Tag Archives: fences

Cheltenham Festival 2013: Sprinter Sacre wins Champion Chase

Superstar Sprinter Sacre romps to victory in Champion Chase with sensational run

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Geraghty said: 'He's a beautiful horse to ride. I've never ridden one as natural to jump. Things would have to go very wrong to go wrong.

'Once he's healthy and well, you get him relaxed and into a nice rhythm. He does the rest and he's a pleasure to ride.

Main man: Barry Geraghty steered Sprinter Sacre to victory over Sizing Europe who was 19 lengths behind

Main man: Barry Geraghty steered Sprinter Sacre to victory over Sizing Europe who was 19 lengths behind

Main man: Barry Geraghty steered Sprinter Sacre to victory over Sizing Europe who was 19 lengths behind

'I've ridden some brilliant horses over the years, but the ease and the grace that he does it with sets him apart.'

Henderson, greeting his 49th Festival winner, said: 'He's just very special. (I'm relieved) It's over.

'He just has that way of doing it.

'He finds it ridiculously easy – he just loves doing it.

'He loves to attack his fences. We are very lucky to have him.

'I hope people have enjoyed watching him.

'We've talked about Punchestown, and I'm sure Richie Galway (Punchestown manager) would like us to talk about it a bit more. He is a two-miler and I don't think Aintree really will be him.

'There's a nice Grade One in Ireland and maybe we go for that and then wrap him up.'

Crowd pleaser: Barry Geraghty takes the plaudits after his victory on board Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham

Crowd pleaser: Barry Geraghty takes the plaudits after his victory on board Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham

Caroline Mould's husband, Raymond, said: 'It's absolutely incredible.

'One lives in hope and expectation, but the reality is incredible.

'To see him do it like that is fantastic.

'What more can one say'

Sizing Europe's rider Andrew Lynch said: 'I tripped up on the path on the crossing, but I wouldn't use that as an excuse – the winner is some horse.

'I took it to him to see how good he was and my lad ran with great credit.'

Sizing Europe's trainer Henry de Bromhead said: 'We have been beaten by a phenomenon. We had a go, but came off second best.

Take a bow: Nicky Henderson was relieved after watching his charge justify favouritism

Take a bow: Nicky Henderson was relieved after watching his charge justify favouritism

'Andrew said he tripped on the path but that it made no difference to the result.

'He's still finished second in a Champion Chase and even at 11 he is still a very good horse, but we have been beaten by a special one.

'We made the decision to run in this (rather than Ryanair Chase or Gold Cup) and there is nothing we can do about that now.

'He was ridden to win the race. He jumped brilliant today and we know that he stays further so we will do whatever is best for the horse and I am sure Punchestown will come into it.

'He seems as good as ever, but the winner put us in our place.'

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had a winning horse at Doncaster

Ferguson's nous extends from the pitch to the racecourse with win in Doncaster

PUBLISHED:

18:39 GMT, 1 March 2013

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UPDATED:

18:39 GMT, 1 March 2013

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was in the winner's enclosure at Doncaster after Empire Levant made a winning start to his career over fences in the 32Red Novices' Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old was a 4-5 favourite on his first
appearance since failing to complete a hurdle race at Aintree in late October and was sent straight to the lead by Daryl Jacob.

Winners enclosure: Sir Alex Ferguson (left) with Empire Lavant and jockey Daryl Jacob after their victory at Doncaster

Winners enclosure: Sir Alex Ferguson (left) with Empire Lavant and jockey Daryl Jacob after their victory at Doncaster

Largely jumping quickly and accurately, all appeared to be going well for
favourite-backers until the grey made a real mess of the fifth fence from home, bringing him right back to the rest of the field.

However, he was good and neat at the remaining four fences in the home straight and found enough for pressure to hold off the determined Speed Steed by two and a quarter lengths.

Empire Levant is owned by Ferguson and Ged Mason and carries the colours of Grand National contenders What A Friend and Harry The Viking.

Sharing a joke: Ferguson and Jacob chat after the win

Sharing a joke: Ferguson and Jacob chat after the win

It might have been you on that day at Hillsborough – Des Kelly

Forget the badge… it might have been you on that tragic day at Hillsborough

By
Des Kelly

PUBLISHED:

21:57 GMT, 14 September 2012

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UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 14 September 2012

It has taken 23 years to blow apart the most cynical, sickeningly orchestrated cover-up by this country's Establishment since the Second World War.

