Backstage vying for favouritism in John Smith’s Grand National: extensive Factfile on horse and connections

BACKSTAGE (FR) FACTFILE

b g Passing Sale (FR) – Madame Nathalie (FR) (Dreams To Reality (USA))

9-10-12                                  Form: 0F3/64313/223/28/71123138UP-570 Owner: MPR & Capranny Syndicate

Trainer: Gordon Elliott IRE                Breeder: Ecurie Passing                  Jockey: Davy Condon

Backstage

Originally trained by Jehan Bertran de Balanda, Backstage failed to shine in five starts over hurdles in France and was third on his chasing debut at Clairefontaine in July, 2006. He was sent over to Britain shortly afterwards by then owner Sir Robert Ogden and made a winning start for trainer Evan Williams that October when easily accounting for his five rivals in a novices’ chase at Cheltenham.

He was tailed off on his next appearance in an Aintree novices’ chase the following month and missed the rest of the season. Sent over hurdles for the 2007/08 season, Backstage went down by a head in a handicap at Leicester but he once again failed to progress when beaten in novice hurdles at Warwick and Wincanton. His final appearance for Ogden and Williams came when second in a Utttoxeter novice hurdle in May, 2008.

He was sold for 13,000 guineas at Doncaster shortly afterwards. He made a winning debut for new connections, Irish-based trainer Gordon Elliott and a syndicate made up of his stable staff, easily landing a point-to-point at Castletown-Geoghegan in October, 2008. Backstage continued to thrive between the flags, winning three of his five subsequent starts, and he ran a fine race on his first attempt over the Grand National fences, coming home eighth in the John Smith’s Fox Hunter’s Chase at the 2009 John’s Smith’s Grand National Meeting.

After taking seventh in the Punchestown Champion Hunters Chase, Backstage scored impressively in a three-mile handicap chase on good to firm going at Perth at the end of May. He won and was second in novices’ hurdles at the Scottish course in July and was third in a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen in August. He posted a superb victory in a valuable extended three-mile handicap chase at Ffos Las just six days later.

With all roads leading to the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National, Backstage did not make a racecourse appearance until February, when he took third in a novices’ hurdle at Musselburgh in the colours of Middleham Park Racing, who had purchased a 50 per cent share in the horse just before Christmas. He warmed up for Aintree by taking eighth in a two and a half mile Grade Three chase at Navan in March, but unseated at the 20th fence in the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National.

He disappointed in his next four starts under Rules between April and July and was then put away until reappearing with a 10-length victory in a Kirkistown point-to-point on February 12 and continued his low-key Aintree prep with a seven-length success in another point-to-point at The Pigeons on March 6.

Race Record (under Rules): Starts: 26; Wins: 4; 2nd: 4; 3rd: 6; Win & Place Prize Money: £77,169

Middleham Park Racing & Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate

Backstage will carry the colours of Middleham Park Racing in the John Smith’s Grand National after the syndicate bought a 50 per cent share in the horse from the Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate in a deal brokered by former jump jockey Tom Malone just before Christmas, 2009.

Middleham Park Racing (MPR) was set up in 1995, starting out with two syndicates, and has established itself as one of the main syndication companies in the UK, enjoying more than 300 winners. Notable horses to have carried the MPR silks to victory include prolific all-weather winner China Castle, Beverley Listed scorer Exceptional Art, Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival hero Junior, and Dhaular Dhar, who has made the frame in heritage handicaps at Ascot on five occasions.

The Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate is made up of employees from Gordon Elliott’s Capranny Stables in Co Meath, Ireland, including all of Backstage’s work riders, travelling head lads Sarah Parsons and Jordan ‘Sparky’ Chalmers, vet Eduardo Martinez, chief yardman Jimmy Smith and head lad Simon McGonagle, who partnered Backstage to four of his point-to-point victories.

Each member put in 100 euros to purchase Backstage and the horse has more than repaid his supporters with nine  victories between the flags and under Rules, including when netting £31,310 for winning the inaugural Freebets.co.uk Handicap Chase at Ffos Las in August, 2009.

John Smith’s Grand National record: 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)

Gordon Elliott IRE

Born on March 2, 1978, in Summerhill, Co Meath, Gordon Elliott was a very 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 County Meath, Ireland. From there, he moved to Britain, joining Martin Pipe’s 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, head of the Dun Doire syndicate, bought Capranny Stables at Trim in County Meath. When Elliott started his training career, early in 2006, those stables became his base. Elliott’s first runner under Rules came at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival, when Brandon Mountain 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 Salford City, who won the Grade Two Tipperary Hurdle in October, 2007, while he also continued to send horses to the UK.

He soon gained a reputation as a shrewd judge of horses. Elliott is particularly fond of having runners at Perth and has sent out 54 winners (up to March 16th) at the Scottish venue. Further afield, Elliott saddled Salford City 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.

Last season’s leading performers included juvenile hurdler Carlito Brigante, who recorded a Grade Two victory at Leopardstown and was fourth in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010. Elliott’s first Cheltenham Festival success came with Chicago Grey in this year’s National Hunt Chase, while Jessie’s Dream, winner of the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase, was runner-up in the Grade One RSA Chase a little over an hour later. His second Festival win came on the same day with Carlito Brigante in the Coral Cup. The trainer has also enjoyed major Flat success 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)

Davy Condon

Davy Condon, whose father Mick was a leading amateur and point-to-point rider, was born on December 3, 1984. He started his career in 2000 as a 15-year-old apprentice Flat jockey with Willie Mullins, had his first winner the next season and ended that year with five successes from 95 rides.

In the next three seasons, he took his win tally up to 75 (it has since gone into three figures) and his most notable association was with the Mullins-trained Holy Orders, whom he rode in 30 races across both codes, including when well beaten in the 2003 Melbourne Cup. As Condon’s weight increased, he looked to the National Hunt world and rode his first winner over hurdles in November, 2004.

He had his first, and so far only, Cheltenham Festival success aboard Ebaziyan in the 2007 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the following year moved from Ireland to become stable jockey to Nicky Richards’ Cumbrian yard following Tony Dobbin’s retirement, winning the 2008 Peterborough Chase on Monet’s Garden and 2009 Scottish Champion Hurdle on Noble Alan.

He returned home for the 2009/10 season and rode mainly for Noel Meade, striking up a good rapport with Go Native on whom he won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton although he missed out on his share of a potential £1 million bonus when the horse was beaten in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

He also won two Grade One novice chases in December, 2009 aboard the Meade-trained Pandorama, while the Michael Smith-trained Orsippus gave him a further top level victory in the Matalan 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s 2010 John Smith’s Grand National meeting.

This season, he rode Realt Dubh and Fully Funded to Grade Two successes and partnered Benefit Night to win the Leinster National on March 6. Condon is a cousin of fellow rider Paul Townend. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Homer Wells (PU 22nd), 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)

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