‘Horses affected by the flu have been winning and hopefully it’s all history’
Utter the words ‘northern powerhouse’ in jump racing circles and one trainer immediately springs to mind.
Donald McCain has been leading the way in the north for more than a decade but in recent seasons the growth has been halted.
After a period of stability following Paul and Clare Rooney’s decision to remove around 60 horses from Bankhouse in 2015, McCain felt the effects of another shockwave when his base was at the epicentre of the equine flu outbreak that shut down racing for six days last February.
Reflecting on a turbulent episode, he says: “We had to manage it, deal with it and get through it. It was disappointing but compared to the other situation it was small fry. Horses that were affected by the flu have been winning, so hopefully it’s all history.”
McCain can draw encouragement from a prolific summer campaign and the winter team are starting to come to hand after a slow start.
“The autumn has been strange as you get your nice-ground horses ready first and unusually we’ve gone to soft very quickly,” the trainer says.
As well as installing a new bespoke Equimix gallop, McCain has invested heavily in youth, with a handful of horses for powerful owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede among the new influx.
There are some interesting recruits off the Flat too, so novice hurdles could prove a productive avenue for a stable looking to get back on track.
Yard Bankhouse Stables
Where Cholmondeley, Cheshire
Started training 2006
Horses in yard 110
Members of staff 40
Assistant trainer Adrian Lane
Head lad Derwyn Williams
Travelling head lad Ludovic Gaubusseau
Assistant travelling head lad Mark Jones
Jockeys Brian Hughes, Will Kennedy
Conditionals Lorcan Murtagh, Theo Gillard
Amateurs Abbie McCain, Jack Dinneen
Stable sponsor Racebets
Winners in Britain
Profit/loss to £1 stake
Sir Percy (sire) – Cartoon (dam)
Owner: TW Johnson & G Maxwell
Form figures: 804064 (Flat)
Racing Post Rating 109f; Official rating 94f
A really interesting recruit off the Flat. If we’d tried to buy him 12 months ago he would have been six figures and he’s been in the right yard to make him last. He’s a good-quality stayer and it’s exciting to have him. He’s only just arrived and we’ll start schooling him.
7g Balko – Ina Scoop
RPR 147h OR 132h
Thoroughly deserves to land a big race and won a good prize at Bangor on Wednesday. He didn’t have his ground last season and in handicapping terms has been a victim of his own consistency. He loves heavy ground and going left-handed and there are good races for him through the winter at Haydock.
4g Milan – Bargante
RPR 115b OR –
Made a really positive start at Carlisle, getting there easily and then not doing a lot in front. Brian [Hughes] was quite taken by him. Second in a good Irish bumper, he has schooled but will probably run in another bumper as he’s a bit babyish.
9g Cloudings – Run Away Dream
RPR 162c OR 157c
Our flagship horse and hugely exciting. Has only had one start for us when running a big race giving weight to Frodon in last season’s Old Roan. He came back with a bit of a problem afterwards and it has just taken time. If he was an everyday horse he would be back in the yard but he’s still at Mr Hemmings’. He’s been cantering away and we’re weighing up when he comes back to us. The main targets are in the spring and he won’t be running this side of Christmas.
7g Al Namix – Polismith
Green Day Racing 2
RPR 147c OR 140c
A horse who has won a lot of races. He would have won at Cheltenham on his last start but slipped after the second-last and came down. He picked up an injury and has been off since. He’s shown no ill effects and is ready to return. I’m sure he’s going to be competitive in some nice races in the spring.
Fin And Game
7g Oscar – Miss Cilla
RPR 130h 123c OR 124h 124c
Works like a proper horse and has shown glimpses on the track. He was a bit unhealthy last season and it never really happened for him over fences. He’s in good nick now, though, and we’ll start off over hurdles and might try fences again.
4g Cokoriko – La Fee D’Arthel
Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
His French bumper form is a little lost on me but he has a nice way of going and I like him. I’ve not schooled him yet but his work is good and he looks like he goes on soft ground.
6g Red Rocks – Scopa D’Assi
RPR 87p OR –
A big, fine point-to-pointer who has done ever so well over the summer. He was working nicely before pulling some muscles in his back. He’s cantering again and we’ll start off in a two-mile hurdle.
