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
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
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 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)