It has taken 23 years to demonstrate once and for all that 96 people did not die behind metal fences at a football match because they behaved like animals, or wild thugs, or drunken hooligans.

It has taken 23 years to confirm Hillsborough was a grand conspiracy involving incompetent police chiefs, rank and file officers, sections of a compliant media, politicians, members of the Civil Service and, quite possibly, even a former Prime Minister.

Respect: Liverpool players and fans observe a minutes silence on the 23rd anniversary of Hillsborough

Respect: Liverpool players and fans observe a minutes silence on the 23rd anniversary of Hillsborough

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It has taken 23 years for the people of Liverpool to hear confirmation of what they saw with their own eyes. That 164 officers' statements were tampered with. That the dead, including children, were tested for alcohol. That criminal-record checks were carried out on the deceased in the hope of finding incriminating 'evidence' to support a series of calculated smears.

It has taken 23 years to hear the Government admit 41 of the 96 people killed that day could have been saved if the police and emergency services had not made a series of incredible blunders.

That loss of life was abominable, but then to try to disguise the causes, maliciously discredit the grieving families, trash a city, a people and an entire country of football supporters in the process is inhuman beyond belief. It makes you despair for the realities of democracy and governance in this land.

Remember amid all the apologies and official crocodile tears that 'The Truth' sat in a locked filing cabinet for 23 years, hidden from view. Remember, too, that none of this would have come to light, even now, were it not for the determination, righteous anger and resolute desire for justice from the families of victims and Hillsborough campaigners.

Now, we look back and wonder how it was ever allowed We marvel at how far the game has come. But in eight days there is an opportunity to take another step forward.

In eight days, there is a chance to salvage a sliver of humanity from the wreckage of that day when Liverpool face Manchester United at Anfield.

Next Sunday a global audience of half a billion people, from Sydney to Sao Paulo, from Seattle to Shanghai, will tune in for the most highly-charged club game of the season. Typically, the match also happens to be a TV sound engineer’s nightmare as the crowd exchanges their horrible insults.

A United contingent chant about the Hillsborough Disaster. A section of Liverpool supporters have their own vile ditty, mocking the Munich Air Crash.

It’s a depressing cycle of hatred and nothing more than a public celebration of death. One side justifies their evil chorus by pointing at the other, saying: 'they do it, so we do it back'. The same warped logic is in play with the bile aimed at Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez by the opposing camps.

But the English game has an opportunity to display some inherent decency here, it has a chance to make another tiny, but significant change.

Tragedy: The fate which befell the Liverpool fans could have easily been another English team

Tragedy: The fate which befell the Liverpool fans could have easily been another English team

Tragedy: The fate which befell the Liverpool fans could have easily been another English team

As Sir Matt Busby’s family, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson, Brendan Rodgers, Robbie Fowler, and countless other figures from Old Trafford and Anfield have said, 'it's time to stop the abuse'.

Many of the United fans forget it could easily have been supporters of their club at Hillsborough that day. Had United beaten Nottingham Forest in the quarter-final, they would have faced Liverpool in Sheffield. They might have been in the Leppings Lane stand. They might have arrived early with their children. They might have paid for their good timekeeping by watching the breath crushed out of them.

That’s how easy it is to empathise with others who have suffered loss. Look past the badge on the shirt. Imagine it could have been your family, your friends, your club colours there that day, then try to laugh at your 'harmless song'.

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For further musings click here: @DesKellyDM

In April, I was ashamed to be proved right on this page when I said Chelsea fans were preparing to boo the minute’s silence held in memory of the Hillsborough dead at the FA Cup semi-final.

Others bristled at recent comparisons between football's enduring hostility and the Olympic crowds. Apparently, football fans hurl abuse because they 'care more', as if that was ever an excuse. Are we to accept people chanting about Heysel, the Bradford fire, the Holocaust, or paedophilia, because they ‘care’

In eight days, football has a moment to recover its decent heart; to prove more has changed in 23 years than the introduction of seats, prawn sandwiches in the executive lounge and an absence of cages. It can show attitudes have changed, too.

Of course, nobody was ever killed by a vile word or a disgusting song. On a sunny day in Sheffield they were killed by bad policing and by metal fences. But it won’t kill anybody to show respect for the dead this weekend, either. Or in eight days. Or 23 years after that, too.

Let football do the talking: Rooney was the hero for United when the two teams met last February

Let football do the talking: Rooney was the hero for United when the two teams met last February

A new job for Tyson

Mike Tyson has conquered most things in a turbulent life, with the exception of the letter 'S'.

