Balla effort delights McCain
Donald McCain is proud of the effort of Ballabriggs after the defending champion finished sixth in the John Smith's Grand National on Saturday.
Last year's Aintree hero returned to Merseyside aiming to become the first horse since the legendary Red Rum, trained by McCain's late father Ginger, to land back-to-back renewals of the National.
The 11-year-old once again jumped the famous fences accurately but having loomed up as a big danger rounding the home turn, he faded on the run-in.
The race went to the grey Neptune Collonges and champion trainer Paul Nicholls, getting up right on the line to beat the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Sunnyhillboy by a nose.
Ballabriggs was 10lb higher in the weights than 12 months ago and his trainer feels that was what made the difference.
"We rode him with a bit more patience than we did last year and he's arrived there coming to the last with every chance," said McCain.
"He just hasn't quite got home with the weight really, no more than that.
"He's jumped great and settled well and he's run an absolute screamer, he just hasn't quite lasted home up the straight.
"I don't see why we won't be back there with him next season, all going well."
McCain's Weird Al was also performing with credit in the world's most famous steeplechase before falling at the fourth last.
There was some concerns about his well being in the aftermath of the race, but his trainer is pleased to report the gelding is recovering well at home.
"He had a bit of a skin wound on a fore-leg but that's been dealt with and he's eaten up and he's bright in his box this morning," the trainer added.
"We left the tactics to Timmy (Murphy) and he's dropped him in, hunted away and tried to keep him settled.
"The start didn't help either of them, to be honest. They'd been very cool beforehand but they both got quite hot before the start.
"Timmy gave him a peach of a ride and he was just hunting away quietly.
"He said he hit a bit of a flat spot with a circuit to go and he was very happy with him.
"Where he'd have finished I don't know, but he was quite unlucky to fall as he took about six strides before he came down. He just overjumped.
"We'll aim him for the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby at the start of next season I'd have thought and we'll work from there."
The safety of the four-and-a-half-mile marathon will once again be questioned after two horses lost their lives during the race.
O'Neill's Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Synchronised fell jumping Becher's Brook the first time and then negotiated several more fences before suffering a broken leg.
According To Pete was brought down at Becher's second time round and also had to be euthanized.
McCain, a name synomonous with the Grand National, feels the bad publicity is not justified.
"I haven't got a newspaper this morning and I won't be getting a newspaper, as I read it all last year and I didn't think it was justified. We know it's going to be the same thing again," the trainer continued.
"A footballer died during a game yesterday in Italy and they're not going to ban football are they?
"It's very sad, of course. From what I saw of it they were both freak injuries anyway and I don't really want to dwell on anything.
"It was a great race, a great finish and a fantastic result for a really good old horse.
"It was great for Paul to win the championship obviously and I feel dreadfully sorry for Jonjo on two counts.
"I thought it was a wonderful race and it's just very unfortunate what happened."
Nicholls, winning the race for the first time in his career, believes every effort will be made to make the race safer.
"We are always learning and we are going to keep learning and try to improve, anything we can do," he told Sky Sports News.
"I know that Aintree and the British Horseracing Authority will be working hard trying to come up with some answers. I know anything we can do to improve things will be done.
"We've just got to have sensible discussions over the next few months and anything we can do to improve things and safety we will."
Nicholls reported Neptune Collonges to be in great form the morning after his epic triumph.
"He's in top form. He got in at one o'clock. He ate all his grub up and is as sound as a pound this morning. He's very happy," he went on.