Great Uncle Bimbo’s Sporting Memories #3

Posted by Great Uncle Bimbo on
Category: Great Uncle Bimbo36 Comments

Tags: ,
Red Rum and Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain training on the beach at Southport.

Davidd and I are 57 years old this month and during those years we have watched some great sporting events. Today, we would like to continue our series of posts where we recall our memories of those events featuring some of our greatest heroes. We have lived through England winning the World Cup (we were a little young, though), Muhammad Ali’s greatest fights, Stoke City winning the League Cup and Botham’s Ashes. Some great times and even more great memories which we hope to share with you during the coming months. Today we would like to share our memories off

Red Rum was bred at Rossenarra stud in County Kilkenny, Ireland, by Martyn McEnery. His sire was Quorum and his dam Mared and so McEnery gave Red Rum his name by taking the last three letters of the names of his dam and sire respectively. Red Rum was bred to win one-mile races, so it was peculiar he won his Grand National titles over the longest distance of any race, four miles and four furlongs. Red Rum started his career running in cheap races as a sprinter and dead-heated in his first race, a five-furlong flat race at Aintree Racecourse. He ran another seven times as a two-year-old winning over 7f at Warwick, and won over 7f at Doncaster in the first of his two races as a three-year-old. In his early career, he was twice ridden by Lester Piggott. The comedian Lee Mack, then a stable boy, had his first riding lesson on Red Rum.

After being passed from training yard to training yard, he found his footing when Southport car dealer Ginger McCain bought him for his client Noel le Mare and famously trained the horse on the sands at Southport. Galloping through sea water may have proved highly beneficial to Red Rum’s hooves. McCain reportedly took Red Rum for a therapeutic swim in the sea off Southport before his first National appearances to help treat the horse’s pedal osteitis, a debilitating incurable bone disease in his hoof.

At the 1973 Grand National, Red Rum beat the Australian chaser Crisp, which was carrying 23 pounds more, in a new record time of nine minutes, 1.9 seconds. Crisp led the field virtually all the way in that year’s National in which he was 30 lengths clear, and at the last fence was 15 lengths clear of Red Rum, his nearest pursuer. Red Rum and jockey Brian Fletcher, however, made up the ground on the final stretch and, two strides from the finishing post, pipped the tiring Crisp to win by three-quarters of a length in what is often considered one of the greatest Grand Nationals ever. Crisp’s jockey Richard Pitman later stated: “I still dream about that race, of Crisp running so strongly and jumping so fearlessly, and then the sound of Red Rum’s hooves as he got closer and closer at the end.” He added: “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.” A year later, Red Rum retained his title at the 1974 National, carrying 12 stone. He followed that with victory in the Scottish Grand National, and remains the only horse to win both in the same season.

Red Rum came second in 1975 and 1976; Tommy Stack replaced Fletcher as jockey in the last race after Fletcher 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 Red Rum to his record third Grand National triumph, in what is regarded as one of the greatest moments in horse racing history.

Red Rum was prepared for a sixth attempt at the Grand National the season following his 1977 win, but suffered a hairline fracture the day before the 1978 race and was subsequently retired.

However, he had become a national celebrity, opening supermarkets and annually leading the Grand National parade for many further years. His likeness graced playing cards, mugs, posters, models, paintings, plates and jigsaw puzzles. Several books have been written about Red Rum by his trainer, sculptor, jockeys and author Ivor Herbert; a children’s story about his life was also written by Christine Pemberton. The horse helped open the Steeplechase rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1977. He also switched on the Blackpool Illuminations in that year. In 1975, a song entitled “Red Rum” was issued as a tribute to him by a group named Chaser, on Polydor 2058 564. It was written by Steve Jolley, Richard Palmer and Tony Swain. In 2010 the name of the racecourse bar, formerly called “The Sefton”, was changed to “The Red Rum”.

In 1977 Red Rum appeared as a studio guest at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony. Viewers were delighted when the horse seemed to recognise the voice of his jockey Tommy Stack, who was appearing by video link from another location.

