One rainy evening, Donald “Ginger” McCain, a man with a deep passion for horse racing, was working his taxi to earn extra cash.
He had no idea that his next passenger from the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport would dramatically alter his life and leave an indelible mark on racing history.
McCain, who also ran a used car business, had been nurturing his love for racing since 1953.
By 1962, he had started training horses, operating from a small stable behind his car showroom.
His dream was to win the Grand National, a goal he had cherished since he was nine years old.
The Chance Encounter That Changed Everything
On that fateful evening, Noel Le Mare, a well-dressed man with ambitions of wealth, love, and owning a Grand National winner, stepped into McCain’s taxi.
This ride sparked a conversation about racing, laying the foundation for a friendship driven by their shared dream of winning the Grand National.
This partnership would eventually lead to one of the most beloved National winners in history and possibly save the Aintree racecourse from closure.
Ginger McCain’s Discovery of Red Rum
In 1972, McCain’s keen eye for potential champions led him to a horse named Red Rum, who had finished fifth in the Scottish Grand National.
Convinced of his potential, McCain persuaded Le Mare to purchase the horse for 6,000 guineas.
Little did they know he would become a Grand National legend.
Red Rum, bred at Rossenarra stud in Ireland, was initially intended for one-mile races.
Despite starting as a sprinter and facing a debilitating bone disease, Red Rum’s training under McCain’s guidance helped him overcome these challenges.
Trained uniquely on the beaches of Southport, the saltwater proved beneficial for his feet and once he found his true calling in longer distances, there was no stopping him.
The Legendary Grand National Wins of Red Rum
Like finding great casino deals in the UK, Red Rum’s first Grand National victory in 1973 was sublime.
He defeated the Australian chaser Crisp and returned to retain his title in 1974, a feat unmatched by any top-weighted runner in the race’s history.
Red Rum’s subsequent second-place finishes in 1975 and 1976 set the stage for his historic third win in 1977, a triumph that remains one of the most celebrated moments in horse racing.
The 1977 Grand National
Red Rum’s victory in the 1977 Grand National is one of the most iconic moments in horse racing history.
It was extraordinary because it marked Red Rum’s third victory in the Grand National, a feat that had never been accomplished before and has not been replicated since.
Red Rum had already secured a legendary status by winning the Grand National in 1973 and 1974 and finishing second in 1975 and 1976.
The 1977 Grand National was set to be a historic race, with Red Rum, now aged 12, participating for the fifth consecutive year.
The race itself was remarkable. Red Rum, ridden by jockey Tommy Stack, demonstrated his exceptional stamina and jumping ability.
Despite his age, which is typically considered senior for a racehorse, Red Rum showed incredible form and fitness.
In a stunning display of endurance and speed, Red Rum pulled away from the field. He crossed the finish line a remarkable 25 lengths ahead of the second-placed horse, Churchtown Boy.
This victory was not just a testament to Red Rum’s extraordinary ability as a steeplechaser but also to the skilful training by Ginger McCain, who had managed to maintain the horse’s peak condition over several years.
The scenes of jubilation at Aintree and the widespread celebration that followed were indicative of Red Rum’s immense popularity and the affection in which he was held by racing fans and the general public alike.
He never raced in the Grand National again after this win, but his legacy was firmly established.
Red Rum remains the most successful horse in the history of the Grand National, and his 1977 triumph is often remembered as one of the greatest moments in the history of horse racing.
Why Red Rum is the Most Famous Winner in Grand National History
Red Rum’s unparalleled success in the Grand National, marked by three victories and two second-place finishes, cements his status as the most famous winner in the race’s history.
His ability to overcome physical ailments and his remarkable consistency at Aintree solidified his legendary status.
His unique training regimen, charismatic personality, and the emotional connection he fostered with fans contributed to his enduring legacy as a symbol of resilience and excellence in horse racing.
Retirement and Legacy
After a hairline fracture in 1978, Red Rum retired but remained a national celebrity, participating in various public events.
His death in 1995 was mourned nationwide, and his burial at Aintree Racecourse was a fitting tribute to a horse that had become synonymous with the Grand National.
Both Ginger McCain and Red Rum played a pivotal role in reviving the Grand National, which, to be honest, was in hanging in the balance.
McCain’s legacy continued with further wins at the National, including a victory with Amberleigh House in 2004 and his son’s win with Ballabriggs in 2011.
McCain’s death in 2011 marked the end of an era for a man who, alongside Red Rum, became a racing legend.