at Navan on February 19.

Race Record: Starts: 36; Wins: 8; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 9; Win & Place Prize Money: £164,913

 

John Earls

John Earls, who was born in May, 1961, founded Earls Engineering Kiltullagh Ltd in 1983 and the Galway-based company specialises in constructing and erecting steel frame buildings including equestrian stables, workshops, industrial units and spectator stands. He has been involved in owning and breeding horses for over 20 years, although he had to wait until July, 2007, to enjoy a first success as Hoopy, who he also bred, scored for trainer Noel Glynn in a novices’ hurdle at Roscommon. Earls has been a keen supporter of Gordon Elliott since the trainer took out a licence 2006 and the pair have combined for numerous successes over the past few seasons, most notably with Hoopy and Chicago Grey, who won the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2011. Earls’ son Sean was formerly a pupil assistant with the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain and now trains point-to-pointers at Earls’ own yard in Galway. Earls has also had horses in training in Britain with Richard Guest, who rode Red Marauder to victory in the John Smith’s Grand National in 2001, and Cork-based Susan Finn.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2012 Chicago Grey (BD 5th)

Gordon Elliott IRE (Trim, County Meath)

Born on March 2, 1978, in Summerhill, Co Meath, Gordon Elliott was a successful point-to-point rider, who also partnered winners under Rules. He started his racing career while still at school, working at Tony Martin’s stable in CountyMeath. From there, he moved to Britain, joining Martin Pipe in 2002, and during his spell in Somerset his six rides as an amateur included one winner. Elliott then returned to Ireland for another term at Martin’s stables. In 2004, Barry Callaghan bought Capranny Stables at Trim in CountyMeath. When Elliott started his training career, early in 2006, those stables became his base although he moved to a new yard at nearby Longwood in October, 2012. Elliott’s first runner under Rules came at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival, when BrandonMountain was pulled up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle. He continued to send runners over to the UK and enjoyed almost instant success, most notably with Arresting, who notched up four victories between May and July, 2006. Elliott’s John Smith’s Grand National victory with Silver Birch in 2007 was remarkable not only because he was only 29 at the time, but also because he had yet to saddle a winner in his native country. The winners in Ireland soon followed and Elliott enjoyed big-race success with the former Epsom Derby fifth SalfordCity, who won the Grade Two Tipperary Hurdle in October, 2007. Elliott saddled SalfordCity to finish third in a Grade Two chase at Saratoga, USA, in August, 2008, and the gelding also contested the Grade One New York Turf Writers Cup Chase at the same course three weeks later. Elliott recorded an initial Grade One victory with Jessies Dream in the Drinmore Novice Chase in December, 2010, and celebrated his first Cheltenham Festival successes in 2011 with Chicago Grey in the National Hunt Chase and Carlito Brigante in the Coral Cup. He enjoyed more Cheltenham Festival success this year when Flaxen Flare captured the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. The trainer has also had a major Flat victory with Dirar in the 2010 Ebor at York.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 SILVER BIRCH (WON); 2009 Silver Birch (Fell 22nd); 2010 Backstage (UR 20th); 2011 Backstage (10th); 2012 Tharawaat (8th), Chicago Grey (BD 5th)

 

 

ON HIS OWN (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Presenting – Shuil Na Mhuire (IRE) (Roselier (FR))

9-11-00  Form: 10/414P1/B1F-1  Owner: Andrea & Graham Wylie

Trainer: Willie Mullins IRE  Breeder: Margaret Treacy

 

On His Own

On His Own, born on July 10, 2004, was bred by Margaret Treacy from Killeagh, Co Cork. and made a winning debut for owner/trainer Oliver McKiernan in a point-to-point at Maralin, Ireland, in October, 2009, and the Presenting gelding also enjoyed a winning start to his career under Rules when taking a Leopardstown bumper in December of the same year. He was bought by trainer Howard Johnson, acting on behalf of Andrea and Graham Wylie, for a then-record £240,000 at Brightwells’ January Sale at Cheltenham in January, 2010. On His Own was pitched into Grade One company for his first start for the Wylies and Johnson but faded to come home 18th of 24 behind Cue Card in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival. He made just one start over hurdles, finishing fourth behind Bobs Worth in a Cheltenham novices’ hurdle on New Year’s Day, 2011, before a successful debut over fences two weeks later with a comfortable success over previous Scottish Grand National runner-up Nine De Sivola in a beginners’ chase at Musselburgh. He was pulled up in the National Hunt Chase at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival but ended the season on a high note with an impressive victory in a novices’ handicap chase at Ayr’s Scottish National meeting. On His Own was transferred to the care of Willie Mullins for the start of the 2011/2012 season, after Johnson was disqualified from training. He was brought down when beaten at the penultimate fence in the valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown on December 27, 2011, his first start for Ireland’s champion trainer. The lightly-raced horse was well fancied for last season’s John Smith’s Grand National after being the easy 13-length winner of the Thyestes Chase at GowranPark in January, 2012, but fell when still travelling well at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. Connections were encouraged by that performance and he has been trained for Aintree showpiece again this season. He annexed the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle over an extended two and a half miles on his seasonal return at Navan on February 19 and is 8/1 ante-post favourite (March 22) for the John Smith’s Grand National, with official betting partner Betfred.

Race Record: Starts: 11; Wins: 5; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £86,894

 

