Ballyoptic Grand National Wins
Ballyoptic has never won the Grand National.
They have never finished the race.
Known as a high-class hurdler, a horse who won at Grade One level in that discipline, Ballyoptic was able to turn his hand to chasing later in his career. His stamina took him to long-distance races, as it did over hurdles, and that would lead this horse to run in two Grand National races.
Foaled in 2010 and trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, Ballyoptic ran in a number of top races over the years, and his transition from hurdles to fences showed what a talented and versatile individual he really was.
His two Grand National runs came in 2019 and 2021. He would more than likely have run in the race three times had the 2020 running not been postponed. However, he sadly failed to finish either of his two attempts, falling in 2019 at the 26th fence and then refusing to race at the 21st fence in 2021.
|2021||Fence 21 - Refused||-||11-1||Sam Twiston-Davies||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|2019||Fence 26 - Fell||-||11-1||Thomas Bellamy||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
Grade One Novice Hurdle Winner
When you think of a Grand National contender, horses that come to mind often take time to develop and don’t have too much high-level success in their early years. That was not the case for Ballyoptic, though, as he won at Grade One level in his first year of racing under rules.
In April 2016, Ballyoptic would go to the Aintree Grand National festival as a novice hurdler and run in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, a race which he would win. It was a bit of a surprise result, beating Bellshill by a neck, a horse who was a previous Grade One winner before that.
At the time of the win, it looked as though Ballyoptic was going to develop into a multiple Grade One winner, but this would be the only Grade One success he would have at any level and in either discipline.
Ballyoptic’s Early Years
Prior to running under rules with Nigel Twiston-Davies in the UK, Ballyoptic began his racing career as a point-to-point horse in Ireland, which gave him the experience of the bigger obstacles at a young age.
He ran six times in point-to-point races, which is a lot compared to many horses, and won one of those races. His debut came in November 2014, where he finished third before winning his second start in March of 2015.
After those runs, in February 2016, Ballyoptic would make his debut for Twiston-Davies, running in a novice hurdle at Ffos Las. That would result in a win by just over three lengths, and it would be followed up by another, defying a penalty to win another novice hurdle, this time in more impressive fashion, winning by ten lengths.
The horse skipped Cheltenham and went to Aintree, where he would win the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.
In the following season, Ballyoptic would return as a second-season hurdler, with the Stayers Hurdle his main aim at Cheltenham. He would be pulled up in that race, ending his chances, and then attention would turn to chasing the following season.
A 13-length victory on chase debut saw his sights raised, and again, the season would end with a trip to Cheltenham, where he finished fourth in the RSA Chase. That was followed up by a huge run and the first time we’d seen the horse at an extreme distance. He would finish second, losing out just by a nose, in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. It was a huge run, and don’t forget the horse was a novice chaser at the time.
Ballyoptic’s Big Race Wins
The first big race won by Ballyoptic was the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in his first year with Nigel Twiston-Davies. The following season, he would grab another big win in his first run since a summer break, taking the Silver Trophy at Chepstow, a Grade Three handicap hurdle.
Despite showing a lot of promise as a hurdler, he would not win another big race until he went over fences, which can probably be described as a little disappointing for a horse that showed so much over the smaller obstacles.
The next big race win was the Grade Two Towton Novice Chase at Wetherby in February 2018, a race that would lead him to Cheltenham and then the Scottish Grand National afterwards.
Wetherby would be the scene of his next big race win, as he would return in November 2019 to run in the Charlie Hall Chase, a Grade Two contest at the West Yorkshire venue, which Ballyoptic would win by over three lengths.
The final big race win for this horse would come at Ascot, when he won the Swinley Chase, a listed handicap, in February 2020.
That left Ballyoptic with an excellent career, winning at Grade One level, winning big races over both hurdles and fences and growing into a fan favourite on the back of that.