Red Rum was 30, an exceptional age for a horse. His racing career began in the mid-1960s, and included a success in a Flat race in the hands of Lester Piggott. But it was when he passed into the care of Ginger McCain, a Southport car-salesman, that his progress towards stardom began.
McCain exercised Red Rum on the beach behind his showroom. In 1973 he won the National for the first time, beating Crisp in one of the most dramatic finishes seen at Aintree. He won again in 1974, finished second in 1975 and 1976, and completed his hat-trick the following year.
In Red Rum's time, the National course was more demanding than it is today. The public recognised his achievement, and Red Rum's popularity endured long after his racing days were over. He was in constant demand to open supermarkets and betting shops. "He's always been brilliant with people," said Phil Harrison, his stable-lad in recent years. "As far as I know, he's never bitten or kicked anyone."
McCain said yesterday: "He was a tremendous old competitor, but much more than that he switched on the Blackpool lights and was chieftain of honour at the Highland Games. He was a very remarkable horse, a seriously magical horse." A memorial will be erected over Red Rum's grave in time for the next Grand National.
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