From the greatest horse's mouth

BOOK OF THE WEEK; Red Rum: A Racing Legend by Ginger McCain (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pounds 12.99)

Something strange will happen in the Grand National on Saturday. Red Rum will get passed. The great horse, who died last October aged 30, is buried at the winning post at Aintree, the course he graced in capturing three Grand Nationals in the 1970s. He is facing the right way.

In this book, the gelding's most celebrated trainer, Ginger McCain, chronicles the life of the horse who forced his way into the minds of more than just people dedicated to National Hunt racing. As McCain points out, much of Red Rum's charm was his ability to survive five Grand Nationals and 110 races. Red Rum's greatest skill was that he saved his best for the single race that drags the general public to their television sets.

After his first Grand National success, he went up the steps of the Bold Hotel in Lord Street, Southport, and down a red carpet into the ballroom to celebrate with the locals. The following day he went on a pub crawl (although not on his own).

This equanimity in the midst of human beings served Red Rum well after his racing days were over. An offer of $1m from the businessman, Rocky Aoki, who wanted the horse at the opening of his restaurants, was turned down and Red Rum is thought to have covered that figure and more as he provided his services at fetes and the opening of bookmakers' shops.

Red Rum exemplifies National Hunt's greatest strength: its potential to reward the little man as much as the wealthy barons of the sport. Like the gullible citizens of Troy before him, McCain's life was changed irrevocably by a single horse.

Ginger McCain was little known before he became Red Rum's fifth trainer and boarded him in the former brewery stables behind his used car business in Southport, and he has not done much since the horse retired. Yet it can be argued that, without him, Red Rum would have been just another horse.

McCain had noticed that when broken-down horses were put to work between the shafts of shrimping carts on the Southport sands, there were several unlikely recoveries. Red Rum himself suffered from the hoof-flaking disease, pedalosteitis, and it is believed his career would have been cut short had he not paddled so frequently in the salty waters of the Irish Sea.

This book is not the longest of reads, but the grouses that exist concern style elements. Each time a horse is mentioned the wording is in italics while, for some reason, weights and distances are given in metric as well imperial form. It is as if the publishers believe their product, unlike that of Britain's farmers, will soon be filling continental shelves.

There are some impressive photographs and a moving climax when McCain finds his old friend in a distressed state on Wednesday 15 October last year. The trainer put a last Polo mint in Red Rum's mouth and left his box. At 8.00pm a solitary shot rang out to end the most famous equine life of modern times.

Richard Edmondson

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
people
News
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
people
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us