PETER BOWEN is used to going the distance and is now hoping that Al Co can do the same.

The yard that Bowen and his wife, Karen, run near Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire meant that their nearest racecourse was Wexford in Ireland, until the opening of Ffos Las, so the horsebox regularly clocks up the miles.

There were another 173 logged on the milometer when it parked up at Aintree last Saturday but it was a largely wasted journey as Al Co only made it about a hundred yards to the first fence in the Crabbie's Grand National when he unseated his rider.

Suddenly a year's planning was gone in the time it took Al Co's jockey, Denis O'Regan, to become forcibly reacquainted with Newton's law of gravity. "It's one of those things and you can't dwell on it," Bowen said with a philosophical shrug. "But at least we've got the Scottish National to go for now.

"He didn't go far and came back okay, so that's the main thing. Really, if he was going to fall anywhere - given that we had the entry for the Scottish National - it would be the first fence. Maybe something good will come out of it."

There could be something very good to come for Bowen when he sends Al Co for the Coral Scottish National at Ayr tomorrow, having won the race 12 months ago. This time he will be ridden by the trainer's 17-year-old son, Sean, who has been one of the riding sensations of the season.

A shoulder injury, sustained at Catterick in January, kept him out of action for two months and a few bouts of youthful enthusiasm which incurred the displeasure of the stewards provided some more unwanted spells on the sidelines. All of which makes him leading the conditional jockeys' championship with 44 winners the more remarkable.

"It's happened very quickly for him but I'm not surprised he's as good as he is," his father said. "He's always been good on a horse. He first sat on a racehorse when he was six and rode about 60 winners pony racing. And then he went over to Gordon Elliott in Ireland to get more experience."

Sports fields across the country are filled every weekend with fathers who are convinced that their offspring is the next Lionel Messi or Dan Carter. Bowen is far too grounded to be duped by such folly but it did help that one of the other father's carefully noting the son rising on the pony racing circuit just happened to be Paul Nicholls, the champion jumps trainer.

"Paul had watched him quite a lot when he was pony racing because his daughter, Megan, was riding at the same time. In the finals, at York, Sean won and Megan was second. Paul then kept an eye on him when Sean went pointing - he was novice champion - and when Sean turned conditional he came on straight away and said 'do you think I can have him?'"

Faced with an approach from jump racing's answer to Manchester United father and son gave it a considered thought that might have lasted two seconds. "The obvious answer was yes. Sean couldn't go to a better place to ride some good horses."

Good horses make good jockeys is an old saying within the sport and another strong belief is that the reins are like a telephone wire, providing communication between jockey and horse, who can sense the mood of the rider and Bowen's mood can only be one of confidence having ridden a treble at Haydock Park on Easter Saturday and another at Chepstow just 48 hours later.

A year ago he was watching on as Jamie Moore rode Al Co to win the National. Moore might have been riding again this time but for breaking his leg in a fall at Towcester earlier this month but Bowen admits that having his son ride brings an added dimension.

"It definitely makes a difference having your son riding for you. Nothing wrong with the other jockeys - but this is your own flesh and blood and that means a lot more," Bowen said. "Having Sean riding drives you to be an even better trainer because you just want it for him."

Bowen Sr will make the drive to Ayr hoping Al Co can win twice like Androma in 1984 and 1985.

"He ran off a handicap mark of 140 last year and now, with Sean's 3lb claim, he'll be off 142 and he'd have definitely won with a few more pounds last so you have to be hopeful," he said. "You can't be too confident - it's a 30-runner race - but I'd be as confident that he's as good as he was last year."

At least he knows that Al Co can go the distance.