Donald McCain is, of course, the son of the late Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, trainer of the illustrious Red Rum. McCain Jnr took over the reins at Bank House Stables in Cholmondley, Cheshire in 2006 and quickly established himself as the leading trainer in the North of England. However, following a mediocre season in 2014/15, when he saddled just 53 winners, he lost a significant number of his string when prominent owners Paul and Clare Rooney removed over 60 horses from his yard. At the time, McCain said, “Dad would have had a very good way of dealing with the whole thing.”
Dad, of course, was an uninhibited, forthright character, famous for remarks such as “It was f****** magic, cock”, on live radio, following the success of Amberleigh House in the 2004 Grand National. McCain Jnr, on the other hand, wished his former patrons well and set about the task of building up his numbers to a respectable level. This he has done, to some extent and, while not attracting horses of the quality of former stable stars Peddlers Cross, Cinders And Ashes and Ballabriggs, continues to saddle winners at a lower level. The victory of Hills Of Dubai at Ayr in January took his total for 2017/18 to 80 winners, already equalling his total for 2016/17 and he has some decent prospects to look forward to the rest of the season.
Testify, for example, a 7-year-old gelding by Witness Box, has won all three starts over fences, including the Grade 2 Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock, and is 33/1 for both the RSA Chase and the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Fin And Game, a 6-year-old gelding by Oscar, is similarly unbeaten over hurdles and McCain has recruited several promising young horses from the point-to-point field.
At the start of the 2017/18 season, McCain expressed concern at the state of National Hunt racing in the North of England and made a clarion call to his fellow handlers, saying, “I get slightly frustrated sometimes with some of the northern trainers that they don’t get stuck in and take them [southern trainers] on and send them back down the motorway.” Unmistakably a chip off the old block, in deed, if not necessarily in word, Donald McCain Jnr has every reason for optimism at Bank House and can, hopefully, look forward to saddling many more winners.