Tag Archive for: Donald McCain

McCain ‘tempted’ by Cheltenham test for A Different Kind

Prolific winner A Different Kind could be stepped up in class for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Since joining Donald McCain the five-year-old has won two bumpers and three novice hurdles, with his victory at Haydock over the Venetia Williams-trained Green Book his best effort to date.

A step into Grade Two company would represent a stiffer test for A Different Kind, but McCain has gone cool on the idea of running him in Musselburgh’s Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle as he would be burdened with a big penalty.

“I’m tempted by Cheltenham but it is a little up in air as I just want to give him a piece of work first,” said McCain.

“It’s definitely a possible as the original plan was Musselburgh but he’d have a big penalty up there.

“Obviously we could come up against Mr Hemmings’ horse (Hillcrest)  but after that we’d be among them so it’s tempting.

“His Haydock form with Green Book, giving him a penalty, reads well, and he can do no more than win and he keeps winning. The ground isn’t too bad at the moment as well.

“We won the Musselburgh race last year but we ended up taking on Tommy’s Oscar, Third Time Lucki and Belfast Banter so you never know what will turn up.”

Donald McCain has been banging in the winners this season
Donald McCain has been banging in the winners this season (Mike Egerton/PA)

McCain also has a nice prospect in Silver Flyer entered in Doncaster’s Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle, but drying ground is going against him.

“Silver Flyer in the River Don will depend on ground, it’s getting a bit quick and he’s only had one run over hurdles,” said McCain.

“I’ve just found it hard to find staying novice hurdles in the near future so that’s why he’s entered.”

Donald McCain hits century mark at Newcastle

Donald McCain was keen to pay tribute to his staff after becoming the first trainer to claim 100 winners this season at Newcastle on Tuesday.

It is over a decade since the Cholmondeley handler first reached the century – ending the 2010/11 campaign with 100 winners exactly.

He went on to saddle 153, 141 and 142 winners respectively in the next three seasons, but recent years have been more of a struggle after losing more than 50 horses following a split with prominent owners Paul and Clare Rooney in 2015.

However, with former champion jockey Brian Hughes a key part of the team, the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer has enjoyed a genuine resurgence this term – as evidenced by the fact he has pipped multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls to the century by one.

McCain said: “In my back of my mind at the start of the season I thought it would be lovely to get somewhere near to it, but there’s been no great plan. It’s just lovely to do it.

“It’s a great fillip for the yard. I can’t tell you how hard everyone’s working and most of these people have been with me through everything else – owners and staff and jockeys etc.

“The horses have been in great form since we started back. As I’ve said, there was no great plan to try to train a lot of winners, but they’ve kept winning and all of sudden we’ve arrived where we are.

“Any season you can train 100 winners is a good season and it’s credit to everyone that works here. You surround yourself with good people and hopefully good things will happen.”

Despite being McCain’s only runner at Newcastle, Cenotice was a largely unconsidered 12-1 shot for the DFE Electrical Handicap Chase.

The eight-year-old looked booked for minor honours on the run-in, but dug deep for conditional jockey Theo Gillard to prevail by a nose and the same from Treshnish and Gallic Geordie.

Brian Hughes is a big part of McCain's team
Brian Hughes is a big part of McCain’s team (Mike Egerton/PA)

McCain added: “I think it’s our fastest 100. I remember the year we had our most winners (153 in 2011/12) we did it with a four-timer at the Haydock meeting this coming Saturday.

“We’d had a good few seconds in the last few days and I was sort of resigned to the fact it wasn’t going to happen, but we took this horse to Newcastle and knew he had a chance.

“I thought we might have been beaten on the line, to be honest. I was thinking ‘we’ve come so close, but what a great finish to be involved in’.

“And then they showed the slow motion and I thought it was a possibility that we’d held on and thankfully we had, which is great.”

A Different Kind on another level to the rest at Catterick

A Different Kind is likely to have his sights raised on his next appearance after stretching his winning run to five at Catterick.

Runner-up on his sole start in the Irish point-to-point field, the five-year-old had since completed a Sedgefield hat-trick before beating a subsequent dual winner in Green Book at Haydock last month.

Donald McCain’s charge appeared to face a straightforward task in the EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle in North Yorkshire and those who got involved at cramped odds of 1-5 will have had few concerns.

Always travelling strongly in the hands of Brian Hughes, A Different Kind powered clear between the final two flights and had 11 lengths in hand at the line.

McCain is not one for getting carried away, but the fact he was at Catterick, rather than racing more locally at Bangor, is perhaps indicative of the regard in which this unbeaten youngster is held.

“He’s a lovely, switched off, likeable horse who does what he has to do and no more. Most grounds, different trips – he’s a grand horse,” the Cholmondeley handler said in typically understated fashion.

“Derek O’Connor recommended him to me and from the first day we got him we’ve loved him. He has an honest, straightforward way about him and he jumps like a buck.”