Red Rum died on 18th October 1995, aged 30. He was buried at the winning post of the Aintree Racecourse, which is still a destination for his fans. The epitaph reads:

Respect this place
this hallowed ground
a legend here
his rest has found
his feet would fly
our spirits soar
he earned our love for evermore.

Eleven years after his death, a survey found he remained the best-known racehorse in the UK. When asked to name an equine animal, Red Rum was named by 45% of Britons, with Black Beauty (from Anna Sewell’s novel) in second with 33%. In 2002 the UK public voted Red Rum’s third Grand National win #24 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

Following his record-breaking third Grand Nation win

Following his record-breaking third Grand Nation win.

In the early 1970s, the future of the Grand National was uncertain. The emergence of Red Rum and his historic triumphs captivated the nation, and ensured huge public support for the fund to buy Aintree and put it in the hands of the Jockey Club.

In the early 1970s when Red Rum was being passed from trainer to trainer, and no one really wanted him, Ginger McCain saw something in him and persuaded Noel le Mare to part with the money to buy him. Many people thought it was folly to buy a horse who, on a bad day, could not even walk because of his pedal osteitis bone disease. However Ginger pulled off a masterstroke by training him in the sea at Southport which took the weight off his hoof and also improved the horse’s stamina. He changed the horse from a short distance sprinter into a long distance stayer who would run other horses into the ground over the closing distance of a race.

We screamed Red Rum over the line to win the 1977 Grand National after his jockey Brian Fletcher was replaced by Tommy Stack for saying the horse was too old and was passed it.

I guess we all get it wrong sometimes, Brian.

Ginger McCain died from cancer on 19th September 2011, two days before his 81st birthday. On the opening day of the 2012 Grand National a bronze statue of McCain was unveiled at Aintree Racecourse looking down on the winning post where his victories unfolded.

Garfield StripGarfield is copyright © Paws, Inc. If you like the cartoons we reproduce here on Jammy Toast, please consider purchasing some of the Garfield merchandise. These are available through Garfield.com where you can view them in full-colour and at a higher quality!


Posted by

Great Uncle Bimbo

I was given to The Bearkeeper on the 24th October 1960 in St Catherine’s Hospital when I was presented to him as a “birth” day present. I came home with him and have been with him ever since. We grew up together and, unlike many other people, he has never decided he was too old to have a teddy bear. I am the oldest bear here at Jammy Toast.


36 Comments on “Great Uncle Bimbo’s Sporting Memories #3”

    1. There is nothing wrong with my scaly trotters that a good scratch with Russell Howard’s socks wouldn’t cure! I will leave the scratched off skin on your rug 😉

      1. Omg shutup Ive seen your feet. Omfg they are worse than a trolls!! Manky nails and full of scales and omg just god damn awful. Another one that happens to ‘certain men’ who let themselves go! DIRTY 😂

    1. I understand totally your feelings. I hate it when horses get hurt and I watch the Grand National these days and I am made up at the finish if no animals are hurt!! It is worth considering though that if there were no horse racing there wouldn’t be anywhere near as many horses.

    2. You’re right Kelsey, it is sad when horses die, but these are thoroughbred race horses who live for racing. If it were banned then more race horses would die in the long run – there are thousands of racehorses in this country and many would have to be destroyed or would be abandoned to people who could not look after them properly.

      I cried when I visited Red Rum’s grave at Aintree and there will never be another like him, or indeed his trainer Ginger McCain!

      1. Whos that?? MD doesnt have a mole or mental hair. Okay both tall. Handsome (ish) but the similarities end there. I think I may have more of a chance meeting Mark Darcy 😂

  1. What you failed to mention is that Rummy was 12 years old when he won his third National and he was leaving the rest of the field behind as he ran for the finish. He looked like he could do another circuit while horses half his age gave up!

  2. I can still remember the roar when he cleared the last fence in 1977. It was so quiet as he ran towards it, the whole of Liverpool was holding their breath in case he fell.

  3. Your so funny. NOT. My father who changed his comment because his memory failed himAGAIN. I warn you all his birthday is next week and his memory is getting BAD. Im starting to worry BIG time. Its okay dad you are near 60 now 😂but I doubt god or jebus can help you out #mypoorolddad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *