In a National-Hunt world dominated by Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, there is a trainer based further north who is never afraid to take that pair on, and that is Donald McCain Jnr, son of the legendary ‘Ginger’ McCain, the man responsible for sending out the great Red Rum to win the Aintree Grand National three times (1973/4/7).
His father even managed to conquer Aintree one more time with Amberleigh House in 1984, and with a pedigree like that, McCain Jnr was never going to be under the radar once he took over the reigns at Bank House, set in the grounds of the Cholmondeley Castle Estate in Cheshire.
From what is a top-class training establishment featuring private grass and all-weather gallops, McCain Jnr has overseen more than 400 winners to date since taking over in 2006, with over 100 bagged in 2011. His meteoric rise to the top table began before then though, as Cloudy Lane was sent out to land the Kim Muir at the 2007 Cheltenham Festival, while Whiteoak captured the Mares’ Hurdle the following year.
The Tim Leslie-owned Peddlars Cross was widely recognised as one of the best novice hurdlers around when winning the Neptune Hurdle in 2010, and he was to subsequently finish runner-up in the 2011 Champion Hurdle. The trainer is no one-trick pony though, having enjoyed big-race success on the level as well with Overturn, whose victories in the Northumberland Plate and Chester Cup added to his successes in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, Galway Hurdle, Ascot Hurdle and Fighting Fifth, have earned him comparisons with that great dual-purpose horse of yesteryear, Sea Pigeon.
However, it is over jumps that McCain Jnr continues to excel, and indeed he has already emulated his late father by training a Grand National winner, as Ballabriggs galloped his rivals into the ground in 2011. Last season saw the emergence of a potential new star in the ranks at Bankhouse as Cinders and Ashes won the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, while there was also a mighty gamble landed by Son of Flicka in the Corla Cup.
And just for good measure, Cloudy Lane landed the Aintree Foxhunters’. The 12-year-old may be in the twilight of his career, but for Donald McCain Jnr, the future looks bright ahead of the 2012/13 season.