Now the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, convicted rapist, ear–biter, tattooist’s doodle pad and surprisingly misunderstood human being says he wants to 'sing and dance in musicals'.

Iron Mike certainly has a thespian streak. He played an amusing cameo role in the movie The Hangover. He has also tackled comedy sketches, such as a spoof of the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech on Jimmy Kimmel Live in the USA.

Tyson played the role of George W Bush’s vocal coach, reciting lines from Hamlet, rolling a Bush lookalike along the floor and performing voice exercises mocking his trademark lisp.

'Eloquenth!' he yells, before telling the bumbling former President he is 'the wortht thtudent in the hithtory of speeching!'

Tyson seems to have come through his destructive, sometimes despicable past, and now he can take a joke — or even be the joke.

The boxer might actually thrive on stage. If Frank Bruno can tread the boards then a pantomime season beckons at the very least. Imagine the fear on hearing Tyson is ‘behind you’ Just so long as his theatrical pretensions don’t extend to Mary Poppins, because A Spoonful of Sugar would be excruciating.

And as for Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious…

Singing and dancing: Tyson's career could be heading in a new direction

Singing and dancing: Tyson's career could be heading in a new direction

Sterling's no senior

Ever wondered why there are constant club versus country conflicts

Having fast-tracked 17-year-old Raheem Sterling into the Liverpool side, manager Brendan Rodgers urged caution on hearing the lad might be called up for the England Under 21 squad.

'I spoke to Trevor Brooking at the FA. In many ways it is right for him to go with the Under 19s,' he said. 'The reality is this is a kid who has made great strides over the last few weeks. Let's stay calm,' said the Anfield boss. Quite.

The FA and manager Roy Hodgson responded to Rodgers’ entirely sensible plea by leaving Sterling out of the Under 21s. And sticking him in the senior squad instead.

The Paralympics cash was money well spent

Apparently it’s bogus to mention that the four years of funding given
to the Team GB Paralympians is equivalent to Wayne Rooney’s salary over
the same period.

Frankly, I’m not massively animated by the scale of Rooney’s wages. He
can play the market for whatever it offers and be judged accordingly.

The point of the contrast was to highlight the Paralympic cheque wasn’t
such an outrageous amount when you consider the wider benefits of
funding the Games.

But one counter-argument offered up was that, unlike the Paralympians,
Rooney is taxed at 50 per cent — so the country is actually millions up
on the deal.

If anyone out there actually believes Rooney is paying the full 50 per
cent tax on his wages and doesn’t have a team of clever accountants
working on ways to reduce or limit his liability, then I’m the Governor
of the Bank of England.

Gold standard: The Paralympics were an enormous success - but Rooney is unlikely to have copped the bill

Gold standard: The Paralympics were an enormous success – but Rooney is unlikely to have copped the bill

Owen's biggest gamble

Never mind Stoke City, Michael Owen took the biggest gamble of his
career when he decided to appear on ITV’s All Star Mr and Mrs.

Only a brave man (brave, in this case, being a euphemism for dumb) would
slap his nuptials on the table for TV. And following cringeworthy
revelations that he had never made a cup of tea or coffee in his life,
or ironed a shirt, he was asked who looked better for their age: was it
him or his delightful wife, Louise

Owen promptly voted for himself, missing the easiest open goal he’s ever had.

Hair raising Rooney

IN a supremely dull autobiography, Wayne Rooney describes what it is
like to be on the end of one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary 'hairdryer' tirades. He says: 'It feels like I’ve put my head in front
of a BaByliss Turbo Power 2200. It’s horrible.'

Does anyone else think Rooney has recently got himself a new hairdryer, for some reason

Nigel Mansell recalls 1987 British Grand Prix victory

Mansell recalls the race, 25 years ago, when Silverstone saw something… A Brit special

By
Simon Cass

PUBLISHED:

21:30 GMT, 3 July 2012

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UPDATED:

21:31 GMT, 3 July 2012

There is a school of thought that those who do not get Nigel Mansell simply do not get Formula One.

Those who are not Mansell fans are quick to describe him as a difficult customer, egotistical, perhaps, even a bit miserable.

But wind back the clock 25 years from this weekend's British Grand Prix and you would struggle to find anyone among the thousands invading the track to engulf a victorious Mansell who harboured such negative opinions.

