Grand National 2014: The story of Red Rum - the three-time winner

How the horse helped reignite the Aintree race

Ian Hudson
Thursday 03 April 2014 10:01 BST
(PA Archive/Press Association Images)

Red Rum is probably the most famous racehorse ever not only for exploits on the track but also in contributing to save the most iconic horse race in the world. By the start of the 1970s the Grand National was facing extinction due to disputes over ownership of Aintree racecourse, poor attendances and the general state of the facilities.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the race was significantly revived but without Rummy there might not have been a race to save. Strangely enough the Red Rum racing story began at Aintree where he dead heated in a two year old race over five furlongs ridden by Lester Piggott. His journey to that third win in the National in 1977 took a circuitous route.

Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain owned a car showroom in Birkdale, near Southport. He also worked as a taxi driver and trained a few horses behind the showroom. Obviously there are no gallops in Southport so each morning his horses walked through the town to the extensive miles of beach where they were trained.

Noel Le Mare came from the other side of the railway line in Southport and was a client of McCain’s. He asked his friend if he would train him a horse to win the National. McCain paid a massive price for Red Rum in the context of his budget only to discover the horse had a diseased foot. It was the calming seawaters on Southport beach that enabled McCain to prepare the horse for the track.

The 1973 Grand National is seen by some as the best renewal in the history of the race. The gallant Crisp, a two mile champion chaser, led for every stride except the last ten. Red Rum was well off the pace jumping the last but overhauled Crisp right on the winning post. Twelve months later Red Rum won the National again.

In 1975 and 1976 Red Rum finished second in the race. On both occasions he was beaten by a horse carrying significantly less weight and it was the handicapper that prevented a third win in those years. McCain never lost faith and always believed his horse would become the first and only three times winner of the great race.

Red Rum won his third Grand National in 1977. The race will be remembered for producing just about the most famous piece of televised sport commentary ever. As Red Rum stormed to the line Peter O’Sullevan described the moment with the words: “Its hats off and a tremendous reception, you’ve heard one like it at Liverpool…and Red Rum wins the National!”

Red Rum was declared to run the 1978 Grand National but a minor injury meant he missed the race and McCain immediately retired his pride and joy. Red Rum died in 1995 and is buried at the winning post at Aintree the scene of the most wonderful achievement in racing history across the globe and where he is a legend.

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