Racehorse owner Trevor Hemmings has an exceptional Grand National record, with three victories since 2005.
A wealthy businessman, octogenarian and owner of Preston North End FC, Hemmings has seen his green and yellow quartered silks carried to victory in the world’s most famous race by Hedgehunter in 2005, Ballabriggs in 2011 and Many Clouds in 2015.
Hedgehunter was trained by Willie Mullins and had been fancied to go well in the National as an eight-year-old in 2004. He led the field turning for home but ran out of steam before falling at the last fence. Just 12 months later he made amends in stunning fashion, winning by 14-lengths, with Ruby Walsh doing the steering. His class was confirmed the following year when runner-up in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and then filling the same berth back at Aintree off top weight, behind Numbersixvalverde.
It’s inevitable that the McCain clan should be involved in this tale of National glory. Trainer Donald, when responsible for the Ballabriggs success in 2011. This son of Presenting may have lacked the class of Hedgehunter, but certainly didn’t lack guts. The 10-year-old was ridden prominently throughout the race, and galloped relentlessly to the line, holding off Oscar Time by a couple of lengths.
The tragically ill-fated Many Clouds, had the class for a prominent finish in the Gold Cup of 2015 having already landed the Hennessy at Newbury and the Grade Two Cotswold Chase. His success in the 2015 Grand National was a mighty performance under the immense burden of 11-9. The eight-year-old had crept into contention on the second circuit, taking up the running five fences from home. Saint Are threatened all the way up the run-in, but Oliver Sherwood’s talented chaser galloped on to victory.
It’s fair to say that this trio of Aintree heroes were similar types. Robust, powerful gallopers with plenty of size and scope for the task in hand. Hemmings clearly has an eye and will be hoping that this year’s challengers can go close as he attempts a stunning fourth success.
He’ll certainly be hoping for better fortunes from his dual Scottish National winner Vicente. Trained by Paul Nicholls, the nine-year-old son of Dom Alco only got as far as the first fence 12 months ago, yet just a couple of weeks later was winning north of the border for the second year running. It was a colossal performance under top-weight, as he thundered home to deny Cogry by a neck. His handicap mark at Aintree will be 5lbs higher than when winning at Ayr, though importantly in my opinion, he’ll be carrying just 10-13 over a marathon trip that ought to prove ideal. He needs to show that he can handle the unique Aintree fences (though these are less of a challenge nowadays). If he does, that fourth Hemmings success is a real possibility.
The owner recently purchased another nine-year-old National hopeful, also trained by Nicholls. That procurement likely came after Warriors Tale’s solid performance in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. The son of Midnight Legend (same sire as Gold Cup winner Sizing John) was foot perfect throughout, and looked a certain winner before being chinned on the line by Wakanda. Back in December he’d put in another solid performance when just denied by Nicky Henderson’s talented chaser Gold Present. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to win the Grand National off his mark of 149. Though Trevor Hemmings clearly thinks he has a chance.
One of the Hemmings team that may miss the cut is the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds. This progressive young chaser is tailor-made for the National. Should enough drop out of the race, and he were to sneak in at the bottom of the weights, he’d prove a very interesting contender. A winner at Aintree back in October, this eight-year-old finished fourth in the Welsh National and recently stayed on gamely to land a third-place finish in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham. He’s an out-and-out stayer, who I am sure, will land one of these valuable marathons at some point in his career.
Whether Vintage Clouds makes the race or not, Trevor Hemmings will arrive at Aintree hopeful of more Grand National glory.