On future plans, McCain added: “We’ll have a look at Musselburgh for the Trials meeting (February 5 and 6). If we’re going there it will be over two miles, or there’s the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon.

“I train for a lot of people that prefer Aintree to Cheltenham and that has to be discussed. We’ll worry about the next step first and go from there.”

Jonathan Burke amd Guerlain De Vaux (right) in action
Jonathan Burke amd Guerlain De Vaux (right) in action (Simon Marper/PA)

Oliver Sherwood claimed what he believes to be his first ever winner at Catterick as Guerlain De Vaux (15-8) came out on top in the Watch Racing TV Now Novices’ Hurdle under Jonathan Burke.

The recent Market Rasen scorer looked booked for second early in the straight, but a final-flight error from Gredin opened the door and Guerlain De Vaux made the most of the opportunity to prevail by a head.

Sherwood said: “I thought Brian Hughes had nicked it coming down the hill, he probably knows Catterick a bit better than Johnny. But he was very brave and very tough.

“I got Argento Luna beaten in a mares’ race at Catterick and it was the best thing she ever did because she went and won the mares’ final at Newbury – if she’d won, she’d have been put up too much!”

The Very Thing caused a huge upset in an incident-packed Millbry Hill Novices’ Handicap Chase.

In a race where four of the nine runners either fell or unseated their rider, Becky Smith kept her cool aboard Micky Hammond’s 66-1 shot – finishing with a flourish to prevail by three lengths.

“I’m delighted he’s won for Derek and Jean (Walpole, owners). He’s been a frustrating horse for all of us,” said Hammond.

“A bit of girl power worked, didn’t it? She did well there, Becky. Having a visor on the first time obviously hasn’t done him any harm.”

Runners and riders in the fading sun at Catterick
Runners and riders in the fading sun at Catterick (Simon Marper/PA)

Jessiemac (7-2) got up in the final stride to win the racingtv.com Mares’ Handicap Hurdle by a nose for trainer Ian Duncan and 5lb claimer Thomas Willmott, while Dr Richard Newland’s Art Of Diplomacy justified 10-11 favouritism in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap Hurdle.

Anyharminasking (11-8) also obliged for favourite-backers in the concluding Happy 60th Birthday Yuff Handicap Hurdle, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by his son, Jonjo Jnr.

Run style analysis of a selection of National Hunt trainers

Regular readers will know of my interest in the impact of run style and, in this article, six National Hunt trainers come under the spotlight as I look for running style patterns which might lead to profitable angles, writes Dave Renham. The trainers in question are Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Jonjo O’Neill, Donald McCain, Venetia Williams and Alan King. I have looked at data between January 1st 2015 and December 31st 2021, seven years in total.

Before I start in earnest, however, a quick recap of running styles for all new readers and how Geegeez can help with understanding them.

The first furlong or so of any race sees each horse take up its early position and soon the horses settle into their racing rhythm. Normally these positions do not change too much for the first part of the race. The position each horse takes early can be matched to a running style - www.geegeez.co.uk has a pace section on its racecards that highlights which running style each horse has taken up early in a race. There are four run style groups, as follows:

Led – horses that take the early lead (the front runner). In National Hunt racing you generally get just one front runner, but occasionally there may be two or more horses disputing the early lead;

Prominent – horses that track close behind the leader(s);

Mid Division - horses that take up a more midfield position;

Held Up – horses that are held up near to or at the back of the field.

These running styles are assigned a numerical figure ranging from 4 to 1; Led gets 4, Prominent 3, Mid Division 2 and Held Up 1. Having numbers assigned to runners helps greatly with analysis as you may have seen in previous articles.

 

Run Style Analysis: All races

To begin with, let's take a look at all National Hunt races combined, breaking down the running styles of all horses for each of our six trainers. Connections, most notably the trainers, can clearly have a significant influence on the running style of their horses: most will give instructions to their jockeys before the race telling them how they would prefer the horses to be ridden.

Below, the table shows which percentage of each trainer's runners displayed one of the four running styles. I have included the figure for ALL trainers (1527 trainers combined!) as the 'control':

 

As can be seen there is quite a contrast; both Alan King and Jonjo O’Neill are clearly largely averse to sending their runners into an early lead. In contrast Donald Mc Cain, Venetia Williams and, to a lesser extent, Paul Nicholls seem happy to send a decent proportion of their runners to the front early.

In terms of their success with early leaders / front runners – all of them exceed 20% when it comes to strike rate (see graph below). For the record, 20% is the average winning figure for front runners in all National Hunt races.

 

Henderson and Nicholls have a simply stunning record with front runners – a strike rate for both of pushing 40%. Now I have mentioned before that if as punters we had access to a crystal ball pre-race to see which horse would be taking the early lead, it would be a license to print money. Here are the hypothetical profit/loss figures for the front runners of the six trainers to once again prove that point:

 

Combining all trainers in the list would have yielded an SP profit of £394.91 to £1 level stakes. Now, as we know, predicting which horse is going to take the early lead is far from an exact science. However, with some detailed analysis of the trainers in the race, as well as the horses concerned there will be opportunities to maximise our chances of nailing down the likely front runner.