5g Malinas – Kind Nell
RPR 119c OR 114c
A smashing point-to-point winner with solid form. We decided to stop with him last season and keep him as a novice. He did everything but win on his chase debut at Hexham and just got found out by the track and ground. He’s a big horse who’s going to want 2m4f on better going.
5g Coastal Path – Gaelika
RPR 63h OR –
Point winner who probably should have won on debut at Bangor and was then wrong at Haydock. Given plenty of time to get over it, he is better than his comeback run at Carlisle on Monday. He’s always gone well and we like him.
4g Getaway – Bella’s Bury
RPR 91p OR –
Half-brother to stablemate Sonic and won his point-to-point in Ireland by 30 lengths. He’s a big, gross horse who just needed the run at Bangor on Wednesday. A chaser in the making, he’s going to want a trip.
10g Old Vic – Lady’s Gesture
RPR 136h OR 134h
Has lots of aches and pains and is not going to be the chaser we bought him to be. However, he’s a solid handicap hurdler. He might have a high enough mark but he ran okay on his return on unsuitably soft ground. He likes going right-handed and will be going for races like the better ones at Musselburgh.
Last Golden Ticket
4g Sholokhov – Golden Flower
Owners Group 048
RPR 95b OR –
Bumper winner for Gordon Elliott, who recommended him. He’s only just come but he’s a sharp, forward-going type. He might run in another bumper before going novice hurdling around the north.
4g Jukebox Jury – Mountain Melody
RPR 88p OR –
Didn’t finish a point-to-point but would have won his last one but for falling at the last. He’s come with quite a big reputation and we’ll run him in a bumper first as he’s a big, raw four-year-old.
5g Shantou – One Theatre
RPR 90p OR –
A soft-ground point-to-point winner who galloped with Mount Mews on an away day at Carlisle recently. He has a good attitude and will probably go straight over hurdles.
8g Presenting – Kneeland Lass
RPR 150h 145c OR 134h 134c
Had an interrupted season and then had to turn up on some big days. He got very upset going out on to the track at Cheltenham. When there was a standing start, it was never going to happen. He then ran okay at Aintree. He takes a bit of getting fit but he’s a useful horse who can go over hurdles or fences.
8g Touch Of Land – La Principal
RPR 133c OR 121c
He never got going last season, although he threatened to run well a couple of times. He was nearly going to win before falling at Haydock and then ran a nice race at Sandown on unsuitable ground. He ran well at Bangor on Wednesday but always takes a run or two to get ready. He looks fairly well treated and wants 2m4f on heavy ground.
3g Nathaniel – Navajo Charm
RPR 92f OR 85f
Fairly highly rated on the Flat and an exciting hurdling prospect who won on his jumps debut at Bangor on Wednesday. I didn’t expect to be running him in a £100,000 handicap at York in the summer and it was probably a step too far. Bought for this purpose, he has been schooling since he was two. He has the ability, stays and goes on soft ground. Goobinator is a similar type coming off the Flat to go juvenile hurdling.
5g Spirit One – Smadouce
RPR 130h OR 129h
Bought as a fun horse and has surpassed our expectations. He’s become a better horse for his summer exploits. He fell at the first at Wetherby but it was just one of those things. He’ll run in some decent handicap hurdles before going chasing.
6g Shirocco – Cyber Star
Donald McCain Racing Club
RPR 87f OR 72f
Consistent on the Flat over long distances and the club should have some fun with him. Only little but solid. We had great craic with the likes of Tawseef and he’ll be a similar sort.
5g Shantou – On The Backfoot
Duncan, Dunnington, Nicholls & Shaw
RPR 124h OR 124h
Won three of his first four races then lost the plot at Stratford. He ran much better in a first-time hood carrying a double penalty at Hereford last time. He’ll have to go handicapping soon and doesn’t want the ground too soft.
6g Konig Turf – Haute Chartreuse
Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
RPR 112h 129c OR 129h
A useful chaser from France. He ran well for a long way on his debut for us over hurdles before finishing off tamely. He wants further and might need a fence but it was his first run for more than a year. He’s been working nicely and is a grand horse for longer distances.
6g Stowaway – Night Palm
RPR 113h OR 112h
An enormous horse who wants a fence. He won a point and looked like winning at Kelso over hurdles but just got run out of it. He doesn’t want the ground too deep and hopefully we can get him to see out his races properly. He’s a lovely horse with a great way of going and he might go chasing now.
5g Presenting – Count On Me
RPR 90p OR –
Top lot at Doncaster’s January sale and came highly recommended by Derek O’Connor, who rode him to win a point. A lovely horse who is out of a half-sister to Binocular, he has schooled well and looks exciting.
Quart De Garde
4g Kapgarde – Wells Vision
Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
RPR 99h 110c OR –
Second at Auteuil in September and has only been here a few weeks. He’s a big, tall type who is quite forward-going and I’m delighted to get him. We’ll look at handicap hurdles in the short term.
8m Brian Boru – Curragh Orpen
Penketh and Sankey Jech Racing Club 1
RPR 123h 135c OR 125h 130c
Won on her comeback at Aintree under a good ride by Theo [Gillard]. She took me by surprise a little but we know she’s got it in her. We can mix up hurdles and chases as she’s a good, honest staying mare.
The Con Man
6g Oscar – Phillis Hill
RPR 116h OR –
Beat a nice horse of Olly Murphy’s [Garrettstown] on his only run last season. He’s a bit fragile and is going to have a fairly high mark now. He might need a couple of runs to get back on track but he stays, goes on soft ground and is quite useful.
The Some Dance Kid
6g Shantou – River Rouge
The Blue Nuns
RPR 127h 115c OR 133h 133c
Made his chase debut in a hot race at Carlisle over a trip a little short of his best. He jumped great and has come back kicking, so we’ll go again with him. He’s a likeable, genuine horse who’s sure to win more races.
Word Has It
5g Jeremy – Rathfeigh
RPR 89p OR –
A nice horse who was second in a point-to-point. He’s done well over the summer and is a staying novice hurdle type. He’ll be ready in a few weeks.
Yes No Maybe So
5g Stowaway – Godlylady
RPR 99h OR –
Probably would have won on his return at Sedgefield with a run under his belt. He’s shown a good level of form and goes on soft ground over 2m to 2m4f.
Rival to watch
I was hugely impressed by Lostintranslation at Carlisle. It’s not often I go to see one in the winner’s enclosure afterwards but I couldn’t get there quick enough. He’s the most gorgeous horse to watch.
Race in focus
I’ve always wanted to win the Victor Ludorum at Haydock and hopefully one of my juveniles can do it this time.
Two for the tracker
The Some Dance Kid has won four of his seven starts and can win plenty more races. Chuvelo won well on his first run and has the potential to do well as a novice hurdler.
The days when Donald McCain racked up centuries for fun might be a thing of the past (his last came in 2013-14) but the reason for last season’s relatively paltry return of 63 winners can be attributed squarely to equine flu, which led to the stable being shut down for a period (sent out only five runners in the whole of February). The yard has shown no ill effects, though, and is already well over halfway to surpassing that tally.
While Cloudy Dream is undoubtedly the stable star, he is more accustomed to finishing runner-up nowadays (just one win but eight seconds in the last three years), which is no use to punters given he’s often a shortish price in small fields. He falls between a rock and a hard place on a rating of 157.
Dear Sire isn’t in the same class but is arguably unlucky not to be four from five over fences having twice come down late on when travelling well. It’s all the more creditable when you consider he has yet to contest a chase at a right-handed track (tends to jump that way and has finished 612215F1 racing in that direction over hurdles).
While Dear Sire may not want the ground too soft, the relatively unexposed Fin And Game can’t have it testing enough. He could prove well treated on the same mark as when finishing second to the useful Cornerstone Lad at Haydock.
First Account looks capable of winning one or two novice handicap chases judged on his first run in that sphere last week when worn down in the closing stages at Hexham by a track specialist. A mark of 114 is clearly going to be within the capabilities of this rangy, lightly raced five-year-old and he handles testing ground. The yard does particularly well with its runners in Wales and Scotland. Bangor is the track where it has had most winners and McCain has a healthy level-stakes profit there in the last five seasons, thanks solely to his hurdlers.