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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Sunday, 10 April 2011 16:41 UK

Grand National: Ginger McCain queries smaller fences

2011 Grand National

Grand National 2011: Fence-by-fence analysis

Ginger McCain, the four-time Grand National-winning trainer, says the Aintree course should not be made easier despite its latest horse deaths.

Outsiders Dooneys Gate and Ornais suffered fatal falls in Saturday's race, won by 14-1 shot Ballabriggs, who is trained by McCain's son Donald.

"You don't make things better by making it easier," McCain Sr said.

"It's speed that does the damage, the faster they go, the heavier they fall and the more likely they are to fall."

McCain, 80, forever associated with three-time Grand National winner Red Rum, added: "You can improve it, and I don't suggest for one minute that we should stop trying to improve it.

"But don't improve it by making it easier or you will finish up with a bog standard four-and-a-half-mile steeplechase that basically any horse can jump."

The course had been watered significantly during an unsually hot, dry week on Merseyside, but it remained faster than ideal.

Though not among the leading fancies, the horses who died had previously won over fences, and significantly each was based at a leading yard.

Dooneys Gate had been sent over by Ireland's Willie Mullins, the top trainer at the Cheltenham Festival in March, while Ornais was prepared by multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

Nicholls, who has never won the Grand National, has also seen two other highly-rated horses, Twist Magic and Pride of Dulcote, suffer fatal injuries this season.

Jockeys reflect on National exhertions

The Somerset-based trainer said: "It's awfully sad to lose any horse, whether it's in the Grand National or at any time at all.

"We'll pick ourselves up and move on - you have to. It was a great week and I have to say Aintree did a brilliant job with the track. I've never seen the course in such fantastic condition but unfortunately, although this is a great sport, accidents can happen.

"Like one paper said this morning, it doesn't matter how safe you make the M1, the M4, the M5 or whatever, you're always going to have accidents. It's unfortunate when you have fatalities, but it was a great race.

Mullins said: "What happened to Dooneys Gate was obviously really disappointing. He was jumping fantastic. He was probably jumping too well and you don't want to be like that going down towards Becher's."

Dooneys Gate was one of three horses to fall at the famous Becher's Brook fence, while West End Rocker was brought down in the melee. On the second circuit both Becher's and fence four (where Ornais suffered his fatal fall) were bypassed by the remaining runners.

Winner Ballabriggs was reported to be "totally dehydrated" after the race. His lad Ed Bourne said on Sunday: "I had to put a lot of water on him. But he came out of it grand, he's had a pick of grass and he's OK.

"He's a very special horse and I've always been fond of him. He's kind and gentle and so laid-back. He just takes it all in his stride."

Ballabriggs seems certain to return for another crack at the marathon handicap in 2012, when he will be 11 years old, and Donald McCain said next season was likely to be "geared around Aintree" for the gelding.

He added: "He's obviously taken to the place exceptionally well."

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see also
Ballabriggs seals National glory
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Grand National: Mixed emotions at Aintree
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Rider Toole leaves intensive care
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Williams praise for State of Play
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Grand National 2011: Fence-by-fence analysis
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing
Where they finished
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Grand National 2011 as it happened
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Grand National photos
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National treasure
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BBC racing coverage
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