For those who burst through the fences to celebrate with their hero, after he had just pulled off one of the most remarkable victories in the history of Formula One, he was simply 'Our Nige'.

Champagne moment: Mansell celebrates after winning the 1987 British Grand Prix in a thrilling finale

Champagne moment: Mansell celebrates after winning the 1987 British Grand Prix in a thrilling finale

Indeed, the manner in which Mansell reeled in a 29-second gap to overhaul his Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet encapsulates just why he was the darling of British motorsport fans long before the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

'You always feel an added weight of expectation on your shoulders,' recalls Mansell of his emotions in the run-up to his home race.

'There are drivers who feel the pressure far too much and it inhibits them doing the very best job they can. I turned it into an advantage rather than an extra pressure. Being British, the fans expect you to try and deliver something special.'

Special does not do the circumstances of his win justice as Mansell's fierce rivalry with Piquet provided the ideal backdrop for the drama which was to unfold.

Nigel Mansell

Nigel Mansell

Red Five: The British ace set a number of lap records to catch and pass Piquet in the closing stages of the race

'All these years later, I think Nelson has admitted that he was blown away by how quick I was,' says Mansell. 'So Nelson had to use as much psychology as he could to get an edge.

'As well as being a great driver and a great champion, he was, shall we say, a little unorthodox and a little unfair and rude at times. It is fair to say that when you are a reigning world champion and you have got a team-mate who is as quick as you, if not quicker, it rattles you, doesn't it'

With the battle lines drawn and Mansell eager, as ever, to put on a show for his adoring public, the Formula One circus rolled into Silverstone.

It would not be long before he realised how difficult his afternoon's work would be.

'I realised within the first half a dozen laps I had a small vibration on the front which turned into a massive vibration,' he explains.

Crowd favourite: Mansell is mobbed by British fans after winning in front of his home crowd

Crowd favourite: Mansell is mobbed by British fans after winning in front of his home crowd

'I was just hanging on to Nelson but I could see him edging away. 'Going down Hangar Straight I could hardly hold on to the steering wheel. It was affecting my visibility of the corner apexes.

'There was no way I was going to be able to make it to the end of the race. So I had to make the big decision to go into the pits sooner rather than later.'

As he blasted out of the pit-lane, with 28 of the 65 laps left and 29 seconds behind Piquet, Mansell was already doing the maths and despair quickly turned to elation.

'Going into the pits you are dealing with disappointment, the frustration of having to do a stop that wasn't planned,' recalls Mansell.

'Then, coming out, you see the time you have done, which was a couple of seconds faster than previously. What was so pleasing was that when I came out the car felt so beautiful.

In black and white: Mansell shares a handshake with rival Piquet on the rostrum

In black and white: Mansell shares a handshake with rival Piquet on the rostrum

'All of a sudden the crowd are getting excited. You come past, you do your maths and you keep saying to yourself, “If you press on at this pace then you have got half a chance”. I settled into a rhythm and found myself catching him by almost a second a lap.'

As if Mansell needed any further encouragement, it came via the roars of the crowd, which increased in volume with each passing lap.

'It was like a flipping Mexican wave all the way around the circuit,' says Mansell. 'The last 11 or 12 laps were just incredible. 'I think I broke the lap record 11 times in the last 15 laps.'

By lap 62, the cars were nose to tail. But catching is one thing, passing another – especially when your quarry is hell-bent on spoiling the party.

'In those days you could block and do anything you bloody well wanted'

'I knew it would be brutal,' admits Mansell of his stunning overtaking manoeuvre two laps from the finish, selling Piquet a dummy and then diving down the inside into Stowe Corner.

'I was chasing him down and he was responding. He was my teammate and at that time he had already won two world titles, so he wasn't going to pull over and say, “Here you go, thanks very much”.

'It was going to be a very tactical thing, how I would get him and where I would get him. What people don't realise is that several laps before I was being told to slow down and stay in position.

'I was told on the pit board I was running out of fuel and I had to turn the engine down. So I had a lot of emotional things to deal with. But I just thought, “Hang on a minute, this is the British Grand Prix and it could be one of the greatest races ever”.

'I knew I had to sell him a dummy. I knew I had to get his head to turn in the cockpit. As soon as I had managed to do that, then I knew I had him. Even then, he came across on me going into Stowe and we touched at 200mph. In those days you could block and anything you bloody well wanted!'

The move sent the crowd into raptures and, as Mansell's fuel tank ran dry after the miraculous win was sealed, they spilled on to the track to engulf him.

