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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Festival meeting the priorityHeadlines
On the gallops at the Donald McCain yard

Donald McCain's family will forever be synonymous with the Grand National, but the Cheshire-based trainer admits the Cheltenham Festival is now top of his priority list.

His late father Ginger will always be associated with Aintree and in particular the exploits of the legendary Red Rum, but the burgeoning McCain empire has attracted higher profile owners of late - and a better team of racehorses.

"From Christmas onwards you are starting to think about getting horses ready for Cheltenham. We were lucky to have a winner with our first runner there (Cloudy Lane, 2007 Kim Muir), which was great, but things have been a bit tougher since," said McCain.

"We've had six winners there altogether now, which is great, and I think it's got to the stage where we need to have winners at Cheltenham. Aintree is a special place for us, but we almost look at having winners there as a bonus. If you have a winner there we really enjoy it."

McCain has a strong team assembled, headed by Arkle-bound Overturn, World Hurdle contender Peddlers Cross and Champion Hurdle challenger Cinders And Ashes, and he nominates Our Mick as his best chance of winning one of the handicaps.

He said: "He was third in the JLT last year as a novice and made a couple of bad mistakes, but ran a screamer. He's only a little bit higher in the weights and was running a nice race at Cheltenham the other week when Jason (Maguire) decided to jump off him! He's in great nick and I'll be expecting a big run."

Super Duty was only narrowly denied by the David Pipe-trained Goulanes in the Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby last time and although he has handicap engagements at Cheltenham, McCain is leaning towards a tilt at the RSA Chase.

He went on: "I've been very tempted just to concentrate on the Kim Muir, but I'm starting to think strongly about running him in the RSA. He's never had his ground this year and was giving 7lb to David's horse the other day. He would have to carry nearly top weight in the Kim Muir. He's as tough as nails."

Son Of Flicka won part-owner Phil Williams the best part of a million pounds when landing last year's Coral Cup and McCain said: "He's a grand little horse and I think he's a pound or two higher than what he won off last year. He'll probably run in the Coral Cup, but we'll keep our options open for now."

Other possible runners are Diamond King (Champion Bumper), Any Given Day, Bourne and Hollow Tree (handicap hurdles), Counsel (Fred Winter), Desert Cry (Jewson), Cloudy Lane (Foxhunter) and She Ranks Me (OLBG Mares' Hurdle or Neptune).

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