The 2011 Grand National will be remembered by some for all the wrong reasons but plenty of sensible punters were celebrating when Ballabriggs, under a whip-ban inducing drive from Jason Maguire, outstayed Oscar Time by just over two lengths.

Ballabriggs had been prominent throughout and took the lead as the 27 surviving runners set out on the second circuit. Maguire never ventured far from the inside rail and Ballybriggs' jumping was impressive throughout with only a peck on landing at Valentine's second time to slow his progress. Approaching the elbow, Oscar Time and Big Fella Thanks looked to be going as well as the leader but Big Fella Thanks suddenly emptied, allowing Don't Push It, State of Play, Niche Market and The Midnight Club to pass him. Meanwhile Ballabriggs found a little bit extra to repel Oscar Time's challenge in the final furlong. Don't Push It finished third by twelve lengths with State of Play two lengths behind him in fourth.

Whilst those with money on the winner were more than happy with the result, the race was unquestionably a PR disaster for the racing industry. Not only was Bechers conspicuously omitted on the second circuit for the first time ever as the landing side was occupied by the fatally injured Dooneys Gate but the Paul Nicholls trained Ornais encountered a similar fate at the fourth fence. That fence was also dolled off on the second circuit with the tell tale green canvas covering the casualty. The 2011 Grand National became a 26 fence (rather than 28) jumping contest.

Unfortunately nobody had told the race commentators that the jockeys had been advised to dismount after finishing as the unseasonably warm weather was bound to take its toll on exhausted finishers. The images of a dismounted and swaying Ballabriggs being doused with buckets of water immediately after the finish did little to improve the image of racing. All the jockeys crossing the finishing line had to walk rather than ride into the winner's enclosure.

The Donald McCain trained ten year old had been backed in from 16/1 to 14/1 just before the off. It was not a bad result for the bookies but they weren't staging major celebrations either.

The second placed Oscar Time, partnered by the likeable and impeccably connected amateur rider, Sam Waley-Cohen had attracted significant each way money. Waley-Cohen had already defied his critics by succeeding in the Gold Cup with Long Run. He had also hosted the party that resulted in the reunion of Prince William and his now wife Kate. He had certainly done his bit for King and country and was joint fourth favourite at 14/1 with Ballabriggs and the disappointing Quinz.

The Philip Hobbs trained Quinz went into the race with impressive form and the assistance of Richard Johnson but pulled up tamely after the 15th fence having broken a blood vessel.

If Waley-Cohen had made it across the line first the press would have had their dream story. But racing cannot be relied upon to deliver the happy endings of fairytales.

Another disappointment was the heavily backed favourite, The Midnight Club, who was sent off at 15/2, but could only finish sixth. The Willie Mullins trained ten year old had clouted the third fence, the first of the big ditches, with sufficient force to unseat the majority of jockeys. Fortunately his pilot, arguably the best Grand National jockey of our time, Ruby Walsh, barely moved. Four fences out he encountered further trouble that was not of his own making. He was severely hampered by the fallen Killyglen who became yet another obstacle but still stayed on to gain a minor placing.

In an interview after the race Ruby Walsh admitted that the severity of the horse's blunder at the third probably scuppered his chances. If Midnight Club has learnt anything from his early mistake and connections decide to have another shot at the Grand National in 2012, he will once again be one for the shortlist.

The second favourite in the 2011 Grand National, the previous year's winner, Don't Push It under top jockey and Sports Personality of the Year, Tony McCoy, ran a blinder to finish third, 12 lengths behind Oscar Time. The Jonjo O'Neill trained gelding carried the weight of plenty of sentimental money as well as the 11 stone 10 pounds allocated to him by the handicapper. It would have taken a minor miracle for him to win but still his price shortened from 11/1 to 9/1 on the morning of the race. Here was a horse that could safely be ignored by sensible punters as a win was out of the question and there was no each way value either.

State of Play, the 28/1 shot saddled by the shrewd Evan Williams and ridden by Paul Moloney finished fourth, two lengths behind Don't Push It. He had been trained specifically for the race having finished third in the 2010 Grand National and was obviously good value for a place. With an official rating of 142 he was never likely to occupy the top spot but his impressive record in the race and flawless jumping record (he had never fallen or unseated in his 23 starts over obstacles) warranted respect.

Perhaps predictably the Paul Nicholls platoon of runners were disappointing. Niche Market, partnered by Harry Skelton and sent off at 16/1 finished fifth, seven lengths behind State of Play. The most fancied of his runners, What A Friend, started at 12/1 after his impressive run in the Gold Cup but was pulled up by Daryl Jacobs before 4 out. The Tother Once crashed out of the race at Bechers continuing Nicholls' dismal record in the world's most popular race.

It was a former Nicholls charge, 12/1 shot Big Fella Thanks, now trained by Ferdy Murphy, that took seventh place. He finished 13 lengths behind The Midnight Club. Doubts about his stamina were confirmed after he weakened dramatically at the elbow despite being patiently ridden by Graham Lee.

The 2011 Grand National result reinforced the theory that certain yards just seem to be much more successful in this race than others. It was Donald's father, Ginger McCain, who was responsible for the record breaking multiple victories of the legendary Red Rum as well as the success of Amberleigh House in 2004. It wasn't just a one horse fluke.

Ballabriggs' victory in the 2011 Grand National was certainly well deserved. We will have to wait and see if Donald McCain can continue to build on his father's exceptional record in the race.

Grand National betting

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