Aintree legend Ginger McCain dies

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Aintree legend Ginger McCain, trainer of the great Red Rum, has died aged 80.

McCain saddled Red Rum to win the Grand National three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977, before winning the Aintree marathon for a fourth time with Amberleigh House in 2004.

McCain's wife Beryl said: "Donald - Ginger as we all knew him - passed away peacefully in his sleep after a short illness this morning - he would have been 81 on Wednesday.

"There will be a private family funeral followed by a later memorial service, for which there will be more information in the coming weeks.

"Joanne, Donald Jnr and I appreciate all the kindness we are being shown and, at this difficult time, would appreciate it if we were afforded some privacy."

McCain began his training career as a permit holder in 1953 and took out a full licence in 1969 when his stables were behind his car showroom in Southport.

He worked as a taxi driver to supplement his income as a trainer prior to finding Grand National success. It was as a taxi driver that he became acquainted with Noel le Mare for whom he bought Red Rum.

He retired after the 2006 Grand National and handed over the licence to his son Donald, who maintained the family tradition by winning this year's race with Ballabriggs from their base at Cholmondeley in Cheshire.

Former leading National Hunt jockey Mick Fitzgerald, who won the Grand National on Rough Quest in 1996, has paid tribute to McCain.

"I'm very saddened. He leaves a legacy and every time you think of the Grand National, you think of Ginger. He was the National, to be honest," Fitzgerald told Sky Sports News.

"If you ever wanted a controversial quote, you always spoke to Ginger. He was never afraid to speak his mind, he believed in what he was doing and he believed foremost in the Grand National as a race.

"He was a great ambassador for our sport and racing needs characters like him.

"It's a very sad day for everybody and especially anybody involved with the Grand National.

"He trained the legendary Red Rum to win three Grand Nationals and he also won a Scottish National with the horse. He wasn't just a one-trick pony.

"He was a real character who always had something good to say. He was a very interesting man.

"His son, Donald, has taken over the reins quite magnificently and won the National with Ballabriggs.

"The first thing Ginger said after the race was 'I trained him well' and I think that just about sums him up.

"He leaves a great family behind him and I'm sure they'll be very sad. My best wishes are with them.

"Every time I think of him I smile. The Grand National will forever be remembered as his race."

Reigning champion trainer Paul Nicholls added: "Ginger will be sorely missed. He knew his horses very well, he had an affinity with Aintree and he knew what it took to win the big race.

"He was a top man with horses from the Grand National.

"Legend is the right name for him."

The "voice of racing" Sir Peter O'Sullevan commentated on all of Red Rum's Nationals for the BBC and believes McCain played a big part in helping to save the race.

"It was a career of remarkable achievement and he has bred a good trainer himself," he said.

"He will always be remembered for Red Rum and rightly so because he and the horse appeared absolutely at the right time and were very much instrumental in saving the National at a period when it was very much in peril.

"Red Rum had a remarkable record. Five runs in the National, three victories and two seconds - unbelievable. And then he won it again years later with Amberleigh House.

"It was nice for Ginger to have the opportunity to show he wasn't just a one-horse trainer.

"He was a professional curmudgeon and he goes behind leaving very good memories."

Former Aintree managing director, Charles Barnett, said: "He was instrumental in helping to save the Grand National.

"At that time in the early 1970's when Red Rum was winning his three races, Ginger was very supportive to it (Grand National) and he got the public very much behind the appeal to purchase the track.

"It was an extraordinary training feat and an extraordinary horse he trained. But not just the horse, Ginger himself was very important to the race and to the venue.

"He was a marvellous man who always spoke his own mind and he was always very supportive of us at Aintree.

"We loved him very much and the people of Liverpool did too.

"(Amberleigh House winning) was another extraordinary event. It was in the last years of his training career and Donald was very instrumental in helping him in the training process.

"It was an extraordinary feat - not many people have trained four Grand National winners.

"He was very closely connected with Aintree and the Grand National and that is what he will most be remembered for.

"It's a very sad day and he'll be sadly missed."