Ballabriggs was born in Ireland on April 27, 2001. John Brady paid £IR 12,000 for him as a foal at Ireland’s Goffs Sale in December, 2001, and sold the youngster on to Highflyer Bloodstock, acting for owner Trevor Hemmings, for 32,000 euros at Tattersalls Ireland the following November. Ballabriggs was allowed to develop in his own time at two of Hemmings’ studs, firstly at Monymusk Stud in Ireland and then at Gleadhill House Stud near Chorley in Lancashire.
Ballabriggs was named after a property on Hemmings’ estate in the Isle of Man. The horse went into training with Ginger McCain in Cheshire at the end of 2005 and by the time Ballabriggs made a low-key racecourse debut Donald McCain had taken over responsibility for the licence from his father. That first run resulted in fifth place in a Uttoxeter bumper in May, 2006. He finished10th of 14 on his hurdle bow at the same course that December.
The big gelding by Presenting contested four more hurdle races before switching to fences, finishing runner-up twice over two and a half miles, but failing to win. He slipped up on a bend on his first chase start at Bangor in December, 2007, and subsequently posted three seconds at around two and a half miles plus a first fence fall before breaking his duck in an extended three-mile beginners’ chase on soft ground at Bangor in March, 2008.
He enjoyed another runner-up finish in a valuable novices handicap chase at Ayr in April that year, behind subsequent Scottish Grand National hero Merigo. After a below-par effort in a handicap chase on his reappearance at Haydock in November, 2008, when heavily eased down Ballabriggs was off the course for over a year until returning with a third in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter in December, 2009.
He then proceeded to string together three straight wins over fences in handicap chases. There were easy triumphs at Catterick (January 22, 2010) and Ayr (February 13, 2010) followed by a much tougher task in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival where he prevailed by half a length on March 18.
That was his final start of the campaign and, with the John Smith’s Grand National firmly on the agenda, he made a belated return to action last season with two novice hurdle triumphs at Wincanton (two and three quarter miles – January 8) and Ayr (two and a half miles – January 31) in January, 2011.
His final start before Aintree came in the totesport.com Premier Chase over an extended two and three quarter miles at Kelso on March 5, when he finished a length and three quarters second to Skippers Brig, to whom he was conceding 4lb, after leading most of the way. The run put him spot on for Aintree where he achieved a two and a quarter length success over Oscar Time. He raced prominently throughout and held off the challenge of the second on the long run from the last fence.
The 14/1 winner gave his owner a second John Smith’s Grand National victory, following on from Hedgehunter in 2005. Ballabriggs has not seen a racecourse since that memorable success, but trainer Donald McCain is hoping to run him in the Premier Chase at Kelso again before attempting a repeat success in the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree.
b g Presenting – Papoose (IRE) (Little Bighorn)
Owner: Trevor Hemmings
Trainer: Donald McCain
Breeder: Mrs S Jackson
Jockey: Jason Maguire
Race Record: Starts: 22; Wins: 7; 2nd; 7; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £608,115