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Page last updated at 19:40 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 20:40 UK

Cornelius Lysaght column

By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

The McCain family has naturally filled the headlines in the run-up to the John Smith's Grand National. Very naturally.

After four successes, Aintree's first family - second-season trainer Donald, his wife Sian, the now retired Ginger and his wife Beryl - are as much a part of the big race ritual as the office sweep.

With the memory of their legendary three-time winner Red Rum and of Amberleigh House annually refreshed by us in the media, thousands of bets will come in for long-time favourite Cloudy Lane and outsider Idle Talk just because of the 'McCain factor'.

Donald McCain Jr with Cloudy Lane
McCain Jr knows Cloudy Lane will need some luck to win at Aintree

So much so that Cloudy Lane, owned by businessman Trevor Hemmings, could line up as the shortest-priced favourite since Red Rum in the 1970s - maybe longer.

With an ideal weight in the handicap, just below 11 stone, and being from a stable enjoying tremendous form, many think that history is beckoning, though the trainer refuses to count his chickens.

"He's been in good nick since winning impressively at Doncaster in early March," said McCain Jr, 38, who rode (and finished) in the 1996 race, "and now we just need a bit of luck in the race.

"All I've ever wanted with an Aintree horse - and when we had Amberleigh it was the same - is for him to get to the Canal Turn the second time, and then we will see what happens.

"If he's good enough, he's good enough, is he's not, he's not. It is a real sickener, really frustrating, if something goes wrong early on after all the work that's gone into it."

McCain's first Grand National contender since taking over from his famous father was Idle Talk 12 months ago, but he unseated his rider - just before the second Canal Turn actually.


Looking, however, at the stable's overall form, most of his runners have enjoyed much better luck, with around one in six successfully hitting the target set for them.

Jason Maguire, the stable's new number one jockey, has partnered many of them, and he is yet another reason for considering Cloudy Lane.

The 27-year-old, a nephew of ex-top jockey Adrian Maguire, is rated amongst the most upwardly mobile of all the country's riders, being as tough and astute during a race as his uncle was.

While McCain admits that the big occasions do get to him, and he hardly sleeps ahead of a big prize, Maguire is more laid back.

"I'm sure that I will have a few butterflies on the day," he said, "but I'm all right at the moment. That said, I can't wait just to get on with it, so roll on Saturday.

"Touch wood, he's clever at his fences and travels well, so of course I am excited as well as hopeful."

A man of sunny disposition on Cloudy Lane. The forecast looks good.

see also
Cloudy Lane retains National bid
31 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Grooming Mr P for the National
31 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
National photos
31 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
McCoy opts to ride Butler's Cabin
30 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Cloudy Lane sets National marker
01 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Former National winner sidelined
28 Jan 08 |  Horse Racing
Mr Pointment triumphs at Aintree
25 Nov 07 |  Horse Racing
Grand National on the BBC
14 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing

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