Sadly, there will be no Randox Health Aintree Grand National this year owing to the Coronavirus outbreak, but the famous race has, of course, already provided us with many amazing stories and memories upon which we can draw, writes Will Reilly.
There is no bigger name in the race’s history than Red Rum, who won the National in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and finished runner-up in 1975 and 1976. He is the only horse to have won the race three times. Who could forget the great Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s commentary as “Rummy” approached the winning line in 1977?
“They’re coming to the elbow, just a furlong now between Red Rum and his third Grand National triumph! It’s hats off and a tremendous reception, you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool – Red Rum wins the National!”
Red Rum’s successes made him a household name in Britain, Ireland and beyond and, to this day, he is still widely referred to and fondly remembered.
He was ridden to victory in his first two Nationals by Brian Fletcher and to his third by Tommy Stack, father of current County Tipperary trainer Fozzy Stack.
He was trained to all three of his Aintree National successes by Donald “Ginger” McCain, a former car dealer and taxi driver but, by the time Red Rum caught his eye, operating full-time as a professional racehorse trainer based in Southport in the North West of England.
Famously, Red Rum was trained on the local beach, Southport Sands. Ginger had purchased him for 6,000 guineas at the Doncaster Sales in 1972 for owner Noel le Mare.
Ginger was a tall man with a personality to match his height. He was a great character, engaging and an interviewer’s dream. His legacy lives on, too, in the shape of his son, also called Donald, who operates with great success from Bankhouse Stables in Cholmondeley Castle Estate, which lies within 200 acres of beautiful Cheshire countryside.
Donald took over from his father in June 2006 and has now trained over 1,000 winners. Fittingly, these include, in 2011, an Aintree Grand National winner, Ballabriggs, owned by Trevor Hemmings.
Ginger achieved a fourth National success when Amberleigh House won in 2004 and no one has trained more Aintree Grand National winners than him, although George Dockeray and Fred Rimell also won the race four times.
Ginger passed away on September 19th 2011, just two days shy of his 81st birthday. His racing legacy, though, as mentioned earlier, lives on proudly through his son, Donald, and his granddaughters Ellie and Abbie, who are both enjoying success as riders.
Following his retirement from training, Ginger kindly agreed to a request for a radio interview from Will Reilly, and here it is…