The Borders owners, trainers and riders – and their assistants – who took part in last weekend’s Randox Health Grand National brought pride and prestige to the area once again.
Two local horses – one a former winner and the other returning from last year – took part in the world’s greatest steeplechase at Aintree.
Both finished the formidable course safely – One For Arthur, ridden to victory by Derek Fox in 2017, came home in sixth place, while Captain Redbeard, a casualty at the seventh fence last year, was 16th out of the 19 finishers.
Supporters were delighted that both had completed the demanding course without incident.
One For Arthur, trained by Lucinda Russell, is owned by the ‘Two Golf Widows’, alias Belinda McClung of Ancrum and Deborah Thomson of Cessford.
Both expressed very similar sentiments about how well One For Arthur had run – and they hoped he might be back in 2020.
“We are really pleased with him – he did us proud. He’s a superstar,” said Belinda.
“He’s not had an easy two years and for the trainer (Lucinda) to get him back to that kind of shape after an interrupted season was very good.”
Belinda felt the pace possibly didn’t suit One For Arthur quite so well this time round but they were not making excuses, adding: “He was sixth and we were delighted. He loves Aintree. He loves the fences.”
The horse had suffered a little from rustiness and a “few other niggles” after his comeback from a tendon injury, but to reach Grand National standard again so quickly was a great accomplishment.
“He jumped perfectly on Saturday –probably better than he did when he won it,” added Belinda. “He’s going on holiday now – but bring on next year!
“If he’s sound and well, that will be the target next year, because he really does love those fences.”
Deborah said: “We had a fabulous weekend and we were absolutely delighted with him.
“It hadn’t been an easy season but credit to Lucinda and her whole team to get him where he was, to run a cracking race on Saturday. We have really got to thank them for all their hard work and dedication, finishing so high.
“There were a couple of seconds where we thought ‘is he going to do it again?’ but he got slightly tired and couldn’t quite finish as strongly as two years ago. But, my goodness me – he is our wee superstar and he ran a blinder. He is an Aintree horse – he loves those National fences.
“It would be brilliant if we got him back, but there’s a long way to go until Grand National 2020.”
Over at Selkirk, Captain Redbeard is owned and trained by Stuart Coltherd, of the Clarilawmuir yard, and ridden by Stuart’s son Sam.
Having ejected Sam at Foinavon last year, the 10-year-old chestnut gelding gave an excellent exhibition of jumping to stay in contention right up until the final stages, ultimately claiming 16th place out of the 40-strong field.
The 20-year-old jockey said this week that the whole day had been an unbelievable experience.
“On arrival, you do the course walk and, next, it’s into the stewards room at 12 o’clock. Then, when the horses finally get out on the track, it’s all over in a split second,” he said. “You wouldn’t think it’s an eight-minute or a 10-minute race.
“I thought as long as I had a wee bit of room the whole way round, I wasn’t really worried about my lad jumping. People falling round me was my biggest concern but, luckily, we got a clear run after the first and it went to plan.
“He just never quite stayed the marathon trip but he gave it his all and he’s tried his best so no excuses this time, anyway.
Sam added: “The support I’ve had has been unbelievable – all the messages beforehand from people wishing me luck, and then after the race congratulating me for completing. I’d like to thank everyone for all their good wishes.”
Stuart also paid tribute to the pair’s stunning achievement.
“Without a doubt, he’s exceeded all expectations,” said Stuart. “At one time, I think he was fourth or fifth jumping the Canal Turn, so at that stage, it looked as though the dream was possible.
“The horse hasn’t quite stayed the four miles but I’ll take that any day. He’s run really well, so no complaints.
“I’m always saying to Sam that, if you’ve got the horse in a position to win the race, and well, he was there, if the horse was good enough.
“It must have been a big thrill for him, as the horse has jumped great and they’re both back in one piece, which is the main thing.
“A great day for everyone concerned.”