Ballabriggs aims to claim elusive back-to-back Grand National wins on Saturday, as a 12/1 shot to become only the fifth horse in history to complete consecutive victories.
The victim of an 11st 9lb handicap amidst his success in last year’s race, Ballabriggs will have his work cut out in triumphing for the second year running, and becoming the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to do so.
However, owner Trevor Hemmings will gain confidence from the fact that his contender is trained by Donald McCain, son of legendary trainer Ginger, who was integral to Red Rum’s repeated successes in the Aintree showpiece.
Hemmings’ faith in the training methods of McCain Jr. proved well-founded yesterday too, when Cloudy Lane powered home in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase to give the partnership an opening-day success at Aintree.
That race occurred over the same fences as the Grand National will be contested over, and so having seen Ballabriggs complete victory over these obstacles last year, punters will be more inclined to believe that McCain has him primed for further success this year.
The trainer is bidding to become the first trainer since his late father to have back-to-back Grand National winners, and may never have a better chance of doing so than with superb jumper Ballabriggs.
Heavily-handicapped horses have tended to perform well in recent National races too, and with a big penalty always expected to be attributed to the horse, he should be well-prepared to cope with the added weight this year.
Also, the 11-year-old will be fresh, having ran just once since his victory in the world’s greatest steeplechase last year, and he has very real chances of justifying a 12/1 price to complete back-to-back National wins.