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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.”

No Drama for Minella in Sidney Banks success

Minella Drama got back on the winning trail with an authoritative display in the Ballymore Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle at Market Rasen.

Transferred from its traditional home of Huntingdon following the abandonment of the track’s fixture earlier in the month, the Listed contest has an illustrious roll of honour, with last year’s winner Shishkin going on to win the Supreme at Cheltenham on his next start.

The Donald McCain-trained Minella Drama was the 13-8 favourite in a five-runner field under champion jockey Brian Hughes, having come up narrowly short in his bid for a third straight victory in the Grade Two Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock four weeks ago.

Fitted with a hood for the first time, the six-year-old travelled strongly on the heels of the pacesetting Optimise Prime for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, before taking over between the final two flights.

An untidy leap at the last obstacle gave the closing Stoner’s Choice a sniff of success, but Minella Drama had plenty up his sleeve as he passed the post three lengths to the good.

Hughes said: “He’s always been a nice horse, his form’s been solid, you’d have to say. Every run he’s had has stacked up well. The horses he’s beat or that have beaten him have all come out and won and have got good ratings now.

“He’s a nice horse, he’s obviously progressing with every run. He’ll make a nice chaser in time.

“It was only suiting us to run him over two miles because the right races were there. As you can see, he does stay this trip and I dare say he might get three miles in time. We’ll take one step at a time, it’s a nice stepping stone.

“The horse that beat him the first day (Llandinabo Lad) won a Listed race and then the horse that was 12 lengths behind him at Bangor (Ballybegg) has won two since, and we were giving him 7lb. His form is solid.”

Minella Drama is not entered at Cheltenham and when Hughes was asked about the possibility of running at Aintree, he replied: “You’ll have to speak to Mr McCain and the owner about that.

“I just ride them, I don’t place them.”