x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Grand National winner Ballabriggs stirs memories of Red Rum

The horse racing dynasty behind Grand National great Red Rum was celebrating victory in the world's toughest steeplechase again yesterday thanks to Ballabriggs.

The horse racing dynasty behind Grand National great Red Rum was celebrating victory in the world's toughest steeplechase again yesterday thanks to Ballabriggs.

Ballabriggs's trainer Donald McCain was only six years old in 1977 when Red Rum - saddled by his father, Ginger - completed a unique hat trick of wins on the Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool in north-west England.

The weight of expectation only grew on the new generation when Ginger also sent out Amberleigh House for a Grand National triumph in 2004.

The 80-year-old McCain wept tears of joy yesterday as Donald joined him on the Aintree roll of honour five years after handing over the family stables to him.

Quipped Ginger McCain: "It just proves that a good trainer can come from anywhere, despite the breeding! "Aintree always comes up with wonderful stories and it is the case again today."

In front of a first capacity crowd at Aintree for almost 30 years and a reported worldwide television audience of 600 million, 10-year-old Ballabriggs finished two and a quarter lengths ahead of Oscar Time in the 164th Grand National.

"It's just fantastic for all involved," Donald McCain said. "I've been associated with the Grand National all of my life and I felt really involved with Amberleigh House. For a while I think I got a bit Cheltenham-obsessed, but you only have to look around this place to see how special it is."

A life-size bronze statue of Red Rum stands at the Liverpool course where he won in 1973, '74 and '77 and was second in '75 and '76, a record that has never been matched. Mobbed by fans wherever he went, the gelding stayed busy after his retirement in 1977, helping to open shops and supermarkets. The 30-year-old horse was buried under the finish line after dying in 1996. Many racing commentators credit Red Rum with reviving interest in the race.

The Ballabriggs win on Saturday over the four-and-a-half mile race denied Sam Waley-Cohen, the 28-year-old friend of Prince William, a remarkable treble for an amateur jockey.

After winning the King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier this season, Waley-Cohen settled for second on board Oscar Time as Jason Maguire rode Ballabriggs to victory.