 

Run Style Analysis: Chases

I have noted in previous pieces that front runners in chases make the biggest profits in terms of National Hunt racing, so let us see how our six trainers perform in these races. Here are their win strike rates with front runners in chases. In the table I have included their All races front running SR% to facilitate comparison:

 

Similar figures for each trainer although Alan King’s figure drop about 5%.

And here are the hypothetical profits from identifying and backing these front runners in chases over the course of the seven years in the sample:

 

All six trainers would have been in profit to SP – a combined profit of £350.38 to £1 level stakes indicates why chases are so ‘front runner’ friendly.

I have also looked at the percentage of their runners which displayed a front running style in chases – as with the All Race data I shared earlier, two trainers (King and O’Neill) are far less likely to send their charges to the front early:

 

It still staggers me every time I see trainers that send a low percentage of their runners to the front early. Just one in twelve of Jonjo O’Neill’s runners goes into an early lead in a chase. However, when they do, they win nearly 25% of the time (one race in four). Compare this to his record with hold up horses in chases. Nearly 45% of all Jonjo O’Neill’s runners in chases are held up early – but just 11% go onto win. It’s nuts! [For all that there might be other reasons for holding certain horses up on some occasions - Ed.]

Hold up horses do not perform well in chases either – to illustrate this here are the chase records of the six trainers with their hold up runners:

 

The summary on hold up horses is low strike rates and huge losses all round. This group will, of course, include a subset of no-hopers though, in relation to such high profile trainers, there will be fewer of these than for most other handlers.

 

Run Style Analysis: Hurdle races

Generally speaking, hurdle races do not offer as strong a front running edge as chases, but it is still preferable to lead early compared with other running styles.

With that in mind, let us review the hypothetical profits from our trainers' front runners in hurdle races:

 

Some good strike rates for Nicholls, Henderson and King, but not the wall to wall profits seen in the chases analysis.

It is noticeable that, as a whole, the six trainers send out a smaller proportion of front runners in hurdle races as compared to chases. This will be in part due to typically smaller field sizes in chases then in hurdles, but that doesn't fully account for the differentials. The graph below illustrates:

 

Alan King has sent just less than 4% of his hurdlers into an early lead despite these runners scoring 35% of the time. As a comparison, his held up runners (which account for 37% of all King's hurdlers) won just 13% of the time.

 

Run Style Analysis: Full Summary

To conclude, I'd like to share the individual trainer win strike rate data across all four running styles in different race types. I have included National Hunt flat races, too. These races do not give front runners as strong an edge although they still perform better than any of the other three running styles.

The table below gives a very clear picture as to why run style is so important. It shows the significant edge front runners have overall; it also shows that prominent runners perform far better than horses that race mid division or are held up.

 - Dave Renham

 

Lucky Southwell punter has Grand National dream

A lucky William Hill punter who won over a quarter of a million pounds from a £7 stake with four of his his seven selections winning at Southwell on Tuesday, could have local trainer Donald McCain celebrating too.

None of the 58-year-old father of two from Manchester’s selections contained the Cholmondeley-based handler’s horses.

However, the customer, who pocketed £281,246.23p from a series of 10p multiples in a bet comprising big-priced winners Schiaparannie (8-1), Tiquer (25-1), Irish Sovereign (66-1) and Alchemystique (150-1), could invest in a racehorse of his own, with McCain in his thoughts.

The lucky winner said: “I had no idea they would be such big odds! I scanned through the racecards, picked out a few fancies and placed some fun multiples for the day.

“I’ve always said that if I were to win big then I’d like to invest in a proper racehorse, so now’s my chance. I’d like a nice jumps horse, maybe in training with Donald McCain as he’s quite local, and the next dream would be to win the Grand National!

“My wife and I are also hoping to go to New Zealand and spend some time touring the country, a trip we’ve always spoken about doing.”

McCain, who was at Haydock on Wednesday to see A Different Kind maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles under Brian Hughes, was naturally delighted for the William Hill punter.

He said: “If he has suggested he wants to buy a horse and have it with me, then I think that is a very good idea!

“It will be a pleasure to meet him – please give him my best wishes and point him in my direction!”

William Hill’s spokesman Rupert Adams added: “It’s remarkable that he’s not managed to pick just one or two big odds winners, but four, including a 150-1 shot and a 66-1 shot. He said he didn’t pay much attention to the prices when placing the bet, which is probably a good thing as he might have been put off!

“We’re delighted for him and the family. It sounds as though they’ll enjoy the money with a dream holiday to New Zealand, and maybe a racehorse of their own. Be lucky!”