'Fans appreciate it when they can see a sportsman giving their all,' reasons Mansell as the fond memories come flooding back.

'They used to give me extra power. That is why I called it people power. They used to love it and I love them for it.'

For those who still do not get Mansell, surely that is what Formula One is all about.

Death of Lee Richardson spurs speedway safety checks

Tragic death of speedway rider Richardson spurs new safety checks

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UPDATED:

20:09 GMT, 14 May 2012

The tragic death of Great Britain speedway star Lee Richardson has raised serious questions about the safety of the sport.

Richardson, 33, a former World Under 21 champion, died on Sunday night after he crashed head-first into a solid fence during a Polish league match.

Tragic death: Lee Richardson passed away in Poland

Tragic death: Lee Richardson passed away in Poland

He had suffered severe internal
bleeding and his death is the most high-profile in the sport since
Sweden's Tommy Jansson was killed nearly 36 years ago to the day.

Air fences, designed to absorb impact
and decelerate riders, were introduced to the individual Speedway Grand
Prix series in 2000.

Treatment: Medics give Richardson first aid at the track in Wroclaw

Treatment: Medics give Richardson first aid at the track in Wroclaw

Battling: Richardson is treated by doctors after his crash

But, 12 years on, several league
tracks around the world have still not invested in these potentially
life-saving barriers, which is largely down to the estimated 20,000
cost of installing them.

Former Great Britain manager Neil
Middleditch said: 'It's devastating. Lee didn't take unnecessary risks
and that's possibly why it's so hard to understand.

'He will be sadly missed and won't be forgotten.'

Merigo lands Scottish Grand National for second time

Brave Merigo lands Scottish Grand National for second time in three years

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UPDATED:

16:00 GMT, 21 April 2012

Staying success: Timmy Murphy raises the Scottish Grand National trophy

Staying success: Timmy Murphy raises the Scottish Grand National trophy

Merigo won the Coral Scottish Grand
National for the second time with a brave display in the marathon
handicap chase at Ayr.

Winner in 2010 and second 12 months ago, the
11-year-old just held the front-running Auroras Encore in a thrilling
duel over the last three fences.

The 15-2 winner was ridden by
weighing-room veteran Timmy Murphy for his father-in-law owner Raymond
Anderson Green, and trained by Lockerbie-based Andrew Parker.

Garleton set a strong pace from the
outset, accompanied by Fruity O'Rooney, and it was a gallop that had
several of the leading fancies struggling as the field went out on the
final circuit.

Quentin Collonges, Walkon, Ikorodu
Road and Knockara Beau were among those pulled up while the favourite
Harry The Viking never looked like scoring for his co-owner Sir Alex
Ferguson.

Make mine a double: Merigo and Timmy Murphy power up the home straight

Make mine a double: Merigo and Timmy Murphy power up the home straight

On the front end, after Garleton gave way down the back straight, it was Auroras Encore who took the bull by the horns under Ryan Mania.

Murphy was wise to the move and patiently brought Merigo to make his challenge in the straight.

Although Auroras Encore (25-1) outjumped him, Merigo's determination won the day as he gained the verdict by a head.

Thrill of the chase: Merigo (left) jumps with Any Currency and Heez A Steel

Thrill of the chase: Merigo (left) jumps with Any Currency and Heez A Steel

Thumbs up: Murphy celebrates on Merigo

Thumbs up: Murphy celebrates on Merigo

King Fontaine (40-1) was 15 lengths away third with Ballyfitz (33-1) another nine lengths back in fourth.

Murphy said: 'He's a superstar. Andrew knows him better than anybody and I think he just comes to himself at this time of year.

'The choke was out for a long way and
all credit to how deep he dug for me. I couldn't go any quicker and his
jumping was keeping him it.

'He's a great horse to own and ride.'

Anderson Green said: 'To win it once is dreamland, to come back and do
it again – words can't describe it. It means everything to me to win
this race.

'It was a great ride by Timmy.'

Grand National deaths: According To Pete trainer backs Aintree

Trainer of tragic According To Pete backs National to continue with BIGGER fences

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UPDATED:

11:05 GMT, 16 April 2012

Trainer Malcolm Jefferson has spoken in defence of the John Smith's Grand National after paying tribute to According To Pete, who lost his life at Aintree on Saturday.

