RIDING the Grand National was always a simple science for Brian Fletcher: 'Always be confident. Hack around the first circuit, towards the outside to avoid trouble, then crack on second time.' It worked three times for the quiet Northcountryman, on Red Alligator in 1968 - aged only 19 - and on Red Rum in 1973 and 1974, when he became only the second jockey this century to record a triple success.
Sadly, Fletcher's partnership with Red Rum ended amid acrimony in 1976 following a disagreement with the trainer, Ginger McCain. A year later, Red Rum won at Liverpool again, under Tommy Stack.
Red Rum is 29 now and still, incredibly, fulfilling public engagements. Last week, at a charity event in Yorkshire, he and Fletcher met again for the first time in more than 10 years. 'It was a bit sad,' Fletcher said. 'He has deteriorated so much physically he is like an old man, haggard and drawn.'
Fletcher was sidelined for 10 months after sustaining a skull fracture in 1972 and the Red Rum story almost did not happen. 'I had to go to Portman Square three times before I got my licence back,' he said.
Now 45, Fletcher farms sheep and breeds Welsh Cobs near Bishop Auckland, a few miles from his birthplace in Staindrop.
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