Barrichello strikes to give McCain and Hughes another winner

Barrichello led his rivals a merry dance to provide the in-form combination of Donald McCain and Brian Hughes with another victory in the Betfair Weighed In Podcast Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock.

Runner-up on his first five starts over obstacles last season, a summer wind operation appears to have made all the difference.

Following a 25-length success on his reappearance at Bangor last week, Barrichello was the 7-4 favourite to successfully step up to Listed class and was soon bowling along at the head of affairs.

Keen to put his mount’s experience to good use, Hughes kicked clear before the home turn and never looked in any real danger of being pegged back – with It’s Good To Laugh beaten just under five lengths into second.

McCain, who teamed up Hughes for a treble at Catterick on Friday, said of his latest winner: “We know what this race can be like sometimes and we decided to take a punt.

“The wind operation has obviously made a big difference and he’s another 12 months older.

“We were going to go chasing with him, but we’ll just have to see now.”

He added: “He probably wants further and he probably wants riding a bit more sensibly, but today was the day to ride him like we did on a quick track and it worked out well.”

General view of the spectators in the stands during the Betfair Chase Day at Haydock
General view of the spectators in the stands during the Betfair Chase Day at Haydock (Simon Marper/PA)

The Oliver Sherwood-trained Jersey Bean came out on top in a pulsating climax to the Because We’re Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Chase.

Furius De Ciergues gave a bold sight for much of the three-and-a-half-mile journey, but while he refused to to down without a fight, 16-1 shot Jersey Bean won a titanic tussle by half a length.

“It was a good performance and a big thanks goes to Oliver and Brendan Powell, who has been riding him over fences,” said winning jockey Jonathan Burke.

“He just told me to be very positive on him and to be fair to the horse, he answered every call.

“He picked up off the bend and then missed the ditch and I thought ‘that’s him cooked’, but when he got into battle he really rallied – his attitude was top class.”

Tommy’s Oscar (100-30) turned what looked a competitive Betfair Pays Tribute To Andy Stewart Handicap Hurdle into a procession under last season’s champion conditional Danny McMenamin.

A beaten favourite on his last two starts at Wetherby and Carlisle, Ann Hamilton’s charge rewarded those who kept the faith with a thoroughly impressive 10-length verdict over Thibault.

Hamilton’s husband and assistant Ian said: “That was just the job – he was too impressive really!

“He didn’t get the trip over two and a half (miles) at Carlisle. It was soft ground and he had 11st 12lb on his back. It was different today as this is a lot easier track on better ground.

“He’s a chaser really, but I always thought there was a decent hurdle race in him first.”

Strictlyadancer at Cheltenham
Strictlyadancer at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Strictlyadancer completed his hat-trick in the concluding My Odds Boost On Betfair Handicap Chase.

A winner at Cheltenham in October and again last week, the Christian Williams-trained 7-4 favourite benefited from a well-judged ride from Jack Tudor to add to his tally.

Williams said: “He’s in good heart and probably idles a bit in front, so we’re maybe lucky he keeps a little bit up his sleeve.

“This is such a sharp track and it wouldn’t be ideal for this horse, but his jumping keeps him in it.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go next – we’ll have to check Newbury next week!”

Magnificent Minella Trump makes it seven in a row

Donald McCain was thrilled to see Minella Trump extend his winning sequence to seven with a dominant front-running display at Catterick.

The seven-year-old appeared to have lost his way during his debut season over fences last season, but a switch back to hurdles saw him round off his campaign with victory at Perth.

Minella Trump has not looked back since, with an autumn hat-trick at the same Scottish venue followed by victories at Sedgefield and Sandown ahead of his latest assignment in North Yorkshire.

The Shantou gelding was taken on by just two rivals in the Lyn And Holly’s Big Birthday Celebrations Novices’ Chase – and it soon became a match after a couple of jolting early errors from Ask Paddington led to him being pulled up.

Baron De Middleton briefly threatened to make a race of it early in the home straight, but 1-2 favourite Minella Trump quickly asserted and came home with 21 lengths in hand under Brian Hughes.

McCain said: “I’m chuffed. He’s doing it at decent enough level and it takes a bit of doing.

“These things don’t happen very often. The last horse to win seven in a row for us was Peddlers Cross and I’ll never train another one of those. It was a different kettle of fish with him as that was expected – we never expected him to get beaten.

“This is a different story and a different type of horse, but for him to go through the grades and learn his job along the way is credit to him – he’s a star and I wouldn’t mind a few more like him, that’s for sure.”

Donald McCain has his string in excellent form
Donald McCain has his string in excellent form (Mike Egerton/PA)

With another rise in the handicap likely, Minella Trump will have to dip his toe into deeper waters at some stage, but McCain is in no rush to decide on where the bid for an eight-timer will take place.

He added: “Truthfully, I don’t know where we’ll go next. We’ll be governed by ground a little bit, so we’ll see what the weather does and we’ve got to see how he is.