The winner of nearly 250,000 in prize money and a feature at the yard for seven years, Malton-based Jefferson had forged a strong bond with Peter Nelson's home-bred.

On the back of his best-ever year as a trainer with two winners at Cheltenham and the same two horses following up on Merseyside, Jefferson found the loss hard to take.

Fatality: According To Pete (bottom left) fell at Becher's Brook on Saturday

Fatality: According To Pete (bottom left) fell at Becher's Brook on Saturday

However, he remains a supporter of the National and feels it is time to stop tinkering with the conditions of the race.

'He was one of my favourites so it's hit me very hard,' said Jefferson. 'As a trainer, and it's the same for anyone in racing, you don't go to the races expecting to lose your horse.

'All owners love their horses, especially Peter. Everyone seemed to know about According To Pete, too, he had that big white face and he loved his racing. Tina Pearson, his lass, is devastated.

'It was just a freak accident. He was loving it, jumping for fun – I always thought he would. If he'd just been brought down and got back up again we'd be taking him back next year, but he broke his shoulder unfortunately.

Jumping for fun: According To Pete (16) earlier in the race at the Chair

Jumping for fun: According To Pete (16) earlier in the race at the Chair

'You can't do anything about it, it's just a freak accident that could have happened anywhere but because it was the National everyone saw it.

'They can't carry on making changes. In my eyes the fences should be bigger to slow them down. If they were a foot higher Pete would still have jumped them.

'Now they are trying to please everybody and you can't. People say make the field smaller, but what if next year another two die Then they'll want 20 runners.

'Watering to ensure softer ground might help. There was a lot of carry on after last year's race, and I just wish they'd stop trying to please everyone because you can't.

Tragic day: Gold Cup winner Synchronized (centre) also lost his life at Aintree

Tragic day: Gold Cup winner Synchronized (centre) also lost his life at Aintree

'The National is a great race and the only reason you get such a reaction is because so many people watch it.

'If I have a suitable horse next year I'll enter him. You've got to support the race, it's our biggest day of the year.

'The last month just sums up racing. I had two winners at Cheltenham, the same two horses followed up at Aintree, which had never been done before, and then I lose a horse in the National.'

Donald McCain is filling the void left by Ginger

McCain Mk II is filling the void left by the legendary Ginger

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 4 April 2012

The delivery is less colourful and expletive-free but the sentiment could have issued from the lips of his famous father, Ginger.

Twelve-year-old daughter Abbie has just been beaten in both her first pony races. Donald McCain expresses both pride and satisfaction. Defeat is far more character- building.

‘I don’t think long-term it does you any harm having to struggle a bit,’ he says. ‘One of the best groundings for training a good horse is having a few bad ones.’

Pride and joy: Donald McCain, the son of legendary trainer 'Ginger', with 2011 National winner Ballabriggs

Pride and joy: Donald McCain, the son of legendary trainer 'Ginger', with 2011 National winner Ballabriggs

Ginger McCain would have felt the same. The Aintree legend, with his four Grand National victories, knew a bit about overcoming adversity, especially in the quiet years that followed three-time winner Red Rum.

Ginger’s death in September will leave a massive void on Saturday week on the stage he adored, 12 months after he stood in the winner’s enclosure delivering a trademark irreverent reaction to his proudest moment — success for his son courtesy of the Jason Maguire-ridden Ballabriggs.

The three-day Aintree meeting promises to be emotional for the McCain family, with widow Beryl unveiling Ginger’s statue a week on Thursday, a few yards from the one immortalising Red Rum.

But, if the John Smith’s Grand National has lost its greatest champion, it has not had to look far for his successor.

For Donald, who admits to a graveside apology when he could not muster a runner over the iconic fences at the track’s December fixture, the passion for the National burns just as brightly as his desire to protect it.

Gone but not forgotten: Ginger McCain beams as he stands with the Grand National trophy in 2004, and (below) with the last year's winner Ballabriggs

Gone but not forgotten: Ginger McCain beams as he stands with the Grand National trophy in 2004, and (below) with the last year's winner Ballabriggs

Gone but not forgotten: Ginger McCain beams as he stands with the Grand National trophy in 2004, and (below) with the last year's winner Ballabriggs

Changes have been made to three of the
fences and additional welfare measures introduced since the two deaths
which took the gloss off the victory of Ballabriggs, but Donald is
adamant that the sport must now be confident and resolute in defending
the race.

