Bareback Jack leads McCain’s Musselburgh raid

Few trainers have started 2021 in better form than Donald McCain, who takes some of his big guns up to Musselburgh for this weekend’s Cheltenham trials meeting.

Bareback Jack is arguably one of the most exciting prospects in McCain’s team, having won his first two outings over timber as well as a point-to-point.

He is set to put his unbeaten record on the line in Sunday’s Bet365 Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

“We think he’s a nice-ground horse, which is why we took him up to Musselburgh for his debut,” said McCain.

“He then won on heavy at Catterick – but that doesn’t get as heavy as some places, and we’re getting to the point where we have to run them. It wasn’t a great race, but he couldn’t do any more than he did.

“The ground is probably going to be a bit too soft on Sunday. But I can’t not run him now, because of what he did at Catterick – and we’ve got to run them.

“I’m not thinking beyond Sunday – and while you obviously have targets in the back of your mind if things go well, we’ll worry about it after this.”

McCain enjoyed a treble at the track on New Year’s Day – and Fiveandtwenty, who runs in the Bet365 Scottish Triumph Trial, was among those winners.

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“We had the option of here or Doncaster last week, but the ground there would be even more extreme,” said McCain.

“She’s a dual course-and-distance winner – she’s taking on better horses, but we may as well take a punt. Black type would be important for her as well, it being a Listed race.”

Another New Year’s Day winner was Blakeney Point, a classy Flat horse in his day, who runs in Saturday’s Bet365 Scottish County Hurdle.

“I have to say, since there has been a reshuffle in the handicapping, the northern horses seem to be getting a bit better deal – in the short term anyway,” said McCain.

Blakeney Point won a decent race last time out
Blakeney Point won a decent race last time out (David Davies/PA)

“He went up 2lb for his last win, and he didn’t win by far, but in the past he might have gone up a fair bit more. He probably wants better ground – but like everyone else, there is nowhere else to go at the moment.

“We also have Theo (Gillard) taking 7lb off Dear Sire, who has won this race before (2018) – he’s got targets in the spring. He ran very well on the all-weather the other day.

“We’ll have plenty of others, and they are what they are, but let’s just hope they all get to run.”

Traditionally there is a strong Irish presence at the meeting – and despite the complications brought on by the pandemic, there will still be plenty from the Emerald Isle.

Peter Fahey is bringing two of his brightest talents in Belfast Banter, fifth to Not So Sleepy in a valuable handicap at Ascot, and the lightly-raced Born Patriot.

Belfast Banter will take on Bareback Jack, and Fahey said: “The ground maybe told close home at Ascot, but he’s in good form and he should put in a good run. I was pleasantly surprised with his new mark.

“He’s in good nick – I’m just not sure the ground is going to suit.”

Born Patriot was an 80-1 winner on debut, but showed it was no fluke when second to Gordon Elliott’s Frontal Assault at Thurles next time out.

“I think he’s a horse that’s improving all the time. He needs a trip, but a fast pace as well,” said Fahey.

“He’s a lovely horse. He lacks a little in experience – but he’s done very little wrong, and if he can improve from his last run he should have a good chance.

“It wasn’t a surprise when he won on his debut. He’d always worked well, and I was more surprised after the race at the price he was.

“He’s a very nice horse – and whatever he does over hurdles, he’ll be a lot better over fences.”

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