Horse Racing: Top owner Max McNeill lists his 5 favourite horses

Top owner Max McNeill exclusively tells Paddy Power his 5 favourite horses.

Grumeti

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Grumeti

We had three Triumph Hurdle favourites in four years and this lad finished third in that before giving us a second Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle win at Aintree.

He was such a versatile horse who won at all disciplines – over hurdles, on the flat, over fences and on the all-weather.

He also gave us our biggest ever Flat win in the Cesarewitch at 50-1, having been available at 66-1. I wasn’t even there as I went to watch my lad play football, while some of my racing buddies all chose to go and watch Karezak, who finished second, at Chepstow.

Some of the other parents at the footy wondered why I was running along the touchline with my hands in the air while the ball was in our goalmouth, while at HQ there was a photo of my brother Hugh going berserk in the big betting hall when the result was announced.

That was because the other horse in the photo was second-favourite Oriental Fox and a lot of people were hoping he’d won, and racegoers were coming up to Hugh asking “how the hell did you back that!?”

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Grumeti

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Mille Chief

We bought this guy on the back of Walkon (below) from the same source in France and he was a good horse. He was favourite for the Triumph, but two weeks’ beforehand got injured.

Talking to trainer Alan King, he always said that he was his best work horse at the time and he did win a fantastic Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, where Celestial Halo finished in second. Overturn was in the field and a certain Silviniaco Conti finished fourth and he stuffed them!

Sadly he never fulfilled his potential and he died on the gallops.

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Mille Chief

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Portrush Ted

Olofi won the Greatwood Hurdle, but I think I’ll go for this one and he’s named after my Dad.

Warren Greatrex has always liked the horse but he’s been very delicate and difficult to train. He’s got a lot of talent but you’ve got to get the dials on the combination bang on and Warren’s done a great job.

He ran in a Listed bumper at Ascot and was pulled up and we were questioning whether he was any good. Then he ran in a very nice bumper race behind Brewin’upastorm at Hereford in January 2018 and we knew what Olly Murphy thought of that one.

He went to Aintree where he was 25-1 for the bumper and Gavin Sheehan gave him a superb ride and he destroyed them. There were some good horses in that race including subsequent Greatwood Hurdle winner Harambe, Pym and Al Dancer.

He then ran in a novice hurdle at Perth in August 2018 and p*ssed up before a leg injury meant he was out for the rest of the season. We brought him back at Ayr in January this year, when he won a handicap hurdle comfortably and was back on track before Haydock, where he tipped up at the last.

We were all ready to go to Aintree earlier this month but we’re looking forward to next season. We’ll have a debate whether he goes for another handicap hurdle and then novice chasing or straight to the latter.

Two and a half miles is probably his best trip so the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, if he’s good enough, could hopefully be the aim.

It’s a long way away, but you’ve got to dream so let’s hope he stays sound.

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Portrush Ted

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The Worlds End

Arguably the best of the lot – over hurdles certainly. He’s a dual Grade 1 winner in that sphere, winning the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and an all-aged Marsh Hurdle (better known as the Long Walk Hurdle) at Ascot last year.

He also ran really well in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival three years’ ago when he fell two out. Who knows if he would have won if he hadn’t clouted that hurdle?

Last season he also won a Grade 2 at Wetherby, then was third at Newbury on unsuitable ground, wasn’t right at Haydock and Tom George was getting him right for Aintree, before it was abandoned.

The definite plan is the same race at Wetherby next season and we’re thinking Aintree ahead of Cheltenham later on in 2021. Adrian Heskin’s opinion is that he doesn’t get on too well at Cheltenham so we’ll probably go to Ascot, give him a break before bringing him back at Aintree and then consider Punchestown or Paris.

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The Worlds End

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Walkon

The primary reason for putting this fellow in is that he was the first good horse that we had.

I had my first horse in 2005 and lots weren’t very good – I remember going to Wincanton one day for a horse called Norman The Great and he’d been backed and I was quite excited. He was pulled up in the home straight and as I drove home, I thought ‘why does anyone do this really?’ and to cap it all, I nearly ran out of petrol!

But along popped Walkon a couple of years later, who changed all that, and in footy terms was nearly a champion in the Premier League. He was just outside the top – a West Ham or Everton who would comfortably manage to stay up each season.

He’d lost to Zaynar at Newbury in December 2008 by four lengths, giving him 7lb, and lots of people thought he’d turn it around in the 2009 Triumph Hurdle, where he was favourite and Zaynar almost second-favourite.

They jumped the last together, but he just got beaten by his old rival.

But he then won the Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree which was our first Festival win. After that he was always knocking on the door and was second so many times including in a Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham’s November meeting.

He took us to all the best places.

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Walkon

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