Backstage set for Aintree charge at Grand National

SHOULD Backstage triumph in the John Smith's Grand National, he will be guaranteed a louder cheer than most as he returns to the famous winner's enclosure.

The usual raucous reception from racegoers is of course assured – but there is also sure to be plenty of noise emanating from the eight-year-old's sizeable pack of owners on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Originally owned by the Capranny Syndicate, comprised of stable staff at Gordon Elliott's Grand National-winning County Meath yard, they sold a half-share of the horse to Middleham Park Racing before Christmas.

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The syndicate, based at Barton-on-Humber, was set up in 1995 and its pale blue and orange colours have been carried to victory on 308 occasions – 54 times last year.

Nick Bradley, one of a three-strong team behind MPR, explained how they broke with their usual system to acquire half of a genuine National contender.

"In the past, trainers have offered us horses and their advice and we have bought the horses and sold on the shares to our members," he said. "We decided to take a more radical view recently, though, and find the horses ourselves and Backstage is one of the first we have done this with.

"We went through the National field to identify the horses we thought had a winning chance and we settled on Backstage. Obviously some of the horses are owned by the big owners, like David Johnson, and there would be no point in making an offer but we did enquire after a few.

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"There's about 20 people who have shares in him. We approached about 40 of our members and 14 took up the option and five or six more have been added since.

"I kept a leg of him myself too as it's always been a dream of mine to win the National.

"I remember watching Hallo Dandy winning all those years ago and thinking I wanted to win it too."

It was Bradley's task to identify the likely contenders and it was Backstage's 10-length triumph at Ffos Las in August that made him take note.

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Shipped out of Evan Williams's yard in May 2008, Backstage changed hands for just 13,000 at the Doncaster sales and was brought back to his best by Elliott, who sent out another rejuvenated runner in Silver Birch to win at Aintree three years ago.

"Backstage really stood out as he ticked all the National boxes really," Bradley continued. "He's by the same sire as (last year's winner) Mon Mome, he won over three miles at Ffos Las on the bridle and only went up 11lb for his 10-length win so we think he's well handicapped.

"Added to that Gordon is the youngest person to train a National winner, so he certainly meets all the requirements. I think there are 14 staff at Gordon's who have a share in the horse and they only paid 13,000 for him which shows you just how shrewd a trainer he is."