The story of Red Rum begins one night when Donald McCain pulled up in his taxi outside the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport. He couldn’t have known that his next fare was about to change his life and make racing history.
Donald, also known as Ginger, had a used car sales business, driving the taxi to make some extra cash to fund his real passion, horse racing.
He loved racing and back in 1953, aged 23, he applied for a training permit. He started to train horses in 1962 and kept a small stables behind the showroom of his used-car lot.
With a keen eye for a jumper, began buying horses that had broken down or that other trainers had given up on – even managing to win a few races with them.
Ginger dreamed of winning the Grand National. It had been his ambition since the age of 9 when he’d first attended the race 15 miles away at Aintree, and one day, he was determined to train a horse that would do just that.
But where would he find the money?
Ginger McCain and Noel Le Mare
Eventually, the door of the Prince of Wales swung open, and a single figure stepped onto the steps leading down to the wet pavement where Ginger waited in his taxi.
A well-dressed man, dapper in a suit and tie, was leaving the dinner dance that he attended most Saturday evenings.
Noel Le Mare had only three ambitions in life: to become a millionaire, to marry a beautiful woman, and to own a Grand National winner.
As Ginger McCain drove Mr. Le Mare to his home at Waterloo Road, the conversation turned to racing.
It was a conversation that was to create one of the best-loved National winners in racing history and might even have saved Aintree from closure.
A friendship sprang up, fuelled by their mutual love of racing and their shared Grand National Ambitions.
Ginger Discovers Red Rum
When Ginger spotted a horse in the 1972 Scottish Grand National, he made a mental note to speak to Noel about him.
The horse had come in fifth, but Ginger’s eye for horses told him that this could be the National winner they were both looking for.
The horse was called Red Rum, and Ginger was determined to persuade Le Mare to buy him. He was overjoyed when Le Mare agreed.
Ginger bought Red Rum on behalf of Noel for 6,000 guineas at the Doncaster Sales. Of course, neither of them could have known just how incredible the horse was or that he would eventually go off as the firm favourite at the best online casino websites for many Grand Nationals to come.
But before the wins, the horse had to be trained. With nowhere else available, McCain famously trained on the beach at Southport, where the saltwater worked wonders for Red Rum’s feet.
The Early years
Red Rum was bred at Rossenarra stud in Kells, County Kilkenny, Ireland, by Martyn McEnery.
Bred to win one-mile races, he won his National titles over the longest distance, four miles and four furlongs.
“Rummy” started off in life running in cheap races as a sprinter and dead-heated in a five-furlong flat race at Aintree Racecourse.
In his early career, he was once ridden by Lester Piggott and after being passed from training yard to training yard.
He found his footing when Liverpool car dealer Ginger McCain bought him for Noel le Mare and famously trained the horse on the sands at Southport.
It wasn’t apparent at the time, but Red Rum was saddled with a debilitating bone disease in his foot.
For many horses (and many trainers), this would mean the end of a racing career before it even began.
For Ginger and Red Rum, though, it was just an obstacle to greatness that had to be overcome.
Ginger McCain trained Red Rum in the sand and shallow waters at Southport in Merseyside.
This routine is often said to be the reason that “Rummy” was able to overcome his disability and race on a world-class level.
Red Rum’s Grand National Wins
At the 1973 Grand National, Red Rum beat the Australian chaser Crisp, carrying 23 pounds more, in what was a new record time of nine minutes, 1.9 seconds.
Crisp had led the field virtually all the way in that year’s National and, at the last fence, was 15 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer, Red Rum.
However, jockey Brian Fletcher made up the ground on the final stretch and, two strides from the finishing post, Red Rum pipped the tiring Crisp to win by three-quarters of a length in what is often considered one of the greatest Grand Nationals in history.
A year later, Red Rum retained his title at the 1974 National, carrying 12 stone on his back.
To this day, that feat has never been replicated, and no Grand National runner has won the race carrying top weight.
Red Rum came second in 1975 and 1976. Tommy Stack replaced Fletcher as jockey in the latter race after Fletcher had angered trainer Ginger McCain by telling the press the horse no longer felt right after a defeat in a race away from Aintree.
Again, Red Rum saved his best for Aintree but was held off by Rag Trade. The following year, Stack rode the 12-year-old to his record third Grand National triumph.
When he lined up for his fifth consecutive National in 1977, no horse had ever won the race three times.
He surprised sporting fans around the world when he came in a remarkable 25 lengths ahead of the nearest horse, taking his third Grand National win.
It caused a frenzy in the stands and prompted commentator Peter O’Sullevan to scream:
“It’s hats off and a tremendous reception – you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool!”
To this day, Red Rum’s third win is known as one of the greatest moments in horse racing history.
Red Rum’s career included many wins other than his Grand National Victories. Most notably, he won the Scottish Grand National just three weeks after his 1973 Grand National win.
To date, he is the only horse to have taken first in both races consecutively.
Retirement and Beyond
Red Rum was headed for the Grand National once again in 1978 but suffered a hairline fracture in one of his heels shortly before the race.
He was retired soon after, but his public life and fame by no means diminished with the end of his career.
Red Rum was a national celebrity by this time and traveled all over the country for various engagements.
He often led pre-race parades at Aintree and was a popular guest at charity benefits and public events.
When Red Rum died on October 18, 1995, his remains were lovingly buried at the winning post at Aintree Racecourse.
Ginger McCain, the trainer who led this remarkable horse to his life of victory, said that the burial place was perfect.
He reported that he was comforted by the thought that all future winning horses would race past Red Rum on the way to their own victories.
After The National
Plenty of people find their passion in life as casino expect, Jamie Wall, can attest to and Ginger McCain was no different.
He ate, drank, and slept Aintree and the Grand National, so much so that he was nicknamed “Mr. Aintree.”
With his huge personality, amazing success, and, of course, Red Rum, he almost single-handedly revived the flagging fortunes of the world’s most famous horse race.
McCain also won the Grand National in 2004 with Amberleigh House, thirty-one years after his first victory with Red Rum. And then his son followed suit with his own win in 2011 with Ballabriggs.
Donald Ginger McCain died in 2011, aged 80, only 2 days before his 81st birthday.
Noel le Mare realised his final ambition to own a Grand National winner at the ripe old age of 84, making him one of the oldest owners to have a National winner.
In the history of horse racing, few horses have captured the affection of the British public, like Red Rum.
The spirited horse rose from an early life of anonymity to become the only three-time Grand National winner.
Today, nearly five decades after his retirement, he is still one of the best-known and most beloved racehorses of all time.