Andrea & Graham Wylie

Multi-millionaire Graham Wylie, 53, made his money in the computer software industry. After graduating from NewcastleUniversity in 1980 with a degree in computer science and statistics, he founded Sage in 1981 with David Goldman, Phil Lever and Paul Muller, selling accountancy software. The company grew through acquisition, floated on the stock exchange in 1989 and continued to get bigger. After stepping down as managing director of Sage in May, 2003, Wylie sold a number of his shares and gained over £120 million. Wylie is the son of Scottish parents – his father was a coalminer from Stirling and his mother a seamstress from Hawick, where Wylie was born in 1959. A huge Newcastle United fan, he married his second wife Andrea Stone at Slaley Hall, Northumberland in May, 2003 – the event was described as the “north-east’s wedding of the decade,” and was attended by over 250 guests, including Alan Shearer and Sir Bobby Robson. Pop superstar Ronan Keating performed at the couple’s wedding (for a reputed £175,000), singing When You Say Nothing At All, from the 1999 film Notting Hill, which the couple saw on their first date. The first horse the pair owned – a flashy grey picked out at Howard Johnson’s CountyDurham stable – was Lord Transcend, named after Andrea’s hair and beauty salon in Hexham. Lord Transcend won at 33/1 on his debut at Newcastle in March, 2002, and went on to prove himself a high-class horse over hurdles and fences, winning six times in all, before a leg injury sustained at Haydock in January, 2006, cut short his racing career. Having caught the ‘racing bug’ through the success of Lord Transcend, Graham and Andrea Wylie invested millions of pounds and built up a large string in training with Howard Johnson. At Doncaster’s 2003 May Sale, Graham Wylie set a then record for a jump horse when paying 340,000 guineas for Royal Rosa, which was a wedding present for his wife. He enjoyed a superb Cheltenham Festival in 2005, taking the Ladbrokes World Hurdle with Inglis Drever, the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Arcalis and the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle with No Refuge. In 2007, Inglis Drever reclaimed his Ladbrokes World Hurdle title and in 2008 became the first horse to win the race for a third time. Inglis Drever’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle triumph was the highlight of a fantastic 2008 Cheltenham Festival for the Wylies as TidalBay also won the Racing Post Arkle Chase. Howard Johnson was banned from racing for four years in August, 2011, and as a result, the Wylies reduced their 60-strong string in half and sent 12 to British jump champion Paul Nicholls and seven to Irish jump champion Willie Mullins. The partnership with both trainers has flourished, with Nicholls sending out TidalBay to win a number of big prizes including this season’s Grade One Lexus Chase, while Mullins has saddled Boston Bob and Back In Focus to win Grade One novice chases since the turn of the year. The latter also formed part of a double for Mullins and the Wylies at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with Back In Focus winning the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase and Briar Hill storming home to land the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. Graham Wylie founded a new company, Technology Services Group (TSG), in 2003. He owns Close House Country Club and golf course and Gosforth Shopping Centre, and was awarded a CBE for his services to industry in the 2004 New Year’s Honours list. Graham’s contribution to the North East region has been acknowledged by the award of honorary doctorates by both the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and NorthumbrianUniversity, and the freedom of the city of Newcastle. The Sunday Times Rich List in 2012 estimated he is worth £180 million. The Wylies live close to Hexham in Northumberland and Andrea, 40, has also excelled at showing dogs (www.transcendshowdogs.com), another interest they share, winning the best of breed prize at Crufts this year with her Maltese dog Hi-Lite Come Dance With Me. The couple’s twin daughters Kiera and Zahra were born in December, 2009. Kiera was born with a defective heart, which has led the Wylies to fund raise for the heart unit at Newcastle’s FreemanHospital among other charitable endeavours. On His Own ran last year at Aintree in the colours of Semore Kurdi after the north-east businessman purchased a one-day lease of the horse in a charity auction in May, 2011. Graham Wylie had originally intended to lease Prince De Beauchene, also trained by Willie Mullins but an injury to his leading hope stopped that intention. Wylie offered the prize to raise money for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund at Newcastle’s FreemanHospital, where his daughter Kiera underwent three major and successful operations.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Bewleys Berry (Fell 22nd); 2008 Bewleys Berry (5th), Backbeat (Fell 2nd); 2010 Royal Rosa (UR 14th); 2011 Tidal Bay (UR 10th); 2012 On His Own (leased for the day & Fell 22nd)

 

Willie Mullins IRE (Bagenalstown, County Carlow)

Born on September 15, 1956, Willie Mullins was six-time amateur champion rider in Ireland and his major successes in the saddle included the 1983 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree on Atha Cliath when the also-rans were partnered by the likes of Robert Waley-Cohen, chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, and Aintree chairman Lord Daresbury. He took out a training licence in 1988 and is now the country’s pre-eminent jump handler. As a jockey in the John Smith’s Grand National, his rides included The Ladys Master, who ran out in 1983, and Hazy Dawn, who fell at the sixth the following year. He hails from one of Ireland’s most famous racing families, being a son of the late Paddy Mullins, the outstanding all-round trainer whose most famous star was Dawn Run, winner of the 1984 Champion Hurdle and 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Willie Mullins rode and trained Wither Or Which to win the 1996 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, the Cheltenham Festival race in which he has enjoyed eight winners as a trainer (also Florida Pearl 1997, Alexander Banquet 1998, Joe Cullen 2000, Missed That 2005, Cousin Vinny 2008, Champagne Fever 2012 and Briar Hill 2013). Mullins’ best chaser to date has been Florida Pearl, who was placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups, won the 1998 RSA Chase, the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 Irish Hennessy Cognac Gold Cups in Ireland as well as the 2001 King George VI Chase and the 2002 Betfred Bowl at Aintree. He trains the brilliant Hurricane Fly who has won the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 2011 and 2013. He has saddled 29 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, more than any other Irish handler in history. Mullins has over 150 horses at his Closutton yard near Bagenalstown in Co Carlow and his first John Smith’s Grand National runner as a trainer, Micko’s Dream, fell at the first in 2000. The loquacious Mullins, a former chairman of the Irish Trainers’ Federation, also suffered heartache in 2004 when Hedgehunter departed at the final fence in the John Smith’s Grand National when looking assured of a place. He overcame bad luck in the race the following year when Hedgehunter came home 14 lengths clear of Royal Auclair. He has been champion Irish jump trainer for the past five seasons and is on course for a sixth title in 2012/2013 after surpassing Aidan O’Brien’s total of 155 winners in a season with a double at Fairyhouse on February 23.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2000 Micko’s Dream (Fell 1st); 2002 Alexander Banquet (UR 6th); 2004 Alexander Banquet (Fell 18th), Hedgehunter (Fell 30th); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd); 2007 Hedgehunter (9th), Homer Wells (PU bef 22nd), Bothar Na (PU bef 29th), Livingstonebramble (UR 6th); 2008 Snowy Morning (3rd), Hedgehunter (13th); 2009 Snowy Morning (9th), Irish Invader (11th); 2010 Snowy Morning (6th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th); 2011 The Midnight Club (6th), Dooney’s Gate (Fell 6th), Arbor Supreme (Fell 28 th); 2012 The Midnight Club (11th), Quiscover Fontaine (Fell 17th), On His Own (Fell 22nd)

 

 

PRINCE DE BEAUCHENE (FR) FACTFILE

b g French Glory – Chipie D’Angron (FR) (Grand Tesor (FR))

10-11-07  Form: 13311/321/271/U5351/51-12  Owner: Andrea & Graham Wylie

Trainer: Willie Mullins IRE  Breeder: Raymond Bellanger

 

