Should Scottish trainer Nick Alexander win the Randox Health Grand National with Lake View Lad on Saturday, he might be tempted to paint the town red in celebration.
It will be far more rewarding experience than the time he had to deal with the hair-raising experience of things turning orange.
Long before he concentrated on trying to find a horse good enough to contest the £1million Aintree spectacular, Alexander was the finance director of a small toiletries and cosmetic manufacturer in Glenrothes, Fife..
Nick Alexander’s Lake View Lad is a leading hope for Britain against the might of the Irish
He recalled: ‘There was one case of a batch of hair gel which ended up in the south side of Dublin being sold through cash and carries and local convenience stores. One morning we got a complaint from someone who had used it saying that their hair had turned orange. By lunchtime five people had complained to say the same thing.
‘At that point, we realised we must have got the potion wrong. Fortunately, I was nothing to do with the mixing up of it all but I was left to handle all the calls and, rather insultingly, we sent them a hamper of our products as a gesture of goodwill.’
For most trainers, sorting out a business crisis is more likely to involve a row with a feed company over a late delivery.
But 57-year-old Alexander is hardly the archetypal trainer. Quite the reverse. None of his rival trainers with Grand National contenders will be able to boast a CV remotely like his.
An history of art graduate from Aberdeen University, Alexander spent most of the 1980s working as a stockbroker in the City of London before another financial sector job brought him back to Edinburgh.
Alexander is preparing Lake View Lad pictured at his Kinneston stables
He also spent a period as an entrepreneur when he came to the conclusion that ’the less hands on I was in the management, the more likely the business was to succeed’.
Back then, there was no thought of training racehorses for a living. A more likely career path would have been the diverse family businesses, which included the well-known Alexander bus and coach building works in Falkirk that is now in other hands but still going strong and known as Alexander Dennis. Chances are if you have sat on a coach or double decker, it’s one of theirs.
But horses were also in Alexander’s blood. His late father Cyril trained Subaltern, winner of the 1966 Aintree Fox Hunters’ Chase when ridden by John Lawrence, later better known as popular TV pundit and journalist Lord Oaksey.
While Alexander and his three brothers once all rode against each other in a five-runner point-to-point in Fife, albeit finishing second, third, fourth and fifth as ‘we were all keeping an eye on each other rather than the opposition’.
The Alexander family’s 800-acre farm in Perth and Kinross now underpins the racing stable, where among the 40 horses Nick trains is grey gelding Lake View Lad whose career has gone from strength to strength.
Alexander, who originally took out a permit to train the family horses in 2002 before graduating to a full trainer’s licence in 2007, admits: ‘Training is a hobby which basically became my job and all the other bits of business I was involved in have completely disappeared apart from running the farm.
Lake View Lad, pictured on his morning workout, will be ridden by Henry Brooke on Saturday
‘I hadn’t really wanted to be a public trainer but we had one or two horses that were successful and the buzz of winning is quite addictive. You want more of it. So gradually it built up.’
Influential in Alexander’s decision to expand was the success achieved by his jockey daughter Lucy. She was the first champion female conditional jockey in 2102-13 and remains the only female title holder, although Bryony Frost is poised to join her at the end of this season.
Alexander said: ‘The real game-changer for this business was probably Lucy. She attracted owners here because she was very much in the public eye. We were training a lot of winners and she was riding them.
‘Lucy being champion conditional and winning a national title opened my eyes that even training on a farm on the side of a hill in Scotland, there is no limit.’
Lake View Lad is around 12/1 for the big race with just a few days to go
At £70,000, Lake View Lad remains the most Alexander has ever paid for a horse. His record of eight career wins in 20 races tell the story of a horse who has improved with age and now looks to have reached his peak.
When original owner Alistair Cochrane had to sell, Alexander did not want to lose the gelding and approached Trevor Hemming, who has owned three previous National winners, to buy Lake View Lad.
Alexander said: ‘The horse has surpassed my expectations at every stage. I was in a corner because I needed to find an owner for the horse very quickly. I would have underwritten him myself if it had come to it.
‘I knew there was bags more to come from him and that I wouldn’t have trouble selling him because good chasers are very hard to come by.
‘I made one call to (bloodstock agent) David Minton, who buys Trevor Hemmings’ horse, and said “I think this horse might suit Trevor” and it took them 20 minutes to decide to buy him. But, at the stage, I didn’t know he might be a Grand National horse.’
After wins in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle, the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby and third place under top weight in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Lake View Lad definitely is a contender.
At 12-1, he is one of the shortest-priced home-trained hopes trying to hold off an avalanche of Irish-trained runners having struck up a productive partnership with jockey Henry Brooke, who was chosen as the gelding’s partner at the start of the season because of his previous links with Grand National-obsessed Hemmings.
In contrast to his owner, Alexander has never attended Aintree on Grand National day. He concedes he will probably be a nervous wreck come race day but emboldened by recent local Aintree success.
The grey seems to be getting better with age and heads for Aintree in fine form
Scottish countryside and Loch Leven provides the backdrop for Lake View Lad on the gallops
One For Arthur, who in 2017 became only the second Grand National winner from north of the border and who will be in the line-up again, is trained by Lucinda Russell less than five miles away from Alexander’s stable.
Both geldings scale gallops that overlook the vast Loch Leven with its island where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in 1567.
Alexander said: ‘It was absolutely fantastic when One For Arthur won the National. People have to realise Scottish trainers can train to the highest level. One For Arthur is owned by fantastic people and was given a fantastic ride. It proved it can be done.’
Maybe, there is something in the local water that makes a difference. The Alexander family and their horses drink water from a spring on their land. Local legend has it that the water helped cure Robert The Bruce, scourge of the English, from Leprosy.
Maybe, it’s still fuelling modern Scottish heroes.