“At some point he’s going to need a break, but I don’t think he’s taking too much of himself at the moment, so we’ll just have to see.

“We’re enjoying it and we’ll take him home and see where it takes us.”

Minella Trump was the first of three winners on the afternoon for the McCain-Hughes combination.

Minella Plus is another smart prospect for the team
Minella Plus is another smart prospect for the team (Mike Egerton/PA)

Recent Musselburgh scorer Minella Plus (2-7 favourite) doubled his tally over obstacles in the racingtv.com/freemonth Novices’ Hurdle, while the River Walk (9-2) carried the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings to a debut victory in the Racing Again 14th December Open NH Flat Race.

“Minella Plus is not over-big and won’t be wanting winter ground. He’s a little bit wild, but he’s learning his job and he’s done it well,” said McCain.

“It’s a crying shame Mr Hemmings has gone and we’re all training him winners at the moment.

“River Walk is a nice horse. I didn’t know if he’d win a bumper, to be honest, but he showed a good attitude and he’s got a proper staying pedigree.”

McCain in no hurry to map out Minella Trump target

Donald McCain is in no rush to decide the next plan of attack with Minella Trump after his progressive chaser completed a five-timer at Sandown on Sunday.

Having supplemented a Perth hat-trick with victory at Sedgefield last month, the seven-year-old continued on his steep upward curve with a successful raid south under Brian Hughes.

McCain believes his charge has benefited from taking small steps after losing his confidence over fences last season.

Reflecting on his latest success, the trainer said: “It was grand and the nice thing was it’s the best he’s jumped on the biggest track he’s jumped.

“I think between us all we thought we might be over-facing him a touch, but he jumped really well.

“This new novice handicap chase thing has really helped horses like him. Horses are now able to get a bit of confidence and step up through the ranks.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does and see what the weather does and play it by ear.

“Obviously he’s been busy, but my daughter Abbie rides him every day and knows him well enough, so if he’s fresh and well and the ground is still around we’ll go somewhere else.”

Another exciting novice chaser for the McCain team this term is Minella Drama.

Minella Drama (centre) scoring at Uttoxeter
Minella Drama (centre) scoring at Uttoxeter (Tim Goode/PA)

Runner-up to My Drogo in a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in the spring, the Flemensfirth gelding bolted up on his fencing debut at Uttoxeter before going down by a short head at Carlisle on Monday.

McCain added: “I was not as bothered about getting beaten as Brian (Hughes) was – Brian feels if he’d had his time again he’d have won.

“It was a messy race with horses all over the place. It’s easy afterwards, when you can say you should have bounced him out and got on with it and then the only mistakes are your own.

“It’s almost certainly cost him the race on the day, but we’re trying to make the horse at the same time, especially when you’re looking to go further, so you try to do the job a certain way.

“Plans are up in the air. Brian thinks we should stay at two miles, I don’t know if we need to go a bit further.

“If he’d have won on Monday we’d definitely have gone to Sandown for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, but we’ll see.”

McCain assesses options for Minella Drama

Donald McCain’s promising Minella Drama has a handful of options after his victorious chasing debut at Uttoxeter.

The six-year-old has never been out of the first two in seven runs under rules and two in point-to-points, capping last season with a runner-up spot behind My Drogo in the Grade One Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

At Uttoxeter on Friday, Minella Drama ran over fences for the first time in the Kalahari King Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase and was an emphatic near nine-length winner.

A jumping error over the penultimate fence caused a sole moment of doubt, something McCain attributed to the gelding’s hot temperament and consequent lack of schooling.

“He made the one mistake – but he’s had to do it all on his own with the hood on, which chills him out enough,” said the Cheshire trainer.

“Just because of the way he is, we can’t school him as much as we normally would – he gets a bit lit up at home, so he was always going to have to go out and learn it on the track.

“He’s jumped a clear round, and I think it’s slightly overlooked that it was a handicap at the end of the day, and he’s given lumps away to good horses and given them a fair beating – we were very pleased.”

McCain has always had a high opinion of Minella Drama, and may consider a step into graded company next.

“We fancied him at Aintree last year,” he added.

“We didn’t know My Drogo was as good as he was – but we fancied him, and he ran accordingly, with good horses behind him.

“It wasn’t a shock. We’ve thought plenty of him for a long time, (and) it’s nice to have his type of horse around the place.

“There’s a couple of races – there’s a novice chase at Carlisle, which is an obvious target; then there’s the Henry VIII, which is also a possibility, at Sandown the week after.

“We’re just going to see how he is over the next few days. There’s a small possibility that we could get him out very quickly if he was very fresh.”

McCain also provided an update on stablemate Minella Trump, who extended his unbeaten sequence to five when winning at Sedgefield last month.

The seven-year-old has entries at Aintree and Sandown this weekend, but the trainer is keen to preserve his growing confidence over fences and will not run him if conditions prove unsuitable.