Pictures of an exhausted Ballabriggs being given oxygen that was not really needed after his victory were misinterpreted, Donald insists, as was the decision not to take the horse to the winner’s enclosure. Poor PR also left well-meaning actions looking chaotic.

Donald said: ‘We were told that for the future of the race, and to keep it safe, more changes had to be made but I don’t think what has been done will make a huge amount of difference.

‘I hope now we can draw a line in the sand and say, “This is the Grand National, leave it alone”. It’s the greatest test of a thoroughbred racehorse on the planet. It is not about class but toughness, durability, professionalism and heart.

High times: Ballabriggs in 2011

High times: Ballabriggs in 2011

‘It is unfortunate Ballabriggs did not go
in the winner’s enclosure but the best thing for the horse was to get
him in the peace and quiet of the stable.’

Ginger would have said the same, only more stridently. He hated the interference in the race that flowed through his veins like the Mersey flows through its home city.

When Amberleigh House gave Ginger his fourth National in 2004, much of the credit went to Donald, his regular rider on the gallops. Winning last year, however, meant more than just his name etched on the trophy.

‘I love Aintree, I have grown up with it but you couldn’t describe what it meant to Dad. One of the satisfying things is knowing he got to see another Grand National winner come out of everything that he put together.’

That ‘everything’ is the most successful National Hunt stable north of the Trent, which captured two Cheltenham Festival wins this season and houses nearly 150 horses in Cheshire.

It is a metaphorical million miles from the cramped stable behind the Southport car lot where a six-year-old Donald watched from his bedroom window as Red Rum returned through crowded streets following his third win in 1977.

Ballabriggs, 11 years old and carrying 11st 9lb, will try to be the first horse since to win the National more than once. Bookmakers make him 14-1 after a fourth place at Kelso last month, in his only run since his big win, left some pundits disappointed. Not Donald.

‘It was the same when he was second in the same race and everyone was knocking him. I was thrilled with him and so was Jason.

Legend: Ginger on board the great Red Rum, who died in 1995

Legend: Ginger on board the great Red Rum, who died in 1995

‘He thought he ran a better race than last year, and, with the exception of Synchronised (Cheltenham Gold Cup winner), I don’t think the National is as strong as last year.

‘What Dad always taught me is to prepare a horse for one day and that’s what I’m doing. It’s not about the week before or the week after. It’s about one day in April.’
And what a day it could be.

l TRAINER Nicky Henderson says Burton Port, fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, will miss the National to run in Thursday’s Betfred Bowl Chase as long as Ballabriggs makes the big race. Both are owned by Trevor Hemmings.

Cheltenham Festival 2012: Day three live

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL LIVE: All the action as it happens on day three of the greatest show on turf

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UPDATED:

14:05 GMT, 15 March 2012

1.30 – JEWSON NOVICES CHASE1st – Sir Des Champs (D Russell) 3/1
2nd – Champion Court (A Cawley) 8/1
3rd – For Non Stop (N Fehily) 8/1

Sir Des Champs maintained his unbeaten record for Willie Mullins with a clear-cut victory.

The six-year-old, ridden by Davy Russell, shrugged off the attentions of Champion Court after the last to bound clear for a convincing four-and-a-half-length success.

For Non Stop was another nine lengths back in third, while fancied runners Peddlers Cross and Cristal Bonus were both disappointing as Sir Des Champs proved a classy winner.

Up and over: Davy Russell and Sir Des Champs on the way to winning the Jewson Novices Chase

Up and over: Davy Russell and Sir Des Champs on the way to winning the Jewson Novices Chase

Champion Court and Zaynar took the field along in turns, with Micheal Flips close up and Sir Des Champs not too far away.

Cristal Bonus was soon struggling, while Peddlers Cross lost as good early pitch and a couple of mistakes saw him lose further ground.

Champion Court went on at the 11th fence, but Mullins representative followed his move and they battled it out over the last couple of fences.

The Irish raider then showed his superiority to score in tremendous style for owners Gigginstown House Stud, the racing establishment of Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.

Winning jockey Russell said: 'He's a very good horse. A lot of the credit should go to Aaron Madden who absolutely adores this horse, and since the first day he landed he's looked after him and he's done such a wonderful job. He jumped every fence, he never missed a beat.'

Fight to the end: Champion Court (centre) battles with eventual winner Sir Des Champs (right)

Fight to the end: Champion Court (centre) battles with eventual winner Sir Des Champs (right)

Owner Michael O'Leary, who sponsors the feature race of the day, the Ryanair Chase, said: 'It was a wonderful ride by Davy.

