Ballabriggs begins National bid
Ballabriggs faces just four rivals as he kicks off his campaign in today’s totepool.com Premier Chase at Kelso.
The 11-year-old has been off the track since his emotional triumph in the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree last April. Trainer Donald McCain always intended to preserve his star stayer until this point of the year, with this extended two-mile-six-furlong event the expected starting point.
Ballabriggs suffered a shock defeat when sent off the odds-on favourite for the contest last term and McCain freely admits the Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding will improve for the outing.
“He’s in fantastic nick. He’s fresh and well and schooled well earlier in the week and doesn’t know what to do with himself,” he said.
“He will need the run – he’ll come on a bundle for it – but it’s not about Saturday, his aim is Aintree in April and this is just a step down the road to getting him there.
“If we get him there [Aintree] in one piece he’ll run a massive race. It will be his only run before the National, we’ll probably take him away for a gallop somewhere after Kelso before we go,” added the Cholmondeley handler.
Ballabriggs is a general 16-1 chance to claim Aintree glory again next month and will have a couple of possible National rivals in the line-up at Kelso.
The Malcolm Jefferson-trained According To Pete, who has Graded victories at both Wetherby and Haydock to his credit this term, is in the Aintree reckoning along with the George Bewley-trained Abbeybraney – although the latter will probably struggle to make the National field.
Nicky Henderson sends Master Of The Hall on a retrieval mission after he refused at Sandown last time, while outsider Waterski completes the five-runner field.
Meanwhile, at Doncaster yesterday, jockey Brian Toomey cut a relieved figure in the winner’s enclosure after getting away with mistaking the winning post on the aptly-named Lucky Landing in the Equinity Novices’ Chase.
The two-mile-three-furlong prize looked a match on paper between odds-on favourite Lidar and main market rival Kings Grey.
But as Lidar dropped away tamely, Toomey loomed up menacingly on 25-1 shot Lucky Landing and a huge leap at the final fence kept him upsides Kings Grey.
Just as Lucky Landing began to assert, Toomey eased off passing the half-furlong marker, before realising the error of his ways and getting to work again.
To the rider’s relief, the mistake had not cost him much ground and the pair managed to hold on by a length.
Toomey explained: “I thought the half-furlong marker was the winning post, but thankfully I’ve got away with it.
“The horse bled at Bangor two days ago, but Tony [Coyle, trainer] has turned him out again and he’s done it well.
“I didn’t think I’d get near the top two but, in fairness to him, he’s jumped brilliant the whole way.”
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Monday 20 May 2013
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