Minella Trump has won his last five races
Minella Trump has won his last five races (Mike Egerton/PA)

“The ground looks better at Sandown at the moment – but to be honest, we’re in no hurry,” he said.

“We’ll just pick and choose, and if the right races comes along and we’re comfortable with it then we’ll run him

“He’s done nothing wrong. He’s learning his job nicely but he lost his confidence a bit last season, so we don’t want to undo all the work that we’ve done by over-facing him.

“He might not run anywhere yet (this week) – we’ll see what the opposition is like.”

McCain continues in flying form with across-the-card four-timer

Donald McCain continued his fine start to the jumps season with an across-the-card 143-1 four-timer on Thursday.

A treble at Carlisle with Hart Of Steel (10-1), Malpas (13-8 favourite) and Armattiekan (11-8 favourite) and victory for See The Sea (11-10 favourite) at Wincanton from just six runners took his tally for the campaign to 40.

The Cholmondeley handler sits in third place in the trainers’ championship behind Fergal O’Brien and Paul Nicholls on prize-money.

“It’s been a great day’s work. Everyone has been working their socks off. It’s hard work at the moment, but I’ve got a great team at home and days like this are good,” said McCain.

“It’s just grand. Everyone’s working very hard and it’s always easier to get up in the morning when things are going well.”

Goobinator heading back over hurdles in the winter

Goobinator is to go back hurdling this winter after ending a successful Flat campaign by finishing a creditable fourth in the Cesarewitch.

Trainer Donald McCain is to to give the five-year-old plenty of schooling after he lost his confidence over obstacles last season.

The decision to switch the Noble Mission gelding to the level paid off with victories at York and Haydock, and was capped by his fine effort in the Newmarket marathon on Saturday.

He looked to be travelling as the 32-strong field entered the business end, but McCain feels Goobinator did not quite last home.

“He was tired having done his best, but I’m not sure he quite got the two-mile-two,” said said the Cheshire handler.

“He ran a blinder. He got shuffled back early, but that might not have been the worst thing in the world and he travelled well into the race really sweetly. You could argue he’s just not lasted home, but he still finished fourth in a Cesarewitch so we’re thrilled.

“We’ll regroup and start schooling him, as he lost his confidence a bit, and get him ready to go back hurdling.”

A long-term target for 2022 could be the Chester Cup if it looked as though he had a good chance of getting into the race.

“I’d imagine he’d go on the Flat again next season,” McCain added.

“We’d consider the Chester Cup, but I don’t think he’d get in where he is at the moment. We’d certainly consider it. It’s down the road and we love to have any runners in it.”

Donald McCain leads tributes to Trevor Hemmings

Donald McCain has led the tributes to three-times Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings who died on Monday evening at the age of 86.

McCain trained Ballabriggs to provide Hemmings with a second Aintree success in 2011 following on from Hedgehunter (2005) and added to by Many Clouds (2015).

Having also had horses with his father, Red Rum’s trainer Ginger, McCain explained while also losing a huge supporter, his family were mourning the loss of a friend.

“It was a huge shock. He’d been in touch fairly recently and he even used to ring my mum now and again just to keep an eye on her,” said McCain.

“Obviously he was fantastic to me. Dad trained for him in his latter years but for me as a first-season trainer to have horses for Trevor Hemmings was a huge thing and he supported me every year through thick and thin for every year that I’ve been training.

“He’s been a wonderful man for me and a lot of other trainers. He was very fair and while it’s corny, he was just a gentleman. He was a wonderful supporter to me, you can’t underestimate the reason why he was so successful and that is because he allowed you to train horses the way they should be trained.

“He was not just a great man but he was a great friend to the family as well.

“Cloudy Lane was the first good horse I had for him and Mr Hemmings bred him as well, we had some great fun with him even before Ballabriggs came along, he won at the (Cheltenham) Festival and was favourite for the National the following year (finished sixth).

“It was no fluke that he won three Grand Nationals, he allowed you to do the job, he never rushed you.

“He’s a great loss to National Hunt racing but in particular the northern National Hunt racing scene, that can’t be underestimated as he was a great supporter of many trainers in the north.”

Trevor Hemmings celebrates the victory of Many Clouds in the Grand National
Trevor Hemmings celebrates the victory of Many Clouds in the Grand National (Mike Egerton/PA)

Oliver Sherwood described Hemmings as the “perfect owner”.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “It was a real shock to get a text from David Minton (bloodstock agent) last night. He’d been in really good form recently, he hadn’t been in any ill health, so it was a huge shock.

“We had some great days with Many Clouds and I’ll be forever in their debt. Without Trevor’s input I wouldn’t have even run him in the National because I thought it was a year too soon.

“After his slightly disappointing run in the Gold Cup, Trevor said we had nothing to lose and the rest is history.”