Prince De Beauchene

Prince De Beauchene, born on March 23, 2003, is out of Raymond Bellanger’s Chipie D’Angron and is a half-brother to 2007 Welsh Grand National winner Miko De Beauchene and this season’s Classic Chase scorer Rigadin De Beauchene. His racing career started in France and he won on two of his three starts in AQPS Flat races before a comfortable victory on his second chase start at Pau in December, 2007. After finishing third in a chase at Auteuil in May, 2008, he was bought for 200,000 euros at Arqana’s Vente d’Ete in July by Bobby O’Ryan on behalf of Andrea and Graham Wylie and sent to trainer Howard Johnson. Prince De Beauchene made an encouraging debut for connections when second in an introductory hurdle at Kelso in November, 2008, and got off the mark two months later in a two and a half mile novices’ hurdle at Ayr. He didn’t run again that season and, after finishing second in an extended three-mile handicap chase at Carlisle on his reappearance, he disappointed in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in February, 2010. After a short break, he got back to winning ways in valuable two and a half mile handicap chase at Haydock in April. The 2010/2011 started poorly, as Prince De Beauchene unseated his rider in a graduation chase at Carlisle in November before failing to make an impact in handicap chases at Newbury and Chepstow. The lightly-raced horse showed promise when a close fifth in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury in March and duly built on that the following month with a gusty victory in the Listed John Smith’s Handicap Chase over three miles and a furlong of the Mildmay course at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting. Howard Johnson was banned from racing for four years in August, 2011, and as a result, Prince De Beauchene was one of seven horses owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie sent to Irish champion jump trainer Willie Mullins. He was favourite for the hugely competitive Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan in November, 2011, and ran a respectable race to finish fifth. Despite this slight reverse, he was stepped up to Grade Two company in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on February 25, 2012, and rewarded favourite backers with an easy six-length success. That display propelled him to the head of the ante-post markets for the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National but he was ruled out of the showpiece two weeks before with a stress fracture of the ilium (hip area). The 10-year-old returned this season with an impressive three-length victory in a two mile, three furlong hurdle contest at Limerick on December 27, 2012. He completed his preparation for this year’s John Smith’s Grand National with second behind the classy Roi Du Mee in the Bobbyjo Chase on February 23.

Race Record: Starts: 20; Wins: 8; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £144,156

 

Andrea & Graham Wylie

Multi-millionaire Graham Wylie, 53, made his money in the computer software industry. After graduating from NewcastleUniversity in 1980 with a degree in computer science and statistics, he founded Sage in 1981 with David Goldman, Phil Lever and Paul Muller, selling accountancy software. The company grew through acquisition, floated on the stock exchange in 1989 and continued to get bigger. After stepping down as managing director of Sage in May, 2003, Wylie sold a number of his shares and gained over £120 million. Wylie is the son of Scottish parents – his father was a coalminer from Stirling and his mother a seamstress from Hawick, where Wylie was born in 1959. A huge Newcastle United fan, he married his second wife Andrea Stone at Slaley Hall, Northumberland in May, 2003 – the event was described as the “north-east’s wedding of the decade,” and was attended by over 250 guests, including Alan Shearer and Sir Bobby Robson. Pop superstar Ronan Keating performed at the couple’s wedding (for a reputed £175,000), singing When You Say Nothing At All, from the 1999 film Notting Hill, which the couple saw on their first date. The first horse the pair owned – a flashy grey picked out at Howard Johnson’s CountyDurham stable – was Lord Transcend, named after Andrea’s hair and beauty salon in Hexham. Lord Transcend won at 33/1 on his debut at Newcastle in March, 2002, and went on to prove himself a high-class horse over hurdles and fences, winning six times in all, before a leg injury sustained at Haydock in January, 2006, cut short his racing career. Having caught the ‘racing bug’ through the success of Lord Transcend, Graham and Andrea Wylie invested millions of pounds and built up  a large string in training with Howard Johnson.  At Doncaster’s 2003 May Sale, Graham Wylie set a then record for a jump horse when paying 340,000 guineas for Royal Rosa, which was a wedding present for his wife. He enjoyed a superb Cheltenham Festival in 2005, taking the Ladbrokes World Hurdle with Inglis Drever, the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Arcalis and the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle with No Refuge. In 2007, Inglis Drever reclaimed his Ladbrokes World Hurdle title and in 2008 became the first horse to win the race for a third time. Inglis Drever’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle triumph was the highlight of a fantastic 2008 Cheltenham Festival for the Wylies as TidalBay also won the Racing Post Arkle Chase. Howard Johnson was banned from racing for four years in August 2011, and as a result, the Wylies reduced their 60-strong string in half and sent 12 to British jump champion Paul Nicholls and seven to Irish jump champion Willie Mullins. The partnership with both trainers has flourished, with Nicholls sending out TidalBay to win a number of big prizes including this season’s Grade One Lexus Chase, while Mullins has saddled Boston Bob and Back In Focus to win Grade One novice chases since the turn of the year. The latter also formed part of a double for Mullins and the Wylies at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with Back In Focus winning the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase and Briar Hill storming home to land the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. Graham Wylie founded a new company, Technology Services Group (TSG), in 2003. He owns Close House Country Club and golf course and Gosforth Shopping Centre, and was awarded a CBE for his services to industry in the 2004 New Year’s Honours list. Graham’s contribution to the North East region has been acknowledged by the award of honorary doctorates by both the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and NorthumbrianUniversity, and the freedom of the city of Newcastle. The Sunday Times Rich List in 2012 estimated he is worth £180 million. The Wylies live close to Hexham in Northumberland and Andrea, 40, has also excelled at showing dogs (www.transcendshowdogs.com), another interest they share, winning the best of breed prize at Crufts this year with her Maltese dog Hi-Lite Come Dance With Me. The couple’s twin daughters Kiera and Zahra were born in December, 2009. Kiera was born with a defective heart, which has led the Wylies to fund raise for the heart unit at Newcastle’s FreemanHospital among other charitable endeavours.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Bewleys Berry (Fell 22nd); 2008 Bewleys Berry (5th), Backbeat (Fell 2nd); 2010 Royal Rosa (UR 14th); 2011 Royal Rosa (18th), Tidal Bay (UR 10th); 2012 On His Own (leased for the day & Fell 22nd)

 

Willie Mullins IRE (Bagenalstown, County Carlow)

Born on September 15, 1956, Willie Mullins was six-times amateur champion rider in Ireland and his major successes in the saddle included the 1983 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree on Atha Cliath when the also-rans were partnered by the likes of Robert Waley-Cohen, chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, and Aintree chairman Lord Daresbury, before taking out a training licence in 1988 and is now the country’s pre-eminent jump handler. As a jockey in the John Smith’s Grand National, his rides included The Ladys Master, who ran out in 1983, and Hazy Dawn, who fell at the sixth the following year. He hails from one of Ireland’s most famous racing families, being a son of the late Paddy Mullins, the outstanding all-round trainer whose most famous star was Dawn Run, winner of the 1984 Champion Hurdle and 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Willie Mullins rode and trained Wither Or Which to win the 1996 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, the Cheltenham Festival race in which he has enjoyed eight winners (also Florida Pearl 1997, Alexander Banquet 1998, Joe Cullen 2000, Missed That 2005, Cousin Vinny 2008, Champagne Fever 2012 and Briar Hill 2013). Mullins’ best chaser to date has been Florida Pearl, who was placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups, won the 1998 RSA Chase, the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 Irish Hennessy Cognac Gold Cups in Ireland as well as the 2001 King George VI Chase and the 2002 Betfred Bowl at Aintree. He trains the brilliant Hurricane Fly who has won the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 2011 and 2013. He has saddled 29 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, more than any other Irish handler in history. Mullins has over 150 horses at his Closutton yard near Bagenalstown in Co Carlow and his first John Smith’s Grand National runner as a trainer, Micko’s Dream, fell at the first in 2000. The loquacious Mullins, a former chairman of the Irish Trainers’ Federation, also suffered heartache in 2004 when Hedgehunter departed at the final fence in the John Smith’s Grand National when looking assured of a place. He overcame bad luck in the race the following year when Hedgehunter came home 14 lengths clear of Royal Auclair. He has been champion Irish jump trainer for the past five seasons and is on course for a sixth title in 2012/2013 after surpassing Aidan O’Brien’s total of 155 winners in a season with a double at Fairyhouse on February 23.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2000 Micko’s Dream (Fell 1st); 2002 Alexander Banquet (UR 6th); 2004 Alexander Banquet (Fell 18th), Hedgehunter (Fell 30th); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd); 2007 Hedgehunter (9th), Homer Wells (PU bef 22nd), Bothar Na (PU bef 29th), Livingstonebramble (UR 6th); 2008 Snowy Morning (3rd), Hedgehunter (13th); 2009 Snowy Morning (9th), Irish Invader (11th); 2010 Snowy Morning (6th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th); 2011 The Midnight Club (6th), Dooney’s Gate (Fell 6th), Arbor Supreme (Fell 28 th); 2012 The Midnight Club (11th), Quiscover Fontaine (Fell 17th), On His Own (Fell 22nd)

