Racing: Red Rum to Amberleigh: 'you're not a bad horse, son'

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The Independent Online

Donald "Ginger" McCain does not particularly revel in the title of Mr Red Rum, but he does recognise the pivotal part the racehorse has played in his life.

So it was late on Saturday, when the trainer, 73, was celebrating his fourth Grand National at Aintree, after Amberleigh House's addition to Rummy's 1970s hat-trick, that he went to commune with his old friend.

Red Rum, who died in 1995, is buried at the Liverpool winning post, where his achievements are chronicled on a headstone. As the record crowd of 71,000 filtered away at the weekend, the site received a visitor from one who had been celebrating the victory of Amberleigh House in the box of his owner, John Halewood.

"Everybody was whooping it up in there, but I'm getting a bit long in the tooth for that. So I popped off to have a little bit of craic with the old lad," McCain said yesterday.

"I wanted to get away from it all so I went off up the course. I went past the water jump, where there were two ducks swimming, the Chair and the last fence. Everyone had gone, more or less. I went to pay my respects.

"We had a little talk, me and him, in the rain. I think he did say to me, 'let the bugger do it twice more and he'll be nearly as good as me then'. It's just lovely to know he's buried where he is, right on that winning line. Every time a Grand National winner goes past that post the old horse is there and he'll know they've done it. He'll say, "you're not a bad horse son, but you're not as good as me". He had that sort of ego."

Red Rum was bought for 400 guineas as a yearling, but when he was a 13-year-old, after winning his Nationals, a $1m offer for him was turned down. McCain, who once practised another sort of horse power as a taxi-driver, trained Rummy behind his used-car showroom in Southport.

Red Rum became a second gift horse for McCain at the end of the gelding's competitive career. Noel Le Mare, his owner until then, gave him to McCain, and he went on to make much more money at public functions. No fête or opening of a bookmaker's seemed to be complete without Rummy.

Ginger took visitors yesterday at the trainer's premises, at Cholmondeley in Cheshire, after a night's revelry at the local pub, the Poacher. As the 12-year-old paraded, McCain revealed he had left nothing to chance. Amberleigh House, who lives in the box once occupied by Red Rum, ran at Aintree with a few strands of the old champion's mane tucked into his browband.