Reflecting on that National success, Sherwood added: “I won’t forget that weekend for as long as I live. Trevor flew down the next day in his helicopter and celebrated with all the locals in Lambourn and paid for everybody to have a drink.

“It was a huge turnout in the centre of Lambourn, which will stick in my mind forever. We’ve still got a huge picture in our yard now of ‘Clouds’ in the square in Lambourn. They were very special days.

“Many Clouds was one of many good horses Trevor owned. I think he had a soft spot for all his National winners.

“Trevor would be the first to say he was a very lucky man to have the horses he did, but then he enjoyed the highs and knew the lows that came with owning racehorses. He knew the game inside out as well, which is very important.

“He was the perfect owner. He let us get on with it and knew we knew the horses better than anybody.”

Hedgehunter with jockey Ruby Walsh winning the Grand National
Hedgehunter with jockey Ruby Walsh winning the Grand National (David Davies/PA)

Hedgehunter provided Willie Mullins with his first and only victory to date in the National 16 years ago under Ruby Walsh.

Mullins said: “We had a great day with Trevor Hemmings and Hedgehunter.

“It was a dream come true to win the National – it gave us one of the great days in my training career.

“He (Hemmings) was a man who it was an honour and a pleasure to train for.”

Former champion jockey Richard Johnson, who rode many winners in the Hemmings silks, said: “I was very, very lucky, Trevor was a big supporter of Philip’s (Hobbs) and Henry Daly’s.

“I rode a lot of winners for him over a long period of time, he was always a great character.

“He was self-made, he’d done everything and I think he loved all sport, he loved racing and he understood the good and the bad.

“He always loved the Grand National and he bought those lovely big chasers that he knew took a lot of time, he used to joke ‘I’ve had him forever, one day we might win a race’ – a character like that, you’re really going to miss him.

“It (racing) was his enjoyment, his hobby, he just loved to be a part of it and when he was at Haydock or Uttoxeter or Cheltenham, he was telling jokes rather than worrying about what going to happen in 10 minute’s time.

“It was very sad to hear the news that he’s passed away.”

Cesarewitch in mix for Goobinator

Donald McCain is considering a crack at the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch with his improving stayer Goobinator.

The five-year-old is a three-time winner over hurdles, and will go back jumping in the winter, but he has won his last two on the Flat – suggesting he still has more to offer in that sphere.

He holds an entry in the Cesarewitch Trial this weekend but will not take up the option.

“He won’t run this weekend. We have had a bit of a chat, and he would probably sneak in the Cesarewitch with his 4lb penalty,” said McCain.

“There are plusses and minuses, because Paul (Mulrennan) gets on with him very well but I don’t think he’d have the sort of weight Paul could do – and he wouldn’t be the easiest horse in the world to ride.

“He’s fine after Haydock, so the Cesarewitch is definitely an option, but we need to weigh it up against the winter too.

“He’s won on heavy ground over hurdles but he doesn’t really want it. He doesn’t want it too firm either – I’d pulled him out a couple of times before Haydock, because the ground had gone too quick.”

McCain may be better known for his jumpers but he has enjoyed a good summer with his small string of Flat horses, advertised best by the sprinter Russco – who has won five in a row.

Russco (right) has been a revelation for the McCains this season
Russco (right) has been a revelation for the McCains this season (David Davies/PA)

“Obviously we bought him as a bit of a project, and he wasn’t drilled into the ground as a two-year-old because that is not how we do things,” said the Cheshire trainer.

“We’ve worked out his trip now, and he’s just quietly improving all the time, and I’d like to think he still is.

“There’s a race at Haydock he could go for and a valuable one at Ascot he might sneak in. But truthfully – and unfortunately for me – he’s got a date in the sales at Newmarket in the autumn as well, because that is what he was bought for.

“I’m quite enjoying the journey, so we won’t be giving him away because he’s a valuable asset at the moment.”

Presentandcounting has won five of his last six
Presentandcounting has won five of his last six (David Davies/PA)

Another prolific winner for the yard is novice chaser Presentandcounting, who has won five of his last six and risen to a rating of 147 – just 1lb less than Cheltenham Festival runner-up Fiddlerontheroof.

“If we could rubber stamp the form they are all in now for the rest of the winter, I’d sign for that now,” said McCain.

“The positive side of him being rated 147 is that he’s a novice – so his mark should work itself out through the year, because we can run in novice chases, so it’s not the end of the world.

“He wouldn’t be well-in for a race like the Paddy Power so he’ll go for the Listed novice chase at Chepstow in a few weeks.”

McCain enthralled with Hughes’ ‘David and Goliath’ title task

Donald McCain has described this season’s neck-and-neck jockeys’ title race as a battle which has taken on “David and Goliath” proportions – with reigning champion Brian Hughes currently cast in the giant-killing role.