 

 

ROBERTO GOLDBACK (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Bob Back (USA)-Mandysway (IRE) (Mandalus )

11-11-06  Form: 153126/52F113FB/23220/1U39432887-1U355  Owner: Simon Munir

Trainer: Nicky Henderson  Breeder: Simon Young

 

Roberto Goldback

Roberto Goldback, born on April 7, 2002, was bred by Simon Young and sold for 15,000 euros as a foal in Tattersalls Ireland. He has had three different trainers in as many seasons. He joined his current handler, Nicky Henderson, after being bought privately (having been unsold at £38,000 in the ring) out of Dessie Hughes’s yard at Doncaster Sales in May, 2012. His career began with Jessica Harrington, winning a Fairyhouse bumper on his debut in December, 2008 and a Grade Two novice hurdle at Leopardstown the following month. He was sent over fences the following season at won a Grade Two novice chase at Leopardstown in January, 2010. His next victory came in the Listed Imperial Call Chase at Cork in April, 2011, and he was leading in the following month’s Grade One Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown when unseating his rider at the last, handing the race to fellow outsider Follow The Plan. He joined Dessie Hughes during the 2011/12 season and his best effort came when second to Quel Esprit in the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown. The 11-year-old made a successful winning debut for Henderson and new owner Simon Munir at Ascot on November 3, when seeing off 13 rivals to win the United House Gold Cup Handicap Chase. He most recently finished fifth behind Opening Batsman in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton on February 23.

Race Record: Starts: 34; Wins: 6; 2nd: 6; 3rd: 6; Win & Place prize money: £230,844

 

Simon Munir

He was born in October, 1964, and educated at Harrow, where trainer William Haggas was a friend. He lives in Hertfordshire. He hoped to play for Arsenal when younger and is still an enthusiastic supporter of the team, with a box at the Emirates Stadium. The CEO of Galaxy Asset Management, he previously worked for Merrill Lynch, based in Geneva for 10 years and then ran its Monaco operation. Also owns Galaxy Sports Management, His first horse was No Speeches, owned in partnership with four colleagues, and a winner on the Flat for them at Lingfield in 1996 when trained by Simon Dow. He sponsored Jack Berry’s yard and has had horses with Haggas and Sir Mark Prescott before upping his involvement in jump racing in recent years. His horses are principally with Nicky Henderson, Alan King and Paul Nicholls and he has around 20 in training in Britain. He won the 2010 JCB Triumph Hurdle with Soldatino. Most of his horses are sourced in France by Anthony Bromley of Highflyer Bloodstock and he has a big team in training across the Channel. He currently has around 40 horses registered with France Galop, principally with Guillaume Macaire, Guy Cherel, Jacques Ortet, Yannick Fouin and Guy Henrot.

No previous John Smith’s Grand National runners

 

Nicky Henderson (Lambourn, Berkshire)

The all-time leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with 50 successes. His half century was reached when Bobs Worth won this year’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. Twice the winner of the jump trainers’ championships, in 1985/86 and 1986/87, he has sent out approaching 2,500 winners and is hot favourite to capture another trainers’ title this season. Born in Lambeth, London, on December 10, 1950, he is the son of financier and amateur jockey John Henderson MBE, who founded the Racecourse Holdings Trust, the forerunner for Jockey Club Racecourses, Nicky was educated at Eton and the RoyalAgriculturalCollege. He worked for stockbrokers Cazenove in London and Australia, where he gained experience riding work at Randwick, before devoting himself full-time to racing. He first made his name in Britain as an amateur rider, finishing runner-up three times in the non-professional championship. His main wins as a jockey came on Happy Warrior in the 1977 Fox Hunters Chase at Aintree and on Acquaint in Sandown’s Imperial Cup in the same year. He recorded his 78th and final win on Rolls Rambler in the Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford in June, 1978. He became assistant trainer to Fred Winter in 1974 and received his own training licence in July, 1978, taking over from Roger Charlton at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn. Moved to Seven Barrows, to the north of the village, in 1992. First winner as a trainer was Dukery at Uttoxeter, October 14, 1978. See You Then won three consecutive Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham -1985-87 inclusive – and has captured the two-mile hurdling championship twice more with Punjabi (2009) and Binocular (2010). Bobs Worth was his second Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, following Long Run in 2011, and he also trains the hugely exciting Sprinter Sacre, winner of this season’s Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Henderson has won most of the major jump races through his glittering career with one major omission being the John Smith’s Grand National, though he has sent out the runner-up twice, Zongalero in 1979 and The Tsarevich (1987). John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1979 Zongalero (2nd);1980 Zongalero (Refused 20th); 1981 Zongalero (Fell 22nd); 1982 Sun Lion (Fell 3rd); 1983 Spartan Missile (Unseated 22nd); 1984 Spartan Missile (16th); 1985 Classified (5th); 1986 Classified (3rd), The Tsarevich (7th); 1987 The Tsarevich (2nd), Classified (UR 25th); 1988 The Tsarevich (7th); 1990 Brown Windsor (4th), 1991 Ten Of Spades (14th), 1991 Master Bob (PU bef 19th); 1992 Brown Windsor (Fell 6th); 1994 Henry Mann (Fell 1st); 1995 Tinryland (Fell 1st); 1998 Pashto (Fell 1st); 1999 Fiddling The Facts (Fell 22nd); 2000 Esprit De Cotte (Fell 22nd); 2001 Esprit De Cotte (UR 11th), 2002 Marlborough (Fell 1st), Goguenard (Fell 1st), 2003 Katarino (UR 15th); 2005 Fondmort (PU 28th); 2006 Juveigneur (Fell 1st), Iris Royal (PU bef 17th), 2007 Liberthine (5th); 2009 Golden Flight (Fell 1st); Fleet Street (UR 18th); 2012 Shakalakaboomboom (9th).

