BALLYHOLLAND (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Tiraaz (USA) – Lilly Bolero (Fearless Action (USA)); 9-11-00; Form: 3P/583151P6-51117 

Owner: Cathal McGovern; Trainer: Colin McBratney IRE; Jockey: Andrew McNamara; Breeder: Andrew Kavanagh

Ballyholland was bought by Cathal McGovern for only 2,000 euros at the Tattersalls Ireland National Hunt Sales in August, 2005, and the Tiraaz gelding made his debut for trainer Colin McBratney in December of the same year, taking fifth in a maiden point-to-point at Maralin. 

He recorded a first success on his fourth start between the flags, scoring at Taylorstown in October, 2007, and followed up with another victory at Loughbrickland later the same month. Ballyholland had two runs in hunters’ chases in the 2007/08 campaign, coming third at Downpatrick in December before being pulled up at Thurles the following month. 

He returned for the 2008/09 term with a promising fifth in a beginners’ chase at Downpatrick in May, 2008, when he contested the lead before fading in the closing stages, but failed to built on that effort when coming home eighth in a handicap chase at Punchestown later the same month. After taking third in a novice chase at Perth at the start of July, Ballyholland made a quick return to the Scottish course and registered a first success under Rules just 24 hours later, running on strongly to take a to mile, five furlong handicap chase. He was a close fifth in a novice chase at Galway at the start of September and returned to the winner’s enclosure later the same month when posting a half-length victory in a two and a half mile Navan chase. 

Stepped up to Grade One company for the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in November, Ballyholland burst a blood vessel and was pulled up, and he returned to the same course in April, 2009, coming home sixth in the Grade One Powers Gold Cup. He travelled back to Perth to take fifth behind fellow John Smith’s Grand National contender Backstage in a three-mile handicap chase at the end of May, but posted a much better effort to triumph in the Galway Plate Trial at Down Royal in June. That success prompted a tilt at the Galway Plate over two miles and six furlongs the following week and Ballyholland produced the best performance of his career to date as he forged clear after the last to record an emphatic eight-length victory over Knock On The Head. 

Having been given a break following his exertions, Ballyholland made his first appearance for nearly six months when landing a two-mile novice hurdle at Navan in January. He made his final appearance prior to Aintree when seventh in the Grade Two Newlands Chase over two miles and a furlong at Leopardstown on 28 February.

Race Record: Starts: 15; Wins: 5; 2nd: -; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £191,952

Cathal McGovern

Cathal McGovern grew up surrounded by horses in Newry, Northen Ireland. His father Michael owns M McG roadworks and was formerly a permit holder who trained leading hunter chasers Mr Gaffney and Geramac – his distinct black and white hooped colours echoed his background in highway maintenance. 

Cathal himself has followed in the family footsteps and runs his own roadworks company, Road Stud Installations, which paints roads and supplies cats eyes. He first sat on a horse when he was seven but soon graduated to help out his father with his pointers, riding eight winners between the flags. 

Cathal started owning and breeding horses 20 years ago, primarily point-to-pointers, and he currently has four horses in training including Ballyholland and dual point-to-point scorer Harps Counsel. Cathal, who is married to Barbara and has four children – Mike, Catherine, James and Kerry – is also on the committee of local Gaelic football team the Ballyholland Harps, after which both his top horses are named.

No previous John Smith’s Grand National runners

Colin McBratney

Born on 30 September, 1963, Colin McBratney originally started out riding in point-to-points before turning his had to training between the flags in 1995. The Crossgar, County Down, based handler enjoyed his first winner as a trainer when Denfield landed a point-to-point maiden at Dundalk on 24 March, 1996, and soon gained a reputation as one of the leading handlers in Northern Ireland. 

McBratney’s first winner under Rules proved to be something of a family affair as Bald Joker, whom Colin had ridden to seven victories between the flags for his older brother David, landed a Downpatrick handicap chase on 17 October, 1997, with Colin’s nephew Lindsay in the saddle. All three men are still very much part of a team, with Lindsay acting as assistant trainer and David helping out. 

He decided to give up training on the point-to-point circuit this season to concentrate on his National Hunt string and has enjoyed his best score in terms of winners ever, with 14 winners to his name in Britain and Ireland already this term (up to 1 April). Ballyholland was recommended to McBratney by former Irish point-to-point jockey and stewards’ secretary Paddy Graffin and the trainer rates the 2009 Galway Plate winner as the best horse to pass through his hands, although he has high hopes for three-time chase winner Selection Box and up and coming hurdler Magnum Force.

McBratney is also no stranger to enjoying successful raids across the Irish Sea, having sent over four winners so far this term including three-time scorer Carsonstown Boy, who beat fellow John Smith’s Grand National hopeful Backstage in a novice hurdle at Perth in July.

No previous John Smith’s Grand National runners

Andrew McNamara

Born on 30 April, 1983, Andrew McNamara is the son of Co Limerick handler Andrew McNamara Snr, for whom he rode his first winner aboard La Captive at Wexford on 13 July, 2002. McNamara senior has had three Grand National runners and saddled the 1985 Arkle Trophy winner Boreen Prince while Andrew’s cousin is Ireland’s most successful ever point-to-point rider, Mr JT McNamara. 

Andrew McNamara turned professional in June, 2004, having previously been champion point-to-point rider in Ireland in the 2003/04 season. He enjoyed the biggest win of his career at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival when Newmill collected the Queen Mother Champion Chase, while he also won the 2006 John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree on Hi Cloy and the 2008 Irish Champion Hurdle on Sizing Europe. He now rides primarily for Edward O’Grady and has enjoyed notable success for that trainer on Grade One-winning hurdlers Catch Me and Jumbo Rio, as well as Tranquil Sea, triumphant in this season’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham. 

He is based at Dooradoile, Co Limerick.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2006 Rince Ri (Ref 27th); 2007 Cloudy Bays (Ref 15th), 2008 Black Apalachi (Fell 2nd), 2009 Snowy Morning (9th)

Allison Graham

Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there's a lot more to learn...

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