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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most