Red Rum – How the Grand National hero became ‘The People’s Horse’
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Foaled at Rossenarra Stud in Ireland, Red Rum was initially bred to contest races over a mile and as a two-year-old the future legend raced over both five furlongs and seven furlongs; in the process he was twice ridden by world-renowned Flat jockey Lester Piggott.
It wasn’t until an unlikely partnership formed between Donald McCain, endearingly known as Ginger to the racing public, and the millionaire Noel Le Mare who splashed out 6,000 guineas on a horse with a less than obvious profile of a champion.
Little did the duo realise that Horse Racing history was being made under their stewardship.
Red Rum’s initial transition to jumping didn’t go entirely to plan as he was diagnosed with a debilitating bone disease in his foot called pedal osteitis.
The condition would have curtailed many careers’ but, by good fortune, Ginger McCain’s gallops on the sandy beaches at Southport acted as a perfect tonic to his ailment; trotting through the cold, salty waters soothing his hooves after each workout.
In 1973, at the age of eight, Red Rum was to make his first impression on the great race.
With fabled Australian Chaser, Crisp setting a frantic pace and still holding a huge advantage into the final fence, even the most optimistic of racing fans wouldn’t have foreseen Red Rum making up the deficit.
However, the gallant Crisp was handicapped to carry a hefty 23lb more and such was the heart and determination of Red Rum that he made all and overcame Crisp in the final few strides.
Richard Pitman, the then jockey of Crisp later stated, “I felt as though I was tied to a railway line with an express train thundering up and being unable to jump out of the way”. Adequate praise that acted as a precursor to future dominance for Red Rum.
A year later, the McCain-trained horse repeated his heroics and became the first horse to win back-to-back Grand Nationals since Reynoldstown in 1936.
Carrying top weight, the then nine-year-old effortlessly eased over Aintree’s daunting fences and oozed class on his way to a comfortable victory.
Among a top field of contenders, this triumph demonstrated all the qualities that endeared him to the British public.
Following his marvellous victories, Red Rum produced courageous performances at the Merseyside venue in 1975 and 1976 but was the second home on both occasions.
However, these setbacks didn’t deter the Aintree great, as he lined up for his fifth and final Grand National in 1977 as a 12-year-old.
Vying to complete a much anticipated hat-trick against his younger peers, the Peoples Champion didn’t disappoint as the whole nation roared him to success one final time.
The late great Peter O’Sulleven memorably calling the affectionately known ‘Rummy’ home, epitomising the endearing nature of the Aintree faithful towards the horse.
Such was the gratitude of the racing public towards the equine superstar, when he passed away in 1985 at the grand old age of 30, he was laid to rest at the Winning post at Aintree Racecourse, the scene of his greatest achievements.
His grave is marked by an engraved stone listing his unbelievable Grand National record of not finishing outside the top in the race, a statistic which will likely never be matched.
His legacy lives on through the Red Rum Chase, staged at Aintree every year; while a life-sized bronze statue stands at the course.