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Ballabriggs, trained by Donald McCain and ridden by Jason Maguire, won the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, the 14-1 chance beating Oscar Time, partnered by amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen.

Don’t Push It, last year’s winner, came in third under Tony McCoy with State Of Play coming from the clouds to grab fourth.

McCain was cementing his family’s links with the world’s most famous steeplechase, his father Ginger having sent out Red Rum to memorably win three Grand Nationals in the 1970s.

Ginger, who also sent out 2004 winner Amberleigh House, said mischievously of his son: “If ever I meet his father I’ll congratulate him on giving him the brains!”

McCain junior said: “It’s fantastic, it’s easy training very good horses, he’s an absolute pleasure.

“He’s been there all the way and he doesn’t keep anything back.”

McCain added that he and Ballabriggs’ owner, Trevor Hemmings, had owed Maguire a National, as the jockey had stayed faithful to the stable rather than taking up the option of riding Silver Birch, the winner in 2007.

Maguire, his right hand strapped up after dislocating his thumb in a fall on Friday, said: “This is crazy, it’s a dream come true, I haven’t really a clue what I’m feeling, I’m overwhelmed.”

With a sell-out 70,000 crowd at Aintree, Maguire had Ballabriggs well in contention on the first circuit, the pair then leading the field with Majestic Concorde before Dermot Weld’s challenger unseated his rider six fences from home.

Ballabriggs, jumping the fearsome fences brilliantly, led over the last and had enough left in the tank at the end of the four-and-a-half mile marathon to hold off Waley-Cohen – who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month – on Oscar Time by two and a quarter lengths.

In all, 19 of the 40 runners who had set out in the sunshine completed the race, with those who failed to cross the line including Sir Alex Ferguson’s Gold Cup fourth What A Friend, who was pulled up when beaten late on the second circuit.

The Willie Mullins-trained favourite and eventual sixth The Midnight Club’s chances were dealt an ultimately lethal blow when he made a hash of the third, the open ditch.

His jockey Ruby Walsh reported: “I was lucky to get round, he lost all chance at the third fence, then got very careful.”

The 2011 National sadly claimed the lives of two runners, Mullins’ Dooneys Gate and Ornais which meant the surviving runners only jumped 28 of the scheduled 30 fences as the two fences where they fell were cordoned off on the second circuit.

AFP

 
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