2011 Grand National Review and Result

Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1. Ballabriggs 14-1 Jason Maguire Donald McCain
2. Oscar Time 14-1 Mr S Waley-Cohen M M Lynch
3. Don’t Push It 9-1 A P McCoy Jonjo O’Neill
4. State Of Play 28-1 Paul Moloney Evan Williams
5. Niche Market 16-1 Harry Skelton Paul Nicholls
6. The Midnight Club 15-2F R Walsh W P Mullins
7. Big Fella Thanks 12-1 Graham Lee Ferdy Murphy
8. Surface To Air 100-1 Tom Messenger Chris Bealby
9. Skippers Brig 33-1 Dominic Elsworth Nicky Richards
10. Backstage 16-1 P Carberry Gordon Elliott
11. King Fontaine 80-1 Denis O’Regan Malcolm Jefferson
12. Silver By Nature 9-1 Peter Buchanan Lucinda Russell
13. In Compliance 66-1 Leighton Aspell D T Hughes
14. Bluesea Cracker 25-1 Andrew J McNamara J Motherway
15. Character Building 25-1 Miss N Carberry John Quinn
16. Golden Kite 66-1 S J Hassett Adrian Maguire
17. Chief Dan George 40-1 Paddy Aspell James Moffatt
18. Royal Rosa 100-1 Paul Gallagher Howard Johnson
19. Piraya 100-1 Johnny Farrelly David Pipe

Ballabriggs

A stunning day weather wise for spectators at Aintree, but the unseasonably high temperatures, and the drying ground, produced a brutal race, which took its toll on the participants and resulted in a number of horses finishing dehydrated.

Not surprisingly, the time of the race was well below standard, and very few horses got into the contest from off the pace.

In fact, the eventual winner, BALLABRIGGS, led affairs for much of the way and saw of all comers to register an outstanding and extremely game victory.

He jumped beautifully throughout with his only real mistake coming at Valentine’s on the second circuit. He lost his lead as a result and many may have thought that was his race run. However, he battled back to regain the lead soon after and despite facing several challengers on the run for home he wasn’t headed again.

His win here further cemented the unique place of the McCain family in the Aintree record books and, provided this exhausting effort hasn’t left its toll, there is every reason to think he can come back next year and put up a decent defence of his crown.

The most dangerous challenger to the winner turning for home appeared to be our selection for the race, Oscar Time, who was ridden by the all conquering amateur, Sam Waley-Colen. As with the winner, he was up with the pace throughout and barely put a foot wrong at the fences. He appeared to be travelling better than Ballabriggs jumping the last but was just outstayed in the final, gruelling run to the line.

The underfoot conditions really suited him and his jumping is his most potent asset.

Last year’s winner, Don’t Push It, ran his heart out in trying to become the first horse since Red Rum to register back to back National victories. He was 7lbs higher than for last year’s success and the extra weight took its toll.

The performances of Don’t Push It in third and State Of Play, who finished fourth, showed once again that Aintree remains a place for course specialists.

In fact, this was the third time State Of Play has finished in the first four in this great race and his trainer deserves tremendous credit for bringing this fragile chaser back year after year. Remarkably, he has run only four times since December 2008, with three of those runs being in the National.

Niche Market was another to relish underfoot conditions and his effort in finishing fifth justified his connections’ decision to lay him out for the race. However, he had everything in his favour here and possibly didn’t quite stay the trip, so he may struggle to better this performance if returning next season.

By contrast, there is every reason to think that our ante post selection, The Midnight Club, could better his sixth place here. The worry going into the race was his jumping due partly to his relative lack of experience over fences, but he actually took to these huge obstacles very well and was bang in contention when badly hampered four out. But for that he would surely have been in the first three and as a result deserves to go on the shortlist for next year’s renewal.

Big Fella Thanks ran another fine race here to finish seventh but this effort surely proved, once and for all, that this marathon distance is beyond him. It would be no surprise if connections decided to focus on alternative targets next season.

Surface To Air, who has been blighted by injuries in recent seasons, ran a stormer to finish eighth. This was a fine training performance given that the horse had shown nothing on his comeback run over hurdles after nearly 3 years off the track.

Skippers Brigg, who beat Ballabriggs last time out, was ninth and was another who didn’t quite stay the trip, whilst Backstage (10th) and King Fontaine (11th) were amongst those who were out the back early and, as a consequence, never got into the race. The latter, could be another to put on the shortlist for next year’s race and this year’s contest always looked like it would come early enough in his career. He remains a fine staying chase prospect and his owner (who also owns Ballabriggs) loves to target this race. He will need to brush up his jumping though.

Of the other finishers, Silver by Nature (12th) and Bluesea Cracker (14th), would have preferred much softer ground, In Compliance (13th) was prominent for a long way but didn’t see out the trip, and previous Cheltenham Festival winners Character Building (15th) and Chief Dan George (17th) were never in contention.

Piraya was last of the 19 finishers.

There were probably fewer hard luck stories than usual.

Of the fallers, Killyglen was the unluckiest. He was in the front rank throughout, relishing his favoured underfoot conditions, and was still travelling well when coming to grief at the last ditch, whilst West End Rocker took the eye as being one who seemed to have taken well to the fences before being brought down at Becher’s first time. Both are likely to try again next year.

Neither of the duo who had contested this year’s Gold Cup finished the race.

As his connections had feared might happen, Tidal Bay was soon out the back and he made a bad mistake at the tenth which gave his jockey no chance. What A Friend fared slightly better, travelling well for a long way before tiring rapidly and being pulled up before the final ditch.

Quinz reportedly broke a blood vessel whilst, tragically, there were two equine fatalities (Ornais, who fell at the fourth, and Dooneys Gate, who was one of four fallers at Becher´s Brook on the first circuit) which led to two fences (including Becher’s second time) being omitted on the second circuit for the first time in the history of the race.