 

 

SEABASS (IRE) FACTFILE

b g TurtleIsland (IRE) – Muscovy Duck (IRE) (Moscow Society (USA))

10-11-06 Form: 00/40/523F11/11113-23  Owner: Gunners Syndicate

Trainer: Ted Walsh IRE  Breeder: John Costigan

 

Seabass

Seabass was born in Ireland on March 13, 2003. Fish-loving part-owner Pat Glynn bought Seabass as a foal after seeing an advert in The Irish Field. He spent four years looking after the son of TurtleIsland before sending him to Ted Walsh. After taking a close second on his debut in a point-to-point at Belharbour in February, 2007, Seabass recorded an emphatic victory at Horse & Jockey, Co Tipperary, the following month. He faded to ninth on his debut under Rules eight days later in a GowranPark bumper and finished 13th on his hurdling bow at the Punchestown Festival in April, 2007. Seabass suffered a setback shortly after that effort and he returned to action 18 months later, when he was pitched against seasoned opposition for his chase debut in the Grade Three Poplar Square Chase at Naas in October, 2008, in which he finished fourth. He made just one more appearance in the 2008/2009 season, tailing off in a beginners’ chase at Naas and returned to the same course to take fifth in a novices’ handicap chase in December, 2009. Seabass was placed in handicap chases at Clonmel and Thurles on his next two starts and would have broken his duck over fences in another handicap chase at Navan in January, 2010, only to fall at the final fence when leading the field. He made amends at Punchestown four days later, gamely taking a handicap chase, and followed up with another gritty success in a novices’ handicap chase at Fairyhouse in February, 2010. A further lengthy spell on the sidelines followed but Seabass made a winning return to action with a comfortable victory in a point-to-point at Ballinaboola in November, 2011. He continued his winning run with a pair of handicap chase wins at Punchestown and at Limerick the following month, before an impressive all-the-way success in a valuable handicap chase at Leopardstown on January 28, 2012. Sebass went into last season’s John Smith’s Grand National on the back of a length success in the two-mile paddypower.com Chase at Naas, but he couldn’t extend his unbeaten run (under Rules) to seven for amateur pilot Katie Walsh, having her fifth ride on him, but ran a great race to finish third. The 10-year-old has been trained with Aintree in mind this season and made an encouraging return in a two-mile hurdle at Fairyhouse on February 5, when coming home second before a third-placed finish in one of Ireland’s leading John Smith’s Grand National trials, the Bobbyjo Chase back at Fairyhouse, on February 23.

Race Record: Starts: 17; Wins: 6; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £224,904

 

Gunners Syndicate

The Gunners Syndicate consists of six men – Pat Glynn, Pat Gleeson, Robbie Byrne, brothers Donal and Niall Collins plus John Harte. Arsenal-mad Glynn leads the syndicate, having purchased Seabass as a foal after seeing an advert in the Irish Field newspaper and looked after the horse until he was sent to Ted Walsh as a four-year-old on the recommendation of Ted’s son Ruby. Glynn was helped in raising Seabass by Gerry Kyne from Kiltrogue Stud, the father of the apprentice jockey Jamie Kyne, who was killed in a fire in Norton, North Yorkshire, in September, 2009. Glynn, who hails from Dunmore, Co Galway, is a builder who used to play Gaelic football for the local Dunmore MacHales and the Connemara Gaels in the USA. His wife Sinead is a singer who has appeared in a talent competition for Country & Western singers on Irish TV station TG4. Pat Gleeson also comes from Dunmore and he is a director of local company Wheely Environmental Refuse Services. Robbie Byrne, the only member of the syndicate who does not support Arsenal, runs a pub in Dunmore which is the venue for the syndicate’s meetings, while John Harte is a butcher. Despite the fact that the majority of the syndicate support Arsenal, Seabass runs in the maroon and white colours of local football team Galway United.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2012 Seabass (3rd)

 

Ted Walsh IRE (Kill, County Kildare)

Born on April 14, 1950, at Fermoy in Co Cork and based at Greenhills near Naas in Co Kildare, Ted Walsh is a racehorse trainer, journalist and broadcaster with RTE in Ireland and Channel 4 in England. His father, Ruby, had a public house and kept a livery stable in Fermoy. In 1954 the Walsh family relocated to the United States, but came back to Ireland less than two years later and Ruby rented a yard at Chapelizod, Co Dublin. The Walshs later moved to a farm in Kill, Co Kildare, which Ted has now extended to 60 acres. Walsh was Irish champion amateur jump jockey on 11 occasions, and rode four Cheltenham Festival winners, including the 1979 Queen Mother Champion Chase on Hilly Way. Commanche Court, who Walsh selected, purchased and trained for owner Dermot Desmond, won the 1997 JCB Triumph Hurdle and completed an amazing double for Walsh in 2000 when winning the Irish National at Fairyhouse 16 days after Papillon landed the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree. Both horses were partnered by Walsh’s son Ruby, while another of his children Katie is also a successful jockey with two Cheltenham Festival wins to her name and a third in the John Smith’s Grand National on Seabass last year. Walsh’s other daughter Jennifer is agent to Ruby, while his other son Ted Jnr married leading amateur rider Nina Carberry on February 7, 2012. Ted Walsh’s other training successes include the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown with Jack High and the Grade One Ascon/Rohcon Novices Chase at Leopardstown with Southern Vic, both in 2005, while Rince Ri won a number of good races for the stable including the Argento Chase at Cheltenham in 2002.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1992 Roc De Prince (17th); 2000 PAPILLON (WON), 2001 Papillon (4th), 2006 Jack High (UR 15th), Rince Ri (Ref 27th), 2007 Jack High (Fell 6th); 2009 Southern Vic (8th); 2012 Seabass (3rd)

 

 

SUNNYHILLBOY (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Old Vic – Sizzle (High Line)

10-11-04  Form: 14/311101/415312/03F/30P012-5P  Owner: J P McManus

Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill Breeder: J P N Parker

 