'We've been hitting the crossbar all week so it's great to finally stick one in the net.

'It's hard to know what you've got until you get here. Willie brought him along slowly and probably thought he wanted a lot further – he could have run in the other race (RSA Chase). We went close in that with First Lieutenant but we've won this.'

Up and running: Davy Russell and Sir Des Champs

Up and running: Davy Russell and Sir Des Champs

Mullins said: 'He was very good and I'm really looking forward to next year over longer trips. He was foot-perfect. Davy asked him plenty of questions and he came up every time.

'Davy rode him with great confidence. A good pace and plenty of jumping will suit him best.'

Sir Des Champs was winning at the
Festival for a second consecutive year, having struck 12 months ago in
the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap.

Mullins
added: 'This is the first time he's had a real test this year as
Gigginstown have had so many good novice chasers so we've kept him going
out in the country in lesser races.

'That has obviously built up his confidence because he was very good. Hopefully it will be the Gold Cup next year.'

Peddlers Cross is set to revert to hurdles after finishing last.

Trainer
Donald McCain said: 'I think we'll have to go back over hurdles. Jason
(Maguire) said he was neat and grand, but just isn't as effective over
fences as hurdles.

'It
was still the right idea to try it and his work has been as good as ever
– he worked all over Overturn (Champion Hurdle runner-up) last week.

'We'll put him away now and maybe start off over two miles hurdling.'

Trainer
Martin Keighley said of runner-up Champion Court: 'I think the winner
is a Gold Cup horse so that was a great run and everything went to plan.
We'll see how he comes out of the race and maybe look at Aintree and
Punchestown.'

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

We're just 10 minutes away from the
first race – the Jewson Novices Chase – and it's another great day at
Cheltenham. It's not quite as bright as yesterday but the mist is
clearing.

All the money is for Peddlers Cross and Sir Des Champs in the opener while Bold Sir Brian and Imperial Shabra are non-runners.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL DAY THREE

Follow Racemail's Marcus Townend on Twitter

Sam Turner's top tips for Thursday

Our guide to the World Hurdle

Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival is all about the craic as the Irish take over to make it a day to remember – and Prestbury Park playing host to one massive party is as safe a bet as Big Buck's winning the World Hurdle.

Known as 'the cash machine' to his army of fans, Paul Nicholls' superstar is aiming for a record-breaking fourth straight triumph in the big race and a 16th successive victory.

We'll bring you the winners as soon as they pass the post plus all the latest action as it happens and the best pictures throughout the day.

Busy at the bar: The Guinness Village is guaranteed to be packed all day

Busy at the bar: The Guinness Village is guaranteed to be packed all day

Four in a row Big Buck's (left) is aiming to rule the World Hurdle once again

Four in a row Big Buck's (left) is aiming to rule the World Hurdle once again

Cheltenham Festival 2012: Kauto Star runs in Gold Cup

All systems go! Kauto Star confirmed for Cheltenham Gold Cup after injury scare

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UPDATED:

13:33 GMT, 12 March 2012

Kauto Star will bid for a third Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup victory after delighting connections in an 'awesome' schooling session at his Ditcheat base.

The 12-year-old was feared a doubtful starter in Friday's showpiece event when it emerged he had suffered a schooling fall at trainer Paul Nicholls' yard earlier this month.

Nicholls was concerned about his condition after the tumble but after making massive strides in his recovery, Kauto Star was back on top form when enjoying a racecourse gallop at Wincanton on Friday.

Raring to go: Kauto Star was scintillating in his gallop on Monday

Raring to go: Kauto Star was scintillating in his gallop on Monday

Connections were keen to see how he fared in another schooling session before confirming his participation, but after pleasing Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star will try to add to his Cheltenham wins in 2007 and 2009.

Nicholls told his Betfair column: 'Clive (Smith, owner) and I have given Kauto Star the green light for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after a very good schooling session on the grass this morning.

'Ruby came over to school him and Kauto was awesome, just as I'd thought he would be.

Doubling up: Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009

Doubling up: Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009

'He jumped six fences – the plain fence and the open ditch three times each – and he was foot perfect and looked magnificent.

'I have just put the phone down to Clive and, barring any mishaps in the next few days, Kauto lines up for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Friday.

'We are looking forward to it.'

Meanwhile, jockey Ruby Walsh tweeted: 'Schooled Kauto jumped brilliant, the dream is alive again.'