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
I’m grateful to Racenews for supplying factfiles for every runner in the John Smith’s Grand National. I reformat these and publish as I get them, with the first batch coming out 2 weeks before the big race on April 6th. By the eve of the National all factfiles will be published here. You can find others by clicking on the factfiles tag at the foot of this post
The 2011 John Smith’s Grand National winner Ballabriggs was born in County Tipperary 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
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 Blackpool Tower 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 Burton Port, 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 Haydock Park.
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 Haydock Park. 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 Cloudy Bay 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)