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|Ballabriggs pleases on Kelso seasonal bow|
The 2011 John Smith's Grand National winner Ballabriggs made a highly satisfactory return to actions at Kelso on March 3, six weeks to the day before his attempt to become the first horse since the mighty Red Rum in 18974 to win the races in successive years, writes Elliot Slater.
Donald McCain's grand stayer ran in the same race 12 months ago when surprisingly beaten by Skipper's Brig, but that was after two previous outings that term and Saturday's outing was his first since his historic win at Aintree last April where he got the better of a protracted duel with Ireland's Oscar Time by two-and-a-quarter-lengths in one of the fastest ever runnings of the 'world's greatest steeplechase'. Those following the 2012 Grand National betting will be wondering if he can do the same again.
Although he had done plenty of work at home, McCain made it clear that he expected the 11-year-old to come on for the run but he travelled well for most of the contest despite an error on the first going away from the stands on the final circuit. Regular pilot Jason Maguire moved the gelded son of Presenting up to challenge for the lead going to the last but just as he moved alongside it appeared the Trevor Hemmings-owned star blew up , whist Tony McCoy on Master Of The Hall came breezing by and asserted on the run-in to beat According to Pete, with Ballabriggs fading on the flat back into fourth place.
Most observers felt that McCain's charge had done as much as could have been expected after a 10-month absence and the Cheshire-based trainer reported that his stable star blew hard after the race but it will help bring him on ahead of his main challenge on April 14. Bookmakers left last year's winner unchanged at 16/1 behind the current market leader Prince de Beauchene at 10/1 and Saturday's narrow Grimthorpe Chase runner-up Junior, 14/1.