Hughes closed the gap behind Skelton to just two again when he and McCain’s Bannixtown Glory fought off his rival on Eglantine Du Seuil by three-quarters of a length in the Citipost Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Cheshire trainer McCain said: “It’s good to be involved and part of it, and it’s all very civilised.”

He nonetheless senses the extra firepower available to Skelton could be key – especially with multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls supplying an increasing number of winning opportunities in the final weeks of the season, with his stable jockey Harry Cobden out injured.

He said: “We are lucky to have some lovely horses that do the job right – but when they wheel Paul Nicholls in it is like David and Goliath.

“We remember watching (Richard) Dunwoody and Adrian Maguire in their battle that went all the way (in the 1990s) – but with this it does look as if things are falling in favour of Harry.

“Brian will probably come off the wrong end of it, but we will keep kicking.”

Of his 9-1 winner, McCain added: “This is a lovely tough little filly, but I was a bit surprised turning in that there was nothing going behind her.

Hughes said: “She was a Listed winner over three miles at Kempton Park. She stays well, but was getting a bit lonely up the straight.

“It’s good to have another winner here. I won’t give up, and will keep chipping away.”

Coral trimmed Hughes to 5-2 (from 3-1) for championship, and eased Skelton to 1-4 (from 1-5).

“Although Harry Skelton remains a hot favourite to win a first NH jockeys’ title, Brian Hughes has closed the gap with a winner at Cheltenham, and the battle now heads to Ayr, familiar turf for the reigning champion,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

My Drogo stars in Premier prize at Kelso

My Drogo heads a high-class field for the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso.

The £40,000 contest forms part of a quality card in the Borders, with the huge prize-money on offer in the three feature events in particular tempting the likes of Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls to send runners on the long journey north.

My Drogo must concede weight to each of his six rivals, having already won at Grade Two level on his latest outing in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Ascot in December.

Nevertheless, Skelton is anticipating a big run in Saturday’s two-and-a-quarter-mile contest.

He said: “We’ve had this race in mind for some time for My Drogo. Obviously he carries the penalty, but I think the trip will be perfect for him and there are no real excuses.

“I’m very happy with him. We decided it was the best thing for him to miss Cheltenham this year and he might go here and then Aintree, but we’re taking it one race at a time.”

Irish point-to-point recruit Bareback Jack is stepped up in grade by Donald McCain in the same race, following a hat-trick of novice wins at a lower level.

“It’s a good race. Credit to Kelso – they’ve put the money on and they’ve got the horses,” said the Bankhouse handler.

Donald McCain has high hopes for Bareback Jack
Donald McCain has high hopes for Bareback Jack (Nick Potts/PA)

“Bareback Jack is a smart horse, we think a lot of him.

“Obviously it’s a step up, so we’ll see where we are.”

The Nicholls-trained Lucky One and Any News from Neil Mulholland’s yard also feature.

Nicholls told Betfair: “He has kept improving as he learns to settle better in his races, which is key to his performance and the form of his latest win at Wincanton is red hot, with the horse he beat 20 lengths hacking up earlier this week.

“He is very much going the right way and deserves to take his chance in this better race.”

The Shunter (right) runs in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso
The Shunter (right) runs in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

With a total prize fund of £75,000 up for grabs, the most valuable race on the card is the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.

The likely favourite is Emmet Mullins’ Irish raider The Shunter – winner of the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, before reverting to fences to finish third in a handicap chase at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.

The home team includes Skelton’s Faivoir, who switches back to handicap company following a Grade Two novice win at Haydock.

Skelton said: “He won the graded race for us last time and is quite a progressive horse.

“I think a fast-run race will suit him and this is the next step up the ladder.

“He’s running off 143, which is a high mark for a novice, but I’m very happy with him and we’ll see how we get on.”

McCain is hopeful the application of blinkers can help Blakeney Point bounce back from a slightly underwhelming effort at Musselburgh, saying: “It just didn’t quite work out for him the last day – he got a little bit lost early on.

“We’re putting a pair of blinkers on to sharpen him up and he’s got a good weight, so hopefully he’s got a squeak of sorts.”

Ann Hamilton’s Tommy’s Oscar and the Nicholls-trained pair of Christopher Wood and Solo are others to consider in a fiercely-competitive affair.

Nicholls said: “Christopher Wood is up 7lb to a mark of 150 after his latest success at Musselburgh, so Angus Cheleda’s 7lb claim is obviously a big help.

Solo has plenty to prove
Solo has plenty to prove (Julian Herbert/PA)

“The first two were a long way clear of the rest that day and I’m hopeful that Christopher Wood can again be bang there at the finish in a strong field of runners.

“Solo made a big impression on his debut in this country a year ago in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton, but the horses he beat that day have hardly advertised the form.

“Solo has not found life easy racing off a stiff handicap mark this season, but it has dropped to a more realistic level now and he has started to come together in his work over the past couple of weeks and is showing us the right signs.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see him run well at a nice price.”