Sunnyhillboy

Sunnyhillboy, born on April 30, 2003, was purchased at the 2003 Tattersalls Ireland November sale for 10,000 euros by Timmy Hyde on behalf of leading owner J P McManus. He was sent into training with Jonjo O’Neill in Britain and made a winning debut in a bumper at Huntingdon in November, 2007, prior to finishing fourth on his hurdling debut at Doncaster in January, 2008. He was put away for the season and returned at Bangor in September, 2008, putting in a promising display to only be beaten half a length when third in a novices’ hurdle. Sunnyhillboy got off the mark in a handicap hurdle at Exeter the following month before two further victories on his next two outings at Cheltenham in November and Sandown in a Listed handicap hurdle. After three relatively quick runs, he was given a short break, returning for the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, for which he was well fancied, but he failed to produce his best form and finished 25th of the 27 runners. However, he bounced back from that poor showing in the two and a half mile Listed Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, taking a competitive field apart to win by four lengths. He embarked on a chasing career in the 2009/10 season making his debut at Exeter in November but, despite strong market support, he could only finish fourth. With that run behind him, he got up late to win a two-mile novices’ chase at Lingfield three weeks later, but disappointed on his next two starts at Newbury in December and January where the heavy ground didn’t appear to suit. A return to better ground coupled with the fact it was his handicap chase debut at Ludlow saw him beat his 11 rivals snugly by half a length, before running well at the Cheltenham Festival to finish second in the Byrne Group Plate. On the back of that effort, he was fancied to go one place better in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, 2010, but lack of race fitness told and he could only finish seventh. As in previous seasons, that first run seemed to bring him on and he ran better in the December Gold Cup back at Cheltenham where he was only beaten seven lengths in third by the classy Poquelin. Once again he was given a break and returned in March at the Cheltenham Festival, where he was sent off the 9/2 favourite for the JLT Specialty Chase, but a crashing fall at the seventh fence left favourite backers wondering what might have been. He then stepped up markedly in trip to contest the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday and, like at Cheltenham, he was the well-backed favourite but, after being settled towards the rear, he could never fully get into contention before staying on strongly for third. The Old Vic gelding returned last season over hurdles at Haydock in November, but could not get into the race until running on into seventh past beaten horses. After a disappointing run over fences at Cheltenham in December and a satisfactory display over hurdles at Haydock in February, he put himself in the Aintree picture with an impressive victory in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He ran a tremendous race at Aintree and looked the winner as he kicked two lengths clear on the run-in, but couldn’t resist the final thrust of Neptune Collonges and was beaten a nose – the shortest ever winning distance ever in the John Smith’s Grand National. This season has been geared around another tilt at the great race and he ran an eye-catching race first time out in the Betfair “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on November 24, staying on to take fifth. He disappointed on his next outing in a Pertemps qualifier at Warwick on January 12 in very soft ground, when pulling up and was withdrawn from the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on the morning of the race (March 15) following a bad scope.

Race Record: Starts: 25; Wins: 8; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £384,617

 

J P McManus

Few people have enjoyed a closer association with jump racing in the last 30 years than John Patrick ’J P’ McManus, who was born on a farm in Co Limerick on March 10, 1951 and attended the Christian Brothers school on Sexton Street, Limerick. He left his father’s plant hire business at the age of 20 to become a racecourse bookmaker, but then took the less well-trodden route of gamekeeper-turned-poacher to be a professional punter. McManus recalls one of his first bets as being on Merryman II in the 1960 Grand National when he was just nine, but the bet that changed his life was £4 on Linden Tree in a Newmarket maiden in 1970, the horse winning at 100/8. He had another £4 on when Linden Tree won the Observer Gold Cup at 25/1, and £5 each-way at 33/1 for the Derby, when the horse beat all bar Mill Reef. The amount he wagered grew rapidly and he is still one of the highest-staking punters on the racecourse. Dubbed “the Sundance Kid” by journalist Hugh McIlvanney after a number of major gambles in the ring during the 1970s, he is also the biggest jump owner in terms of numbers in Britain, Ireland and France (some 300 horses spread over 50 trainers ran for him last season) after he purchased his first racehorse, Cill Dara, at the age of 26. He has a host of business interests including dealing on the financial markets from his Geneva, Switzerland base and part-ownership of the SandyLaneHotel in Barbados, where he also has a house. With John Magnier, he bought a 28.7% stake in Manchester United through the Cubic Expression company before subsequently selling out to US tycoon Malcolm Glazer in 2005. He was in the news shortly after that because of his stake in the pub and restaurant operator Mitchells and Butler. In 2012, the Sunday Times estimated McManus’ wealth at £471 million, making him the 14th richest person in Ireland. Since Mister Donovan landed the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1982, he has enjoyed 38 other Cheltenham Festival successes, headed by the great three-time Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq. In 2010, he won a fourth Champion Hurdle with Binocular, while the 2012 Festival yielded five more successes headed by Synchronised’s gutsy success in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he had to wait to final day this year before gaining two successes. McManus does a lot of work for charity and his Pro-Am golf tournament, which takes place every five years and has raised over 95 million euros. McManus is also a keen backgammon player and a big hurling fan. He owns JackdawsCastle, the Gloucestershire yard that Jonjo O’Neill trains from, and has invested heavily in improving facilities since purchasing the property in 2001. He was British champion owner for the 2005/6, 2006/7, 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons. A full 28 years after his runner in the race, McManus finally achieved a long-held ambition when Don’t Push It won the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National. Last year, Sunnyhillboy went agonisingly close to giving McManus a second success when beaten a nose by the Paul Nicholls-trained Neptune Collonges. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1982 Deep Gale (Fell 1st), 1988 Bucko (PU bef 27th), 1992 Laura’s Beau (3rd), 1994 Laura’s Beau (Fell 6th), 1996 Wylde Hide (UR 24th), 1997 Wylde Hide (UR 22nd); 1998 Gimme Five (5th), 2002 Spot Thedifference (UR 27th); 2003 Youlneverwalkalone (PU bef 13th); 2004 Clan Royal (2nd), Spot Thedifference (5th), Risk Accessor (UR 6th), Le Coudray (Fell 22nd); 2005 Innox (7th), Spot Thedifference (18th), Shamawan (21st), Clan Royal (CO 22nd), Le Coudray (PU before 21st), Risk Accessor (UR 2nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd), Risk Accessor (5th), Innox (Fell 1st), First Gold (UR 23rd); 2007 L’Ami (10th), Clan Royal (11th); 2008 King Johns Castle (2nd), L’Ami (Fell 2nd), Bob Hall (PU bef 19th), Butler’s Cabin (Fell 22nd); 2009 Butler’s Cabin (7th), Reveillez (BD 3rd), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th), L’Ami (PU bef 30th); 2010 DON’T PUSH IT (WON), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 8th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th), King Johns Castle (refused to race); 2011 Don’t Push It (3rd), Blue Sea Cracker (14th), Quolibet (UR 11th), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th), Arbor Supreme (Fell 28th); 2012 Sunnyhillboy (2nd), Synchronised (Fell 6th), Arbor Supreme (UR 10th), Quiscover Fontaine (Fell 17th)

 

Jonjo O’Neill (Jackdaws Castle, Gloucestershire)

