Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Killyglen can take the National, says John McCririck

You read it here first: Top racing pundit John McCririck (left) reveals the winner of Saturday’s Grand National to McLean Bookmakers chief Paul McLean |(centre) and the Belfast Telegraph’s Frank Brownlow at Nick’s Warehouse in Belfast yesterday

We know all about parades in this part of the world and John McCririck is demanding that one more be added to the list.

The top television racing pundit — and infamous Big Brother contestant — feels that Ulster-trained Killyglen has a great chance of winning Saturday’s Grand National.

And if Killyglen does win the £1million Aintree showpiece, Big Mac is calling for the horse to be given a triumphant homecoming.

“If Killyglen wins I want a procession through the streets of Belfast for the great horse,” roared McCririck, at a special McLean Bookmakers Grand National preview day at Nick’s Warehouse in Belfast.

Killyglen is trained in Larne by Stuart Crawford — if the horse has any energy left after Aintree and Belfast, perhaps he could have a quick scoot round the streets of the east Antrim town as well — and looked to have every chance in last year’s big race before falling just four fences from home.

He will be ridden by Robbie Power who has the experience of winning the big race on Silver Birch back in 2007.

“The great advantage with Killyglen is that he will be up near the front from the start of the race,” said McCririck.

“Killyglen was going really well last year when coming down four out.

“The horse has only 10st 4lbs to carry, is fresh and has had a wind operation,” he added.

Big race favourite Synchronised, ridden by perennial champion AP McCoy |(pictured |together), from Co Antrim, is bidding to become the first horse in 78 years to win the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season. McCririck, though, can’t see Synchronised providing McCoy with a second Grand National triumph or last year’s winner Ballabriggs becoming the first horse to record successive victories since the great Red Rum in 1973 and ‘74.

“Synchronised would have to come from too far back and there would need to be more rain to slow the rest down. Ballabriggs is really up in the weights but you can’t say he has no chance. It’s been done before and horses have been first and second in different years.

“But Ballabriggs has a huge weight to carry compared to last year — there are other horses with a better chance.

“So given a good run and getting into a rhythm, Killyglen can be a Northern Ireland winner,” he said.

McCririck admits he has huge admiration for the bravery of jockeys and horses alike in National Hunt racing, and he also keeps a close eye on Flat racing.

“Frankel and Camelot would be the ones to watch but the Flat season is very much a case of wait and see at this stage,” he said.

“We will soon see how good Frankel really is — but he has been tremendous so far.

“If he can get the better of Black Caviar, the unbeaten Australian horse, that would be fantastic.

“But Frankel is the target for every good horse.

“So You Think has never really lived up to his billing. The Australian sprinters we know are world class but are their middle distance horses? So You Think will not become the wonder horse some thought he would be.

“But it’s jump racing that I really love, with the bravery of the horses and the riders, and I’m really looking forward to the Grand National.”

McCririck discusses racing with real passion and is also more than happy to adopt his larger-than-life television persona.

The eccentric refers to his wife as ‘The Booby’ but don’t rule out a first victory for a female jockey in the Grand National on Saturday.

Either Katie Walsh or Nina Carberry — on Seabass and Organisedconfusion respectively — could be about to create a little bit of history.

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