Jonjo O’Neill (born April 13, 1952) was a highly successful jump jockey and has established himself at the top of the training ranks. In spite of an appalling list of injuries, he was champion jockey twice (1977/78 and 1979/80), and he set a then record for a season of 149 winners in his first championship year. The most sensational moment of his riding career came when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Dawn Run in 1986 as the mare became the only horse to win that trophy after having previously taken the Champion Hurdle (1984), again with O’Neill in the saddle. He also won the Gold Cup on Alverton in 1979, though he had a dreadful record in the Grand National, in which he never completed the course in spite of having eight rides. He retired from the saddle at the end of the 1985/86 season and, having survived lymphatic cancer not long after that, started training near Penrith, Cumbria, in 1987. He forged a reputation with horses such as Vicario Di Bray, winner of the 1989 Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, and Legal Right, who landed the Grade Three Tripleprint Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 1999 and went on to capture the BGC Silver Cup at Ascot as well as the Grade Two Tommy Whittle Chase. He moved to his present base at JackdawsCastle in Gloucestershire, not far from Cheltenham, when the yard was bought by owner J P McManus in 2001. In 2010, he finally broke his Grand National duck when saddling Don’t Push It to victory for McManus, who had been trying to win the race since 1982. A P (Tony) McCoy rode the gelding, gaining a first success at the 15th attempt. O’Neill’s other victories at the Aintree Festival as a trainer include Quazar in the John Smith’s Anniversary 4YO Novices’ Hurdle in 2002, Clan Royal in the 2003 John Smith’s Topham Chase, Iris’s Gift (2003) and Black Jack Ketchum (2006) in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, Iris’s Gift in the 2004 John Smith’s Liverpool Long Distance Hurdle, Exotic Dancer (2007) in the Betfred Bowl and Albertas Run (2010) in the Melling Chase. His 22 Cheltenham Festival victories include five wins in the National Hunt Chase, the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Spectroscope, the 2004 Ladbrokes World Hurdle with Iris’s Gift and the three victories of Albertas Run in the RSA Chase (2007) and the Ryanair Chase (2010 & 2011). Last season, Synchronised gave him one of his biggest successes when capturing the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2003 Carbury Cross (7th); 2004 Clan Royal (2nd), Joss Naylor (PU bef 19th); 2005 Simply Gifted (3rd), Shamawan (21st), Native Emperor (UR 9th), Clan Royal (CO bef 22nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd), Risk Accessor (5th); 2007 Clan Royal (11th); 2008 Bob Hall (PU bef 19th), Butler’s Cabin (Fell 22nd); 2009 Butler’s Cabin (7th), Reveillez (BD 3rd), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th); 2010 DON’T PUSH IT (WON), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 8t h); 2011 Don’t Push It (3rd), Quolibet (UR 11th), Can’t Buy Time (Fell 18th); 2012 Sunnyhillboy (2nd), Synchronised (Fell 6th) Arbor Supreme (UR 10th)

 

 

TREACLE (IRE) FACTFILE

ch g Zaffaran (USA) – Current Liability (Caribo)

12-10-09  Form: 02/221453/61/3F/116PP/P/51423F-71  Owner: Bjorn Nielsen

Trainer: Tom Taaffe IRE  Breeder: Mary & Brendan Fitzpatrick

 

Treacle

Treacle, born on April 19, 2001, was bred by Mary & Brendan Fitzpatrick in Ireland and bought for 54,000 euros by bloodstock agent Jeremy Brummitt at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale in 2004. He went through the same ring again in 2005 for 36,000 euros. The John Smith’s Grand National has been the aim for Treacle ever since he became the property of Bjorn Nielsen who was inspired by watching Red Rum beat Crisp in the 1973 Grand National. He finished eighth on his debut for trainer Tom Taaffe in a bumper at GowranPark in February, 2006, and filled the runner-up spot on all three of his first starts over hurdles – at Fairyhouse, Killarney and Wexford. He lost his maiden tag with an emphatic 15-length victory at Cork in December, 2006, and ran respectable races in Grade Two company on his next two appearances at Naas and Fairyhouse, before ending his season with a good third in a competitive novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April, 2007. Treacle was sent chasing for the 2007/2008 campaign and he recorded a comfortable success on his second start over fences at Fairyhouse in October, 2007. A leg injury sustained during that victory forced Treacle to miss the rest of the season and the majority of the following campaign and he finished third on his return to action in a Limerick handicap chase in March, 2009. Treacle fell on his next outing in another handicap chase at Fairyhouse the following month but he made amends with a comfortable success in a Listowel handicap chase in June, 2009. He followed up that win with another victory as he gamely repelled the challenge of Dashing George to take the Munster National at Limerick in October, 2009. Raised 8lb for that win, Treacle struggled on his next four starts as he came home a well-beaten sixth after being hampered at the first fence in the Troytown Handicap Chase that November and was pulled up on his next three outings at Leopardstown, Punchestown and Cork. Treacle was given a break after taking fifth in a handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival in May, 2011, and he made a winning return at Gowran Park in October of the same year as he comfortably took a three-mile handicap chase. After a satisfactory performance in a veterans’ chase at Aintree over the Mildmay course, he came home second in the valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas but produced a career best performance when third in the Grade One Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at the same course in February, 2012. He went for the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National on the back of that run but got no further than the 10th where he fell. The 12-year-old has had a lighter campaign this season, finishing seventh of eight in a chase at Thurles over two and a quarter miles on February 28, before a decisive four length victory in the Daily Mirror Chase at Down Royal over three and a quarter miles on heavy ground on March 16.

Race Record: Starts: 26; Wins: 6; 2nd: 4; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £158,320

 

Bjorn Nielsen

Although based at Greenwich in Connecticut, USA, Bjorn Nielsen was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and grew up at Epsom in England, where he attended grammar school. He maintains strong ties with Britain and has stated he prefers the variety of racecourses in Britain compared to the USA. He, wife Debbie and their three daughters are longstanding American residents and he has been highly successful in the finance world, serving as managing director of Tudor Ventures, a private equity and venture capitalist firm. He has been with the Tudor Investment Corporation for 24 years. Nielsen has been a major investor in horses for many years, using agents such as Jeremy Brummitt, Tom Goff and Charlie Gordon-Watson, and bloodstock advisor Simon Marsh. He was represented in the 1992 Derby by the Richard Hannon-trained Assessor, who finished ninth behind Dr Devious and went on to win the Group One Prix Royal-Oak and Group One Prix du Cadran in France. Other flagbearers include the Roger Charlton-trained Tante Rose, whom he bought for 350,000 guineas at Wafic Said’s dispersal in 2003 and won the following year’s Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock, and the 2011 Ladbrokes St Leger victor Masked Marvel, trained by John Gosden. Nielsen bought the Kingsdown training centre in Lambourn in late 2009, with David Lanigan moving into the renovated stables in December, 2011. Most of the owner’s Flat string, of whom he had around 25 in 2012, are with Lanigan, although he still has horses with Gosden. Long-term breeding prospect Dorcas   Lane was bought for 475,000 guineas in November, 2011. Nielsen has around a dozen broodmares at Lord & Lady Lloyd-Webber’s stud farms in Britain and Ireland. He is a keen tennis player.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2012 Treacle (Fell 10th)

 

Tom Taaffe IRE (Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland)

Tom Taaffe, who was born on June 15, 1963, is son of the peerless Arkle’s legendary jockey Pat Taaffe, who rode two Grand National winners in Quare Times (1955) and Gay Trip (1970). Tom took a giant stride into the limelight in 2005 thanks to his impeccable handling of Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Kicking King. Taaffe spent his schoolboy summers working for Arthur Moore and forged an association with the trainer that lasted 15 years, first as an amateur rider and then as a professional jockey. He rode his first winner at PhoenixPark in 1981 and enjoyed a successful career in the saddle as a jump jockey, partnering 400 winners. He finished third in the 1988 Grand National aboard Monanore and began training from Portree Stables near Straffan in CountyKildare in 1994. In 1998, he enjoyed his first Grade One triumph with Delphi Lodge in the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. Kicking King’s Gold Cup success, combined with his earlier King George VI Chase victory, enabled Taaffe to emulate his father, who saddled Captain Christy to victory in the same two races. Apart from Kicking King, Taaffe has also enjoyed success at the Cheltenham Festival with Finger Onthe Pulse in the Rewards4Racing Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase and Ninetieth Minute in the Coral Cup. He won the 2010 Galway Plate with Finger OnThe Pulse. He has saddled four runners in the John Smith’s Grand National including Slim Pickings, who was beaten two lengths in total when coming home third behind Silver Birch in 2007 and finished fourth behind Comply Or Die 12 months later.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Slim Pickings (3rd); 2008 Slim Pickings (4th), Tumbling Dice (UR 3rd); 2012 Treacle (Fell 10th)

 

 

WEIRD AL (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Accordion-Bucks Gift (Buckley)

10-11-08  Form: 2/1/111/10P/13PF-4PP Owner: Andrew Brannon, Andrew Dick, Philip Holden

Trainer: Donald McCain  Breeder: C Ronaldson

Weird Al

Weird Al, born on April 18, 2003 in Ireland, was sold as a foal in Tattersalls Ireland to Redpender Stud for 21,000 euros and went back the venue when a 60,000 euros purchase by agent Jeremy Brummitt at the 2006 Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale, Weird Al’s racing career began with Herefordshire handler Venetia Williams. Having finished second on his debut in an Exeter bumper on January 1, 2008, he moved to Ian Williams and had only one start the following season, winning a Warwick novices’ hurdle in November, 2008. He next appeared a year later when winning a novices’ chase at Cheltenham’s Open meeting in November and scored at the same course the following month. After winning the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby in February, 2010, he was aimed at the following month’s RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival but had to miss the Grade One contest when sustaining a fracture to a cannon bone just a couple of days before the race. He returned at Carlisle in October, 2010, when dead-heating for first place with Little Josh in an intermediate chase and went on to finish eight behind Diamond Harry in the following month’s Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury. Afterwards he had a wind operation and did not run again until the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Racing prominently early on, he was pulled up in after breaking a blood vessel. He joined Donald McCain in Cheshire ahead of the 2011/12 season and looked a high-class prospect when a comfortable winner of the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, 2011. He stepped up again in class when beaten 10 lengths into third behind Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, but disappointed when pulled up behind Synchronised in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup after breaking a blood vessel. The 10-year-old was running a respectable race in last year’s John Smith’s Grand National before falling at the 27th fence. This season started with a respectable fourth in the Betfair Chase but he has disappointed since, being pulled up in both the Grade Two Argento Chase at Cheltenham on January 26 and the Grade Two Denman Chase at Newbury on February 9.

Race Record: Starts: 15; 1st: 6; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £144,200

 

Andrew Brannon, Andrew Dick and Philip Holden

Andrew Brannon was born in London in February, 1960, and grew interested in racing when at school in Chester, watching the action at the local course from the city walls. He has owned horses for about eight years and was involved in the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing partnership that won the 2008 King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot with Colony. He and Weird Al’s co-owners’ other horses with McCain include last season’s Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle winner Hollow Tree and 2013 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Chase runner-up Super Duty. Brannon, keen on the sport of fencing, is a chartered accountant and licensed insolvency practitioner, who co-founded the LCL Group, a specialist provider of insurance services with Philip Holden. Holden, born in 1965, is the CEO of the Bradford-based Drydensfairfax Solicitors, the UK’s largest debt recovery law firm. The third owner of Weird All is Andrew Dick, based in Manchester and a partner of Begbies Traynor, Britain’s biggest independent corporate rescue and recovery specialists. Andrew, born in 1965, was one of the original four when Traynor and Partners was formed in 1989. They named their John Smith’s Grand National contender after Weird Al Yankovic, the American singer famous for parodying other people’s songs. The connection came from the fact that Yankovic is a good accordion player and Weird Al is by the stallion Accordion.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2012 Weird Al (Fell 27th)

 

Donald McCain (Cholmondeley, Cheshire)

Born on June 13, 1970, Donald McCain Jnr is the son of the late Ginger McCain, trainer of the legendary Red Rum, the only horse to win the John Smith’s Grand National three times (1973, 1974 and 1977) and also Amberleigh House, the 2004 victor. Ginger McCain died at the age of 80 on September 19, 2011. Donald learnt to ride on his sister Joanne’s pony Gambol and rode in his first race on the Flat aged 15 (his father told a few white lies) at HaydockPark. He became a jump jockey, firstly as an amateur and then a professional, partnering around 40 winners under Rules. He rode several times over the Grand National fences, finishing fifth aboard Harley in the 1992 Fox Hunters’ Chase and 17th on Sure Metal in the 1996 Grand National. He also worked for trainers Luca Cumani, Sir Michael Stoute and Oliver Sherwood. Donald subsequently became assistant trainer to his father at Bankhouse Stables at Cholmondeley in Cheshire and played a significant role in Amberleigh House’s Grand National victory in 2004. He was expected to take over the licence from his father at the start of the 2006/7 jump season, but had to wait until June, 2006 as he needed to complete the appropriate British Horseracing Authority courses. Donald’s first winner as a trainer came with Bearaway in a handicap chase at Newton Abbot on June 8, 2006. He secured his first Cheltenham Festival triumph with Cloudy Lane in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase in 2007 and enjoyed 40 winners in his first campaign. In the 2007/08 season, he had 58 successes and a second Cheltenham Festival success with Whiteoak in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, while the 2008/09 haul of 62 winners included Cloudy Lane’s victory in the Peter Marsh Chase at HaydockPark. The 2009/10 season brought further success with a double at the Cheltenham Festival thanks to Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and Ballabriggs in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, and a career-best 88 winners. The 2010/11 season yielded 100 winners including the John Smith’s Grand National when Ballabriggs stayed on gamely to score by two and a quarter lengths, while Peddlers Cross and Overturn also provided a number of highlights. Peddlers Cross landed the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle and was a gallant runner-up in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Overturn took the Northumberland Plate on the Flat in June and added the Galway Hurdle a month later. McCain sent out 153 winners last term and Overturn was the flag bearer for the yard, gaining his first success at Grade One level in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and finishing second in the Champion Hurdle, while Cinders And Ashes annexed the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He has saddled 129 winners (March 21) so far this jump season, with Overturn becoming a smart novice chaser, winning three of his four starts impressively. He plans to run three horses in this year’s John Smith’s Grand National – Across the Bay, Ballabriggs and Weird Al, with CloudyBay targeted again at the John Smith’s Fox Hunters which he won last year. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Idle Talk (UR 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th), Idle Talk (14th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th), 2011 BALLABRIGGS (WON); 2012 Ballabriggs (6th), Weird